WASHINGTON (Sep. 20)
The three days of talks between Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, ended here Thursday night without any specific promises from the Soviets on easing emigration for Soviet Jews.
But Shultz stressed the talks did result in establishing a “systemized” way of dealing with emigration and other human rights problems.
“Our principle progress (on human rights) was in getting the process systemized,” Shultz said during a briefing for reporters at the White House Friday.
A senior State Department official explained later that this meant setting up in Moscow “a regular channel of communications with them as a way to be able to talk regularly” about human rights issues. “I don’t mean just sending each other notes and things, but to sit down and talk about cases.”
A joint statement issued by Shultz and Shevardnadze only had one sentence on human rights: “A constructive discussion on human rights issues and humanitarian questions took place.”
THE PRINCIPLE ANNOUNCEMENT
The principle announcement in the statement was that the United States and the USSR had reached an “agreement in principle to conclude a treaty” on dismantling short-range and intermediate range missiles. “The Geneva delegations of both sides have been instructed to work intensively to resolve remaining technical issues and promptly to complete a draft treaty text,” the statement said.
President Reagan, in a brief appearance before Shultz answered questions from reporters, said the Secretary would go to Moscow in late October at which time a date would be set for a summit between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the fall.
Shultz said he could not give a date for the summit, although he stressed it would be held in the U.S. Most observers here expect the summit to be in November.
Although the Secretary and Minister discussed the full gamut of issues between the two superpowers, the Arab-Israel conflict and an international conference on the Mideast, which the Soviets want, were apparently not touched upon. The State Department official said Shultz and Shevardnadze, in their session on regional issues, only discussed Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq War. Shevardnadze is expected to discuss the international conference when he meets with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
There was a great deal of discussion on human rights during the three days, both between Shultz and Shevardnadze and by a working group set up on the issue.
SPECIFIC CASES DISCUSSED
The State Department official said that, as always, the U.S. discussed not only principles but specific cases. The official noted that many earlier cases raised by the U.S. had been solved before the meeting here.
Since January, the Soviets have greatly increased the number of Jews allowed to emigrate over 1986, when only 914 Jews were allowed to leave. Many longtime refuseniks have recently been granted exit visas, including some well-known names who received their visas shortly before the ministerial meetings began. The day before the meeting opened in Washington, Aleksei Magarik, the last Jewish Prisoner of Conscience in prison, was released.
But both the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews noted in Washington as the ministerial meetings began that the number of Jews leaving is still vastly below the number that want to emigrate and that under Gorbachev a new law was adopted making it harder to apply for exit visas.
Both groups also stressed that the use of “security” as a reason for denying emigration is being used much more even for longtime refuseniks who have not worked at classified jobs for over a decade. This issue was raised by the U.S. during the ministerial meetings, the State Department official said.
The Soviets replied that they were studying changing their criminal code, the official noted. The official said the U.S. stressed that “while we don’t think it should be a standard at all,” the Soviets should “set a time, set a standard, set an ending period in which this is a disqualifying factor” for emigration.
INVITATION FOR A HUMAN RIGHTS CONFERENCE
At a press conference, Shevardnadze repeated a Soviet invitation for a human rights conference to be held in Moscow. The State Department official said this offer is one of 150 proposals made at the Vienna conference, which is reviewing the Helsinki Accords, and is being considered in the context of that meeting.
The U.S. and its allies have said “that it stands to reason that a human rights conference will take place in a country which has a demonstrated record of compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and which is prepared to have the kinds of procedures for a Helsinki-style conference that have prevailed in Vienna, that have prevailed in Madrid — correspondents, radio, groups, access, that kind of thing,” the State Department official said.
At the review meetings in Vienna and Madrid, Jewish and other groups have been able to express their concerns.
Shultz rejected a suggestion that the U.S. and the Soviet Union were entering a new period of “detente.” He said he would not want to put a “label” on the current situation, adding, “I think there is a distinct difference to what is going on now and what took place 10 or 15 years ago.”
At the same time, he stressed there has been a change in the relations between the two superpowers since the practice was “reinstituted” three years ago of having the Soviet Foreign Minister visit Washington when he came to the U.S. for the UN General Assembly meeting.
“We see very worthwhile discussions and movements in terms of behavior in the human rights area, our discussions on regional issues have become increasingly rewarding although we haven’t made any definite progress in those fields, our bilateral contacts have increased, and we are addressing and making progress on arms control matters,” Shultz said. “So there is movement.”