President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, Robert McFarlane, said here last night that the U.S. is ready to discuss the Middle East at the summit meeting between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev which began this morning.
There are “no preconditions. We do not demand as a precondition that Soviet Jews be allowed to freely emigrate nor that the Soviet Union reestablish diplomatic relations with Israel,” McFarlane said at a press briefing in reply to a question by an Arab reporter.
He added, “It is obvious, however, that it is difficult to imagine constructive talks on this issue as long as the Soviet Union backs the most extremist elements” fighting Israel. He reiterated that the U.S. would have no contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization as long as it refuses to recognize Israel and to abandon terrorism.
Reagan did not include the Middle East among the five regional conflict areas he mentioned in Washington recently as matters he wanted to take up with Gorbachev. But it is expected to be discussed tomorrow afternoon when a review of “regional conflicts” is on the agenda. The Russians have already said they will raise the issue of the Middle East and have indicated a tough attitude toward Israel.
The chief Soviet spokesman, Leonid Zamyatin, used the word “genocide” to describe alleged Israeli mistreatment of Arabs in the occupied territories. Zamyatin heads the Soviet Communist Party’s press bureau and is well aware of the connotations of that word in the West and especially the U.S. Zamyatin replied angrily when an Israeli correspondent asked about the situation of various minorities within the Soviet Union. “We are prepared to discuss the violations of the rights of man everywhere and especially in Israel where the Israeli government practices a policy of discrimination against the Arabs, ” he said.
The Soviet delegation is visibly irritated by the activities of various Jewish organizations which have been notably successful in drawing media attention to the plight of Soviet Jews.
GROUP OF JEWISH ACTIVISTS ARRESTED
Although the Swiss authorities have barred any demonstration during the two days of summit talks, a group of Jewish activists occupied the Geneva offices of Aeroflot, the Soviet air line, today. They sat on the floor refusing to budge and held up a large banner reading “Let my people go” and “Peace for the world.” Police removed them almost two hours laters. They are to appear before a magistrate tomorrow.
Five Jewish activists, including Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale, New York, who is U.S. chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, plastered walls and windows around Geneva with red and yellow stickers inscribed with “Free Soviet Jewry.” Several television crews, informed in advance, filmed this activity. But it was ignored by passersby.
McFarlane said last night that Reagan and the American delegation intend to raise the subject of human rights at every possible opportunity. He stressed that it is a subject “close to the heart” of the American public and the President. But he did not say when the issue would be raised during the summit. So far, the two sides have agreed on only one matter: to impose a news blackout on the summit proceedings until they are over.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.