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Summit Didn’t Fail on Human Rights, U.S. Official Says

December 11, 1987
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President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ended their three days of talks Thursday with Reagan calling the summit a “clear success.”

The two leaders signed on Tuesday an agreement to dismantle medium- and short-range nuclear missiles. But from both public and private comments there was no indication that any movement had been made on human rights, including the issue of increased Jewish emigration.

However, a senior administration official, briefing the thousands of reporters who covered the summit, said he would not “classify” the human rights discussion as “a failure.”

He noted that Reagan said American and Soviet societies most “come in contrast, come in conflict” on the issue of human rights and addressed the topic throughout the summit.

In his statement bidding farewell to Gorbachev, during a heavy rain on the south lawn of the White House, Reagan stressed that human rights will continue to be discussed with the Soviets.

“Our exchange on the subject of human rights underscored the priority we in the Western democracies place on respect for fundamental freedoms,” the president said.


“I am pleased that during this summit we addresed this area of heartfelt importance and ensured a continuing dialogue on human rights at the highest levels of our governments.”

Gorbachev also mentioned human rights in his departure statement, the first time he has referred to it in public here.

“We have had a useful exchange of views which have clarified each other’s position concerning regional conflicts, the development of our bilateral ties and human rights,” the Soviet leader said.

He added that “on some of these aspects, it seems likely that we can soon identify specific solutions, satisfactory to both us and to other countries.” It was not clear whether this included human rights. More likely he meant regional issues.

The senior administration official said the Arab-Israel conflict was discussed by the two leaders, although it apparently was not a major topic during the discussion on regional issues.

Soviet Jewry activists present agreed Thursday that no progress had been made on human rights at the summit. “We at least got our licks in,” Glenn Richter of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

He was referring to the massive rally on Sunday, in which some 250,000 people participated, as well as the subsequent demonstrations in which Richter took part.

The National Conference on Soviet Jewry took Gorbachev to task for saying he was “tired” of the human rights issue when questioned about it during his meetings with various groups.

When Reagan brought up the issue, Gorbachev is reported to have said, “You are not the prosecutor and I am not the accused.”

“Mr. Gorbachev has it wrong,” the national conference said, apparently referring to the Helsinki human rights accords. “The Soviet Union gave the international community the right to judge its compliance with its international human rights agreements.”

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