WASHINGTON (Nov. 29)
Secretary of State James Baker left open the possibility Wednesday that President Bush might offer a one-year waiver of Jackson-Vanik Amendment trade sanctions when he meets with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev this weekend.
“I don’t want to prejudge what the president’s position on that might be in his discussions with Secretary-General Gorbachev,” Baker said in briefing reporters at the White House about the shipboard summit to take place Saturday and Sunday off the coast of Malta.
At the same time, he seemed to warm against any anticipation of a waiver, saying, “I don’t want to leave the impression that we are going to do anything specific.”
He stressed that the administration’s “policy is very clear and has been clear for a long time.” The Soviet Union must adopt promised legislation reforming its emigration policies “before we can actually waive Jackson-Vanik.”
He said that under Gorbachev, the Soviet Union has made improvements in its human rights practices, but “We ought to make certain they get it codified, so it can’t be reversed.”
During the summit, “there will be a full discussion of where they stand in implementing the legislation,” the secretary added.
Bush said last spring that he would consider recommending a waiver to Congress, once the Soviet legislation was adopted and had been implemented for an unspecified period of time.
SENATE LEADER FAVORS WAIVER
Earlier this month, the Supreme Soviet introduced reform legislation that includes changes on two issues that particularly concern Soviet Jews. But the Supreme Soviet is not expected to adopt the legislation in final form before February.
Baker suggested that Gorbachev might be able to give some assurances to Bush on when the legislation would be passed and that this might be enough for Bush to agree to a waiver of Jackson-Vanik sanctions.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) urged that Bush provide a Jackson-Vanik waiver on a trial basis.
“Since May, I have urged that the dramatic improvements in Soviet emigration practices merit a temporary waiver of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment,” Mitchell said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
The American Jewish Congress also has come out in favor of an immediate, one-year waiver.
But the chairwoman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, Shoshana Cardin, said Tuesday that the NCSJ supports a waiver only after the new legislation is shown to be working.
Cardin and Martin Wenick, the NCSJ’s executive director, will be in Malta for the summit “to ensure that human rights remains part of the agenda in these bilateral talks.”
MOSCOW HUNGER STRIKE SET
The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry will also be in Malta, where it plans to stage demonstrations “dramatically but peacefully raising the voice of moral conscience for our brethren in the USSR.”
In New York, the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews reported that scores of Jewish women refuseniks will hold a one-day hunger strike in Moscow on Sunday, which is International Human Rights Day. The hunger strike will “dramatize their anger and frustration at being unable to emigrate,” the coalition said.
In discussing the summit Wednesday, Baker did not specifically mention the Middle East. The only regional issue he specifically said that Bush would bring up with Gorbachev was Central America.
“Soviet behavior in Central America remains the biggest obstacle to across-the-board improvement in United States-Soviet relations,” he said.