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Shultz Meets With Former Dissident On Jewish Emigration Issue

September 11, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State George P. Shultz assured a leading former Soviet dissident Friday that the United States will continue to plead with the Soviet Union for high levels of Jewish emigration and hinge improvements in superpower relations to progress on human rights issues.

Natan Sharansky, who emigrated to Israel in 1986, met with Shultz briefly and said the secretary promised to make the Jewish issue ″an integral part of all negotiations.″

Specifically, Shultz pledged to raise the issue next week when he meets with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze on the whole range of superpower issues, including a possible visit to Washington by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The administration has made the Jewish issue a part of previous U.S.-Soviet sessions and Shultz’s pledge to Sharansky - who spent nine years in a Soviet labor camp - underscored the American commitment.

Sharansky said Shultz reported ″he will make it clear to the Soviet Union that all the progress in relations between the Soviet Union and America″ depends on progress on the Jewish issue.

From a high of more than 51,000 emigration visas in 1979, the number of Jews allowed to leave the Soviet Union nosedived to 914 in 1986. This year, amid declarations of more open policies, 4,574 Jews have left the country.

Sharansky estimated, however, that up to 400,000 Jews want to leave the Soviet Union. The State Department has expressed concern that the slightly higher figures, which include the recent release of some noted Jews, represent a public relations effort rather than a total commitment to emigration.

Sharansky said Shultz reiterated that fear, quoting the secretary as voicing ″concern with the way the Soviet Union is handling the people - releasing them before important meetings and using them for a public relations campaign.″

″Our struggle is for the release of all Jews,″ Sharansky said.

″We have to expect almost every week until Gorbachev comes to America that such good gestures will continue, but we can’t have meetings of Gorbachev every year; we cannot have these meetings of Shevardnadze every week,″ Sharansky said.

″The important thing is to make sure this progress continues ... and that there will be a dramatic change in the human rights record of the Soviet and the attitude toward Jewish emigration,″ he said.

Shultz earlier this week publicly urged Moscow to adopt ″less arbitrary″ procedures that are ″more humane and understandable″ than giving occasional exit visas to some dissidents while denying many others permission to leave.

Rep. James Scheuer, D-N.Y. announced, meanwhile, he received word that the Soviets had granted an exit visa to another noted Jewish activist, Lev Elbert, 38, and Elbert’s family.

Elbert had been trying to get out of the Soviet Union since 1976, but the Soviets had withheld permission on grounds he possessed classified information. Elbert was a construction worker for the Soviet army, but had not worked since applying for his visa more than a decade ago.

Sharansky, 39, was a founder of the so-called Helsinki Group, which monitored Soviet compliance with a 35-nation human rights agreement signed in 1975 in the Finnish capital.

He eventually was convicted of espionage and sent to a labor camp, where he became possibly the best-known Jewish dissident due to his campaign on behalf of ″refuseniks″ - Jews whose visa requests have been refused.

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