Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko met for more than six hours Tuesday, apparently spending most of the time lecturing each other on subjects ranging from Soviet human rights violations to the U.S. “Star Wars” space defense project.
Neither side provided much information about the meeting, which ran two hours longer than planned, but it was clear from the comments of U.S. and Soviet spokesmen that Shultz and Gromyko were unable to resolve the differences that have blocked progress at the currently recessed Geneva arms control talks.
On the question of a possible summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, U.S. and Soviet officials were particularly cautious in their comments to reporters.
Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir B. Lomeiko and a senior U.S. official both reminded reporters that Reagan had extended a summit invitation to Gorbachev, but neither would say if Shultz and Gromyko had set a date for such a meeting.
The U.S. official, who declined to be identified, snapped, “No comment” when reporters pressed him about a possible summit.
Both American and Soviet officials insisted that Tuesday’s talks were businesslike.
“I would steer you away from the impression that this was a meeting gone bad,” the U.S. official said. “I also would steer you away from exaggerated expectations.”
Points of Friction
Nevertheless, the only specific issues mentioned by U.S. or Soviet officials concerned points of friction that were not resolved by the meeting.
The Soviets said Gromyko complained about President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative--the “Star Wars” effort--and about U.S. policy in Central America, Africa and the Mideast.
The Americans said Shultz objected to Soviet violations of existing arms control agreements, development of the SSX-24 nuclear missile, abuses of human rights and the killing of a U.S. military observer by a Soviet sentry in East Germany.
Lomeiko said the Soviets repeated their demand for a strict interpretation of the agreement reached by Shultz and Gromyko in Geneva in January that led to the resumption of the arms control talks.
The Soviets contend that the agreement calls for restrictions on space and missile defense weapons as part of any weapons-limitation pact. But the United States insists that it will not consider limitations on the “Star Wars” project as long as it is in the research stage.
Lomeiko also said Gromyko “underlined that one of the main sources of tension in the world is that certain circles (a reference to the United States) try to impose their will on other people and free countries, interfering in their internal problems in places like Central America, Africa and the Middle East.”
The U.S. official said later, “I think that maybe Mr. Lomeiko used a little bit of journalistic shorthand in describing what was a detailed discussion of each of these areas.” However, the official declined to describe Shultz’ response.
The U.S. official said U.S. accusations of Soviet violations of existing arms control agreements “certainly” came up. He also said Shultz raised the case of U.S. Army Maj. Arthur D. Nicholson Jr., an accredited military observer in East Germany, who was killed by a Soviet sentry.
“The secretary made the points that we had made before,” the official said. “We viewed the killing with serious concern. We renewed our demand for an apology and compensation (for the dead man’s family).”
Shultz, in a brief statement as he emerged from the Soviet Embassy where the talks were held, said, “I discussed problems of human rights, as I always do.”
Lomeiko acknowledged that Shultz raised the issue but added, “Internal questions aren’t discussed with anyone.”
Despite the seeming acrimony, Shultz said the session was a “lengthy, useful and worthwhile meeting.” Lomeiko added, “We have resolved to do everything possible for better relations and to put everything in it that we can. The discussion on this was important, necessary and useful.”
Shultz said he and Gromyko “also discussed bilateral issues where some progress can be made.” The senior U.S. official, in quoting the Shultz statement, stressed the word “can,” which seemed to indicate that any progress would be in the future.
Asked what sort of progress was possible, the official said, “We are in the process of negotiating a cultural agreement.”