Failure of Summit Meeting May Diminish Possibilities for Improvement of Soviet Human Rights Practice
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Failure of Summit Meeting May Diminish Possibilities for Improvement of Soviet Human Rights Practice

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The failure of President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to reach an agreement on arms control during their meetings in Iceland may also diminish possibilities for improvements in Soviet human rights practices, including Jewish emigration from the USSR.

Both Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz in their reports on the Iceland talks stressed that human rights were discussed and Shultz hinted that a statement on the issue was in the offing.

But Reagan emphasized in his nationally-televised speech from his White House office Monday night, that he had told Gorbachev, as he had when the two first met in Geneva last year, that the United States will judge Soviet action on human rights not just words.


“I made it plain that the United States would not seek to exploit improvement in these matters for purposes of propaganda,” Reagan said in his Oval Office television address. “But I also made it plain, once again, that an improvement of the human condition within the Soviet Union is indispensable for an improvement in bilateral relations with the United States.”

Reagan said he told Gorbachev, “again in Reykjavik as I had in Geneva, we Americans place far less weight upon the words that are spoken at meetings such as these then upon the deeds that follow. When it comes to human rights and judging Soviet intentions, we are all from Missouri. You have got to show us.”


While Reagan did not specifically mention Soviet Jewry, Shultz did in response to a question on human rights at his briefing in Reykjavik after the Reagan-Gorbachev talks ended.

“The issue of human rights was brought up on a number of occasions and some very significant material was passed to the Soviet Union, which they accepted,” Shultz said. He said this material “stated not only our views, but in detail things about Jewish emigration, the numbers of people who have signified their desire to leave, lists of people and things of that kind.”

The National Conference on Soviet Jewry had provided Shultz with charts on Jewish emigration, which totaled only 126 in September and 667 for the first nine months of 1986, as well as a list of Jewish Prisoners of Conscience and the names of 11,000 of the estimated 400,000 refuseniks.

Shultz suggested there might have been a statement on human rights if the arms agreement had not collapsed at the last minute. “And in what might have been a statement coming out of the meeting dealing with this issue, the subject is explicitly referred to,” he said. “Perhaps at some point there is a prospect of setting up some kind of systematic basis for discussing it. But of course that remains to be seen.”

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