WASHINGTON (Jun. 1)
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Wednesday that Moscow would consider restoring diplomatic relations with Israel at the start of an international conference on a Middle East peace settlement.
But Gorbachev, responding to questions at a news conference, the first ever held in Moscow by a Soviet leader, made clear that while the Soviet Union and the United States agree on the need for a conference, they still disagree on the purpose of such a meeting.
President Reagan, who held a separate news conference, did not mention the Middle East, except to note that it was one of the regional issues discussed in the two leaders’ final meeting. Both news conferences were monitored here in Washington.
The type of conference outlined by Gorbachev is one that “is not simply an umbrella for separate negotiations,” but rather “a real forum connected with bilateral, trilateral and other forms of discussions.
“As soon as that conference starts working, we would be prepared to address ourselves to the question of diplomatic relations with Israel,” the Soviet leader said.
The United States and Israel have demanded that the Soviet Union restore diplomatic relations, which were broken with Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, before Moscow can be included in the Middle East peace process.
A five-member Israeli consular delegation is expected to arrive in Moscow soon, the first Israeli diplomatic mission to the Soviet Union since Moscow broke ties.
The Soviet idea of a conference is also diametrically opposed to the one outlined by Secretary of State George Shultz in his Mideast peace initiative. The conference proposed by Shultz would only pave the way for negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It would neither dictate nor veto a settlement reached between the Middle East parties.
Gorbachev said the conference should deal with the “return of occupied lands” and “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”
AFFIRMS SECURITY FOR ISRAEL
He added, “Of course, we proceed from the assumption that the people of Israel, the State of Israel, have the right to their own security, because there can be no security for one at the expense of another.”
The Soviet leader did not specifically call for a Palestinian state. He said that as to the form of self-determination, “let the Palestinians, with their Arab friends, decide on that.”
Nor did he demand, except by implication, that the Palestine Liberation Organization represent the Palestinians in negotiations.
“We cannot decide for the Arabs how the Palestinians participate in the international conference,” he said. “Let them decide for themselves, let the Arabs decide.”
But he stressed that the United States and the Soviet Union “should respect their decision.” Israel opposes PLO participation in negotiations.
Shultz, in an interview on PBS’s “MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour” Tuesday night said that there were “worthwhile discussions” with the Soviets on the Middle East. He said that along with the United States, the Soviets share “a sense that the situation there is not stable” and “the status quo is not an option.”
But Shultz, who returns to the Middle East on Friday, stressed that if a settlement is to be achieved, “it will have to be basically between Israel and each of its neighbors in those bilateral negotiations.”
On human rights, an issue which Reagan stressed repeatedly in public comments since his arrival in Moscow on Sunday, Gorbachev said, “I’m not filled with admiration for this part of the visit.”
Gorbachev said he had long discussions with Reagan on the issue and came to the conclusion that “the American administration does not have a real understanding of the real situation…They just don’t know about the process in the sphere of democracy and democratization in this country.”
He said that he suggested an interparliamentary permanent seminar that would exchange information about conditions in the United States and the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev also attacked the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which links most-favored-nation trade benefits with increased emigration from the USSR. He quipped that in trade, the Soviets are receiving “unfavored-nation treatment.”
“Why should the dead hold onto the coat-tails of the living?” Gorbachev said he asked Reagan. “I mean the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. One of them’s already physically dead. The other’s politically dead.” He was referring to the late Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) and former Rep. Charles Vanik (D-Ohio). Gorbachev said he stressed that “the more we depend on each other economically, the more predictable will we be politically.”
The Reagan administration repeatedly has asserted that it does not support repeal of the amendment.
Reagan again stressed human rights at his news conference. “The United States views human rights as fundamental to our relationship with the Soviet Union and all nations,” the president said.
“From the beginning, we’ve stressed this point and we are encouraged by recent signs of progress in the Soviet Union. I believe that where people have the right to speak, write, travel and worship freely, creative energies are released.”
But at the news conference, as in his appearance at Moscow State University on Tuesday, Reagan seemed to absolve Gorbachev of responsibility for the human rights problems, blaming them instead on the bureaucracy.
Reagan denied that he was interfering with Soviet domestic affairs. He explained that the United States is a nation of immigrants and that one out of eight Americans either came from the Eastern bloc countries or traced their ancestry there, and were concerned about what happened to their relatives and friends there.
“When we feel that people are being unjustly treated, imprisoned for something that in our country would not be a crime,” said the president, “our people get aroused and they come to us and they want help.”