WASHINGTON (Sep. 25)
Secretary of State George Shultz, concluding two days of talks here last week with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, indicated that further progress on human rights has been made.
“I think that the situation is reasonably promising, but we are not quite there yet,” Shultz said.
He spoke to reporters Friday after President Reagan met with Shevardnadze, at the conclusion of the meetings between the two foreign ministers.
The talks were expected to be the last major meeting between the two superpowers during the Reagan administration.
But Shultz stressed that the administration will continue working with the Soviets “to accomplish as much as can be accomplished” in the four areas that all their discussions have focused on: arms control, human rights, regional issues and bilateral issues.
The secretary said that over the past three years, these meetings have become routine and the Soviets have acknowledged that such issues as human rights are part of the regular agenda between the two countries.
He said he believes this pattern will continue in the next administration, regardless of whether Vice President George Bush or Gov. Michael Dukakis is elected president.
U.S. SEEKING NEW GUARANTEES
The human rights issue focused on the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe now being held in Vienna as a follow-up to the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The United States and other Western nations are maintaining that the conference must conclude additional written guarantees on human rights before talks on reducing conventional arms can begin.
Stressing that “deeds are more important than words,” Shultz said that in assessing the Soviet Union’s human rights record, the United States looks at emigration figures, political and religious prisoners, and the cases of divided families.
“We’ve seen quite a bit of change in Soviet behavior and in the behavior of other Eastern European countries,” he said.
But he added that in addition to changes in behavior, there must be changes in language produced in Vienna about human rights. He noted, in particular, that the United States wants the Soviets to allow groups to monitor compliance with the Helsinki Accords.
Shultz said that the United States had received assurances that the Soviets are drafting new legislation on religious freedom, emigration and changes in the criminal code.
The secretary has long sought, for example, to get the Soviets to institutionalize emigration procedures, so that Jews and others would no longer be refused exit visas on arbitrary decisions of officials.
While Shultz said that he and Shevardnadze discussed the Middle East, it was apparently not a major part of the talks.
But he said there was a long discussion about the need to ban the production of chemical weapons. U.S. and Soviet experts are to meet Dec. 16 on ways of halting their proliferation.