Menu JTA Search

Abram Says He is Confident Reagan Made Progress on Soviet Jewry Issue at His Meeting with Gorbachev

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ), expressed confidence Monday that President Reagan made progress on the human rights issue, including Soviet Jewry, at his meetings with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland.

“For the first time the Soviets recognized that these are issues that are on the table and appropriate for international and bilateral discussion,” he told reporters after a 30-minute meeting with Secretary of State George Shultz at the State Department.

Abram, who is also chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was accompanied at the meeting by Shoshana Cardin, president, Council of Jewish Federations; Ruth Popkin, president, Hadassah; Jerry Goodman, executive director, NCSJ; and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director, Presidents Conference. They were given a detailed briefing on the human rights aspects of the meeting in Iceland. “We are satisfied that the President of the United States and the Secretary made a herculean effort on behalf of human rights in general and on behalf of Jewish rights in particular,” Abram said. He said he was certain Shultz would continue this when he goes to Vienna on November 4 to participate in the conference to review the Helsinki accords.

Abram noted that at Reykjavik the Soviets agreed to discuss human rights which up to then they had maintained was an internal matter despite the three international agreements on human rights the Soviet Union had signed.

“Once jurisdiction is acknowledged of the right to discuss the matter at international fora then I think there is a chance of progress,” Abram said. Abram, who is a lawyer, stressed that this is true even though no agreement was signed in Iceland. “You don’t have to sign an agreement to have jurisdiction,” he said.

He noted that both Gorbachev and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze took material from Reagan and Shultz supplied by the NCSJ and there was evidence “they read it” since their aides referred to it in later discussions.

Meanwhile, the State Department announced Tuesday that when Shultz addresses the follow-up meeting to review the Helsinki accords, “the U.S. will press for significantly improved compliance by the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe … particularly those concerning human rights, human contacts and humanitarian cooperation,” State Department spokesman Charles Redman said.

He said that Shultz expects to meet with Shevardnadze, although the meeting has not been officially scheduled. Redman said Shultz has scheduled meetings with the NATO Foreign Ministers and with the Austrian Foreign Minister. But when asked whether Shultz would meet with Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, Redman said he has nothing beyond the announced schedule.

NEXT STORY