Now is not the time to call for a waiver of Jackson-Vanik Amendment sanctions against the Soviet Union, the immediate past chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry said here Thursday.
“It is premature to back a waiver of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment now,” Morris Abram told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview nine days after the National Conference decided to back such a waiver if President Bush receives assurances in four key areas.
The Soviet Union has made great strides forward, but much still needs to be done before the country can be considered a democracy, said Abram, who is slated next month to become U.S. ambassador to the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva.
Abram is currently chief U.S. delegate to the 35-nation Conference on Human Dimensions, which has been meeting here since early this month.
The meeting, held under the auspices of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, is a continuation of the process that produced the 1975 Helsinki human rights accords.
In January, the Soviet Union signed a new, farther-reaching human rights agreement guaranteeing equal rights and freedom of information, travel and religious practice.
Summing up the Paris meeting, which ends Friday, Abram said, “What is clear is that we got more out of the Helsinki process than the Soviets go out of it. The very fact that we got them talking about human rights, although we are not yet satisfied with the range of their applications, is already a notable process.”
‘RECENT CHANGES COULD BE CANCELED’
On Jackson-Vanik, the U.S. envoy pointed out that the Soviets claim they have prepared new legislation, some 50 different laws, to cover such human rights issues as freedom of emigration and religious practice.
“We have not yet seen these new laws. I suggest that we first see them and get a chance to study them before we make new concessions,” Abram said.
“As long as the Soviet Union remains a one-party state, with no real political opposition or a free press which can reveal issues and rap the government, all the recent changes could be canceled at a moment’s notice,” he said.
Abram said the American delegation here is not satisfied with Soviet progress on emigration reform. “It has not been institutionalized, but depends on executive decision. Many refuseniks are still denied their exist visas for both security reasons and for what the Soviet authorities describe as family reasons,” he said.
“I do not want to meddle with the NCSJ’s decision — I am a public official, I just want to express my views,” Abram stressed.
Back in 1979, when Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union reached an all-time high, “I would have supported a waiver of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment,” he said. “Things are different now. We should get much more from the Soviets.”
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.