WASHINGTON (Dec. 10)
The Reagan Administration would like the Soviet Union to realize that in order to create the “atmosphere” in which the American public will accept arms control agreements and other accords sought by the USSR, Moscow must make improvements in human rights and regional issues, a State Department official stressed yesterday.
The Soviet Union has not yet reached this conclusion, Rozanne Ridgway, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, told the 1985 leadership conference of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ).
Ridgway said that President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev spoke about human rights for one hour during their private discussions at the summit in Geneva last month. “There was no change in the Soviet position,” she said. Instead, Gorbachev accused the U.S. of human rights violations, which has been a recent Soviet tactic, Ridgway said.
U.S. WILL CONTINUE TO PRESS HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE
She added the U.S. welcomes this approach since previously the Soviet Union claimed human rights was an internal matter. She said the U.S., as well as the other Western countries, now have offered to discuss human rights violations on both sides, but the USSR has not taken up the challenge.
Ridgway said the Administration feels that it has placed the issue of Soviet Jewry and other human rights properly before the USSR and will continue to do it at upcoming meetings, including the next summit in June when Gorbachev comes to Washington.
She stressed that Reagan “has involved himself personally in this process.” But while the Administration is now trying to work through quiet diplomacy, Ridgway urged groups like the NCSJ to continue their work. But she warned against new legislation aimed at taking punitive measures against the USSR at this time.
Elmer Winter, chairman of the Committee for Economic Growth of Israel, expressed concern about a group of 400 American businessmen, led by Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, now in the USSR.
Ridgway replied that in seeking to improve relationships each side had the opportunity to seek their priority which for the Soviet was trade and for the U.S. improvements in human rights.
LIGHT CHANUKAH MENORAH
Earlier in the day, many of the participants in the leadership conference were among the some 150 persons who gathered in downtown Washington to light a Chanukah menorah as a symbol of rededication to Soviet Jewry. The first candle was dedicated to the young generation still in the USSR while the other seven were each dedicated to a particular refusenik or family of refuseniks.
The event was sponsored by the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, B’nai B’rith Women and Greater Washington Hadassah, After the ceremony, the participants marched several blocks to the Soviet Embassy where a message was given by Evelyn Sondheim of the NCSJ; Helen Karpa, president of the Jewish Community Council; and Ira Bartfield, the Council’s Soviet Jewry chairman, urging emigration for Soviet Jewry.