WASHINGTON (Sep. 5)
While the Persian Gulf crisis will likely dominate discussions Sunday between President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the issue of Soviet Jewry will not be forgotten during the one-day summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland.
“We expect our concerns to be raised at some point during their talks,” said Mark Levin, associate executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.
Levin said Wednesday that the National Conference has been assured by State Department officials that human rights will be on the summit agenda, specifically the status of a long-promised law that would formalize reforms in Soviet emigration policy.
After Bush and Gorbachev signed a trade agreement at their summit in Washington this spring. Bush stressed he would not send the treaty to Congress for ratification until the law was adopted by the Supreme Soviet.
Bush also made the law’s adoption a prerequisite for the waiving of sanctions in the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the U.S. Trade Act. Doing so would allow the Soviets to receive certain U.S. trade benefits, known as most favored-nation status.
The Supreme Soviet has postponed adoption of the law several times, but could act when it reconvenes later this month.
Gorbachev is expected to make a bid for U.S. help because of the Soviet Union’s dire economic straits. But the Bush administration is still committed to linking MFN status to the immigration law, Levin said.
In addition, there is no support in Congress for economic aid to the Soviet Union right now because of the U.S. government’s own budget deficit problems.
During the Helsinki talks, U.S. officials are expected to raise the issue of long-term refuseniks still not being allowed to emigrate despite the increasing number of Soviet Jews leaving the Soviet Union, said Levin.
Shoshana Cardin, chairwoman of the National Conference, expressed hope in a statement issued Tuesday that Gorbachev “will act swiftly to resolve this issue once and for all, so that all Soviet Jews who wish to do so are able to exercise their basic human right of free emigration.”