WASHINGTON (Oct. 27)
President Reagan has reaffirmed his position that the United States will not sign a concluding document at the ongoing conference of 35 nations in Vienna until the Soviet Union puts promised human rights improvements into practice.
“We will not compromise on our human rights principles in order to conclude the Vienna meeting,” Reagan said in a letter to Pamela Cohen, president of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, and Micah Naftalin, its national director.
The president’s letter, dated Oct. 20 and released Wednesday, was in response to a letter Cohen and Naftalin sent Reagan last month urging that the United States not sign the concluding document until the USSR had lived up to its commitments.
They requested specifically that the Soviet Union make changes in the laws easing emigration restrictions.
The 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe has been dealing largely with Soviet and East European compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki accords.
The conference must end with a concluding document on human rights before East-West negotiations can start on reducing conventional forces in Europe.
While West European countries are supporting the strong U.S. position on human rights, they appear more willing than the United States to accept some recent steps by the Soviets improvements as a reason to conclude the conference and begin the conventional arms talks.
In Moscow Wednesday, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said at the end of three days of talks with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that he received a promise that all Soviet political prisoners will be released by the end of the year.
This has been one of the major issues raised by the West in Vienna.
Addressing the issue of Jewish emigration specifically, the president said that “an increase in numbers is not enough. We must see an end to unfair restrictions and unwarranted refusals.
“Long-term refuseniks held for seemingly arbitrary reasons must be granted exit permission.”
Reagan also promised that “the calendar will not hold us hostage to an acceptable agreement.” The administration reportedly wants to conclude the conference before it leaves office Jan. 20.
When this was asked directly of Rozanne Ridgway, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, she said the United States plans to stay in Vienna until there is a successful agreement even if it has to be left to the next administration to conclude.