WASHINGTON (Oct. 8)
Secretary of State George Shultz stressed Wednesday that the Soviet Union will be told in Iceland this weekend that there can be improvement in relations with the United States only if the USSR improves its human rights conditions, including increasing emigration for Soviet Jews.
“They need to know there can be no lasting improvement in our relations as long as Soviet citizens are deprived of the right to speak freely, freedom of worship and to live where they please,” Shultz told some 400 Jewish leaders attending a National Leadership Assembly for Soviet Jewry.
The day-long assembly was sponsored by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ), the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC). Also cooperating in the event were the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews, the Council of Jewish Federations and the Synagogue Council of America.
After the speech by Shultz at the State Department, the Jewish leaders went to Capitol Hill for another meeting attended by members of Congress and then participated in a prayer vigil in Lafayette Park, across from the White House.
PROGRESS TIED TO HUMAN RIGHTS
Shultz said that when President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Rejkavik, Iceland, Saturday and Sunday the Soviets must be made to understand that progress in the issues discussed, including arms control, are tied to human rights.
The Secretary said that when Reagan has an issue that is important to him like human rights, “he looks you in the eye and tells you what he thinks and I’m sure he’s going to do that” in Iceland. Shultz added that Gorbachev and his colleagues will hear about human rights, including the Soviet Jewry issue, from “the President and me and others.”
A DIFFERENT STATEMENT BY SHULTZ ON TV
However, Shultz said on an ABC television interview Wednesday that the U.S. would not refuse to sign an arms control agreement with the Soviets if there were no progress on human rights. “We’re not making any firm and formal linkage” between arms control and human rights improvement “but these various areas of our relationship are interrelated,” Shultz said in response to questions.
He added, “It is essential if we’re going to have a really decent and constructive relationship with the Soviet Union that we make progress in this area” (human rights) but “that doesn’t mean telling them they have to change their system. They aren’t going to do that and we have no right to do that.”
Over the past few days both Reagan and Shultz have stressed the importance of human rights for the meeting in Iceland as well as the official summit in the United States that is expected to follow.
Reagan strongly stressed this point when he welcomed Yuri Orlov, the Soviet human rights leader, to the White House Tuesday. “I will make it amply clear to Mr. Gorbachev that unless there is real Soviet movement on human rights, we will not have the kind of political atmosphere necessary to make lasting progress in other issues,” Reagan said.
Morris Abram, chairman of both the NCSJ and the Presidents Conference, in introducing Shultz, said that the Secretary told a group of Jewish leaders recently that while he always has the issue of Soviet Jewry in his mind, he wants Jewish groups to keep giving “me the needle.”
Shultz said that while he believes in private diplomacy, the pressure of the organized Jewish community and others “is something I can point to” in talks with the Soviets.
“Your presence is a demonstration that we not only hold and care about our values, but that we are willing to extend ourselves, go out of our way and work … to do everything we can to do something about it,” Shultz said. He said the issue of Soviet Jewry and human rights in general, is not just “bipartisan,” but “universal.”
EMIGRATION SITUATION CALLED ‘GRIM’
Shultz said that despite all the efforts, the situation is “grim” with emigration for the first nine months totaling only 631 Jews. He said if this continues only 1,000 Jews would have left the USSR in 1986.
When he met with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze at the State Department in September, Shultz said he showed him a chart prepared by the NCSJ which gave a breakdown month-by-month of the emigration figures, which did not have to be translated into Russian.
Shultz said that when Shevardnadze replied that the Jews who wanted to leave had left, he presented him with documents from the NCSJ showing that some 400,000 had applied for exit visas. Shultz said the NCSJ is supplying another easy to read chart for the Iceland meeting.
Abram said Shultz was also given a list of all the Jewish Prisoners of Conscience in the Soviet Union and National Security Advisor John Poindexter was given a list of 18,000 refuseniks.
Shultz stressed that the human rights issue is not an internal issue but a matter of the Soviet Union living up to the international obligations it agreed to when it signed the Helsinki Final Act and other international agreements. “They signed them,” he said.
He said the Soviet Union has made some “high-profile gestures,” but this is not enough. They must be shown they pay a “high price” for not improving human rights conditions, he stressed. “We need to keep showing that we care, that we really care,” Shultz declared.
Meanwhile, Abram will lead a delegation of eight Jewish leaders to Iceland for a press conference in Rejkavik Friday to support Reagan on the human rights issue.
The others are, Albert Chernin, executive vice chairman of the NJCRAC; Jerry Goodman, executive director of the NCSJ; Theodore Mann, president of the American Jewish Congress; Michael Pelavin, chairman of the NJCRAC; Alan Pesky, chairman of the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews; Ruth Popkin, president of Hadassah; and Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International.