WASHINGTON (Jun. 22)
American Jewish leaders turned down a request by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to help his country secure most-favored-nation trade status on a permanent basis.
At a meeting with the prime minister here on Tuesday, the dozen Jewish leaders told Chernomyrdin that they favor a continued waiver of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which for years barred the Soviet Union from the special trade status because of its policy on emigration, But the groups said they cannot support a move to permanently repeal the amendment at this time.
Though there has been substantial progress on the emigration front in recent years, there is still “more progress to be made before we can support repealing Jackson-Vanik,” said Mark Levin, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.
At the one-and-a-half hour meeting on Tuesday, the Jewish activists also discussed anti-Semitism and fascism in Russia.
The meeting is believed to mark the first time American Jewish groups met with senior Russian officials in Washington since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Former Congressman Charles Vanik (D-Ohio), co-author of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, also attended the meeting.
Rabbi Mark Staitman, NCSJ vice chairman, called the dialogue a “positive step.”
“We all came out with a real sense of hope and optimism. While we certainly don’t agree on everything, the difference in our positions is not a great one and can be bridged,” Staitman said.
When asked about the rise in fascism in Russia, the prime minister said he does not believe fascist groups have any influence or determine any policies of the Russian government.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, asked the prime minister to protect houses of worship in Russia in light of recent attacks against Jewish institutions.