The speeches here by United States Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, made just hours before their private consultations, suggest that neither side has changed its position on key issues since the Reykjavik, Iceland, summit. Mr. Shultz and Mr. Shevardnadze were scheduled to have fairly short meetings last evening and this morning. Both sides hinted at the possibility of a Reykjavik-style working group on arms control.
So far, it is hard to see what they will have to discuss. Both ministers' speeches at the Helsinki Accords review conference indicated that their attitude on such issues as President Reagan's Stategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or ``star wars'') and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty remain unchanged.
Shevardnadze repeated Soviet opposition to SDI, which he described as the ``only obstacle'' to a comprehensive arms agreement. He repeated his country's assertion that, during last month's Reykjavik summit, President Reagan had agreed to the total elimination of all nuclear weapons - including strategic bombers, cruise missiles, and battlefield nuclear devices. And he attacked the ``disinformation'' that had followed the Iceland meeting, which he said had ``contaminated'' the ``highest levels of some Western countries.''
Shevardnadze also expressed irritation with what he called the ``alogical'' position of some Western countries, which had after the summit expressed concern at the risks implied by the sudden disappearance of the US nuclear umbrella. And he repeated Moscow's suspicion that the US is seeking military superiority.
Shultz also struck familiar chords in his speech. ``In the area of nuclear arms control, we may have reached a watershed in our recent discussions with the Soviet Union,'' he told the conference, taking pains to emphasize the word ``may.'' He said that the West needed the SDI as ``an investment in and an insurance for a more stable strategic balance.''
But, the secretary claimed, the Soviet Union wanted to ``cripple'' SDI.
Shultz was referring indirectly to what will probably be one of the main points of discussion with Shevardnadze: Moscow's definition of laboratory testing of SDI components. In return for the package of disarmament proposals he put forward in Iceland, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev demanded a US agreeement to limit SDI research and testing to the laboratory for 10 years. This, the Soviets say, is fully in accordance with the ABM Treaty.
The US disagrees, claiming that the treaty permits testing of some SDI components in space. In public statements since Reykjavik, the Soviets have offered a broad definition of laboratory - one that would essentially forbid only space tests. The US wants to check this definition.
As expected, Shultz hit the Soviets hard on the question of human rights, and called for measures to verify each country's compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act.
But his comments were slightly blunted by Shevardnadze's proposal that a ``representative forum'' be held in Moscow to discuss humanitarian cooperation. Soviet officials said later that the forum should be called as soon as possible, and might discuss human contacts, information, education, and culture.
The speeches did suggest that the two sides are moving slightly closer in their attitude to one problem: terrorism. While Shultz called for greater cooperation in combatting the problem, Shevardnadze described terrorism as ``a plague on the 20th century,'' and said that those who conduct street war in the cities of Europe are ``our common enemy.''