WASHINGTON (May. 11)
If Soviet emigration reforms are institutionalized, then it would be appropriate for the United States to consider waiving two major restrictions on super-power trade, Secretary of State James Baker said Thursday.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow, at the end of his two-day visit there, Baker said he told Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze that waivers for the Jackson-Vanik and Stevenson amendments would be considered only after Moscow adopts the new laws it has promised.
Soviet officials had said laws reforming emigration practices would be adopted by last month. They now say they will be introduced when the reconstituted Supreme Soviet convenes.
The Jackson-Vanik Amendment denies the Soviet Union and other East bloc countries most-favored-nation trade benefits until emigration figures are considered adequate. The Stevenson Amendment withholds trade credits for the Soviet Union.
The president can recommend that Congress waive provisions contained in those amendments, if he certifies that he has assurances the Soviets will allow substantial numbers to emigrate.
Jewish groups have been debating whether to support a waiver of Jackson-Vanik because of the large number of Jews now leaving the Soviet Union. Many have indicated that they will not approve of a waiver until the new laws are adopted.
Baker said he met with Soviet Jewish refuseniks during his stay in Moscow and pressed Soviet officials for “early positive action” on 400 to 500 unresolved refusenik cases. Their names were given to the secretary of state by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, which welcomed Baker’s comments Thursday.
In his discussions with Shevardnadze and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Baker also outlined the Bush administration’s approach to the Middle East peace process, including its support of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s plan for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The proposal would have Palestinians in the territories elect representatives to negotiate with Israel for self-rule.
SOVIET INTEREST IN SHAMIR PLAN
Baker said the plan differs from previous Israeli positions because it recognizes that there should be negotiations to determine a “permanent status” for the West Bank and Gaza Strip after an interim period of autonomy.
Shamir’s proposal for elections contains “some significant differences” from language in Israel’s text of the 1979 Camp David peace treaty with Egypt, Baker told reporters.
U.S. sources in Moscow quoted Shevardnadze as saying Wednesday that the election proposal is “worthy of attention, while many points remain unclear.” The Soviets had not previously commented on the Shamir plan.
Baker said that Shevardnadze and he discussed “reciprocal steps” that Palestinians and Israelis could take to improve prospects for a peace settlement.
Baker, who departed for Brussels to brief NATO officials, said his next meeting with Shevardnadze may take place in September. He gave no indications of any planned summit between President Bush and Gorbachev.