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Reagan Stresses Human Rights in Pre-summit Helsinki Speech

May 31, 1988
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President Reagan, in his final speech before meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, stressed Friday that there can be no “true international security without respect for human rights.”

Reagan, who was in Helsinki to rest before leaving Sunday for Moscow for his meetings with Gorbachev, made the observation that he was speaking from the same Finlandia Hall stage where the Helsinki Final Act was signed in 1975.

He said that the Final Act “reflects an increasing realization that the agenda of East-West relations must be comprehensive, that security and human rights must be advanced together, or cannot truly be secured at all.”

That linkage was stressed also by the U.S. Senate on Thursday night, when it passed an amendment by a voice vote on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The treaty “calls upon the president to use every opportunity to stress the inherent link between respect for human rights and the achievement of lasting peace.”

The amendment is not a “killer amendment,” which means it does not require the United States and the Soviet Union to renegotiate the treaty.

The Senate action was welcomed Friday by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews.

In his Helsinki speech, Reagan welcomed improvements in human rights under Gorbachev, but stressed that the Soviet Union is still not living up to its commitments under the Helsinki accords.

“Thirteen years after the Final Act was signed, it’s difficult to understand why cases of divided families and blocked marriages should remain on the East-West agenda, or why Soviet citizens who wish to exercise their right to emigrate should be subject to artificial quotas and arbitrary rulings,” Reagan said.

Reagan called on the Soviets and the Eastern bloc countries to end this arbitrariness by adopting legislation to safeguard these rights. “They could also give legal and practical protection to free expression and worship,” he said.

Reagan also stressed his commitment to human rights in a meeting with Finnish President Mauno Koivisto, who accompanied him to Finlandia Hall.

“We continue to work on the Soviets to recognize the rights of their people to worship and travel, and we appreciate your (Finland’s) support for these goals,” Reagan was quoted as saying by White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.


Meanwhile, the Soviets were reported to be displeased by Reagan’s plans to meet with Jewish refuseniks and other Soviet human rights activists in Moscow on Monday. Such a meeting “is hardly aimed at improving mutual understanding,” Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Petrovsky said Thursday at a Moscow news conference.

There were conflicting reports about Soviet attempts to block participants, particularly those from outside Moscow, from attending.

Two Leningrad refuseniks, Yergeny Lein and Roald Zelichonok, were warned against going, but reportedly planned to ignore the warning.

When a reporter asked Reagan what he thought of the Soviet attempt to block some refuseniks from the Monday meeting, he replied, “we do the best we can.”

But later, Fitzwater, briefing reporters, said “the embassy has been assured that everyone who is invited to the embassy will be there for the meeting.”

Asked about Petrovsky’s comment, Fitzwater said, “we invited these people because they were individuals who the president wanted to meet with, who represent the problems that he is trying to dramatize.”

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