WASHINGTON (Dec. 9)
The official Soviet spokesman for the summit meetings between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev repeated the Soviet position Wednesday that most Jews who want to emigrate from the USSR have already done so.
Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Gerasimov called “incorrect” claims made by organizations supporting Soviet Jewry in the United States that 400,000 Jews want to emigrate.
He said that about 1,000 Jews a month have obtained exit visas this year. He did not mention that most of them are from a list of 11,000 long-term refuseniks the United States had given Soviet authorities last year.
“We cannot merely encourage people to file these applications to leave, just to please some people here,” Gerasimov said. He did not mention the new government regulations issued in January that make it more difficult to apply for exit visas.
Gerasimov, who is sharing the briefings on the Reagan-Gorbachev talks with White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, made his remarks in response to a question from Rabbi Avraham Weiss, national chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry.
Weiss, who spent eight hours in jail Tuesday for going too close to the Soviet Embassy, also noted that the SSSJ and other groups have started a campaign to prevent the Soviet Union from receiving untied loans from American banks to finance trade with the United States, until emigration increases to the 1979 figure of 51,000.
“We are against linkage,” Gerasimov said. He said that an attempt to expand Soviet trade with the United States in the 1970s was “Killed by the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.”
REAGAN, GORBACHEV DISCUSS RIGHTS
Meanwhile, Fitzwater said that Reagan and Gorbachev “had long discussions on human rights.” But it was not clear whether this occurred during the two-hour meeting they had Wednesday, much of it alone without their aides.
Fitzwater said the discussion centered on Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq War. He said that while the Arab-Israeli conflict was on the original agenda, it had not been discussed as of Wednesday.
Reagan has referred to the importance of human rights in all of his public statements. Gorbachev has not mentioned it once.
But Fitzwater said a working group on human rights was set up Wednesday and it was possible that there would be a public statement on this issue after the closing summit session Thursday.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, was among a group of prominent Americans who met with Gorbachev. Tuesday at the Soviet Embassy. The human rights issue was not raised by any of the participants.
Schneier, who is rabbi of the Orthodox Park East Synagogue in New York, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he spoke briefly with Gorbachev who remarked on a comment by Schneier at an international forum in Moscow last February.
At the time, Schneier said that both Reagan and Gorbachev, in speeches on different topics, had used the phrase “if not now, when?” and predicted that a summit would be scheduled this year. Neither had credited the line to the sage Hillel’s famous statement about the need to help others, the rabbi said.
He said both Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, remembered the phrase.
Schneier, who a few weeks ago got the Soviets to agree to import Jewish prayer books and kosher food, is staying at the Madison Hotel, where the top Soviet officials are housed. He said this has enabled him to continue his discussions with Soviet officials on efforts to make it easier for Jews in the Soviet Union to observe their religion.