Madrid parley: curtain, lights invective
As behind-the-scenes attempts to agree on an agenda grind on inconclusively, East and West are berating each other in the set opening speeches at the Helsinki review conference here.Skip to next paragraph
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For the West, the human-rights provisions of the 1975 35-nation agreement on security and cooperation in Europe are the most important aspect, and Soviet violations of these provisions are what need to be addressed in evaluating implementation of the Helsinki agreement over the past five years.
Great Britain's Minister of State Peter Blaker gave one of the toughest Western speeches in declaring Nov. 13 that the Soviet Union has broken every pledge made at Helsinki.He condemned the Soviet intervention in AFghanistan as a severe shock to international relations and confidence. He deplored as well the increased persecution of dissidents in the Soviet Union, especially those monitoring observance of the Helsinki human-rights promises.
In a low-key speech, US delegate Griffin Bell declared that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan "cast a dark shadow over East-West relations which no meeting, no pronoucement, nothing in fact but the total withdrawal of Soviet troops can dispell." He went on to cite the fate of 55 out of 71 members of Soviet Helsinki watch groups who have been imprisoned or exiled for their activity.
According to tallies by various Soviet dissidents expelled from the Soviet Union and gathered in Madrid to present their information, 42 members of the five Soviet Helsinki watch committees are now in prison, labor camps, or psychiatric hospitals.
This includes 28 Ukrainians, 4 Lithuanians, 5 muscovites, 1 Georgian, and 4 Armenians. Another 13 from the committees have been exiled from the Soviet Union; 2 other Georgians have finished their sentences, and 2 Moscovites are serving sentences of internal exile in the Soviet Union.
This time, in contrast to the first Helsinki review conference two years ago, the Soviet Union made no effort to treat dissidents more leniently before the meeting. The foreign minister of neutral Sweden, Ola Ullsten, spoke in the same vein as the British delegate, asserting that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan "tipped the scale from detente to distrust."
The opening speeches should be finished by Nov. 15. In the absence of an agreed-upon agenda, there is no guarantee that the conference will go on after that.