Jackson Meets With Gorbachev, Raises Human Rights Issue
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev held a surprise meeting today, and Jackson later said the Kremlin leader was “forthright” and “did not flinch” when confronted with charges of human rights abuses in the Soviet Union.
Jackson led a delegation of fellow Americans, including supporters of a nuclear freeze, a group called Women for a Meaningful Summit and members of his own Rainbow Coalition, to what he said was a 40-minute lunchtime meeting with Gorbachev.
Soviet officials confirmed that Gorbachev was present throughout the 40-minute meeting with Jackson and his delegation and as a result had to cut short his time for lunch.
“He said he and President Reagan got down to serious business,” Jackson said. “And he made it clear that his business was disarmament.”
‘Answer ... Not Adequate’
Jackson said he raised with Gorbachev the question of human rights and “the plight of Soviet Jewry.” On this question, Jackson said “he recognized no problem. This answer was not adequate to us.”
Nevertheless, he said, Gorbachev was “forthcoming and candid” and “did not flinch” when the human rights issue was raised.
“His response was respectful, and even his respect for our right to agree to disagree marked a step in the right direction,” Jackson said.
Jackson met the Soviet leader, along with Anatoly F. Dobrynin, Soviet ambassador to Washington, and other Gorbachev aides after the first summit session today. He said Gorbachev told him that it is too early to come to any conclusions about the progress of the summit, the first in six years between the superpower leaders.
Jackson, an unsuccessful candidate for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination, also requested a meeting with Reagan but said he had received no immediate reply.
Petition for Test Halt
Jackson handed Gorbachev a petition he said was signed by more than 1.2 million Americans calling for a halt to nuclear testing and an immediate freeze on the deployment of nuclear weapons.
He said he appealed to Gorbachev to extend a moratorium on nuclear testing that the Soviet Union has declared until the end of this year. Jackson said he obtained no specific commitment on extending the moratorium but added that Gorbachev appeared to be seriously interested in achieving serious disarmament agreements.
Jackson said he hopes that Reagan and Gorbachev will be able to establish a rapport that will extend to improved relations between the superpowers in “a great global Christmas gift” to humanity.
Meanwhile, activist groups today took advantage of the high profile of the summit meetings to stage demonstrations for various causes.
Jewish activists occupied the office of the Soviet airline Aeroflot in downtown Geneva for two hours, chanting psalms and demanding freedom for Soviet Jews. They were arrested and carried out by Swiss police.
At another demonstration, the wife of Soviet dissident Anatoly Shcharansky demanded an end to her husband’s 11-year imprisonment and called on President Reagan to “be strong” at the summit.
Church leaders, feminists, anti-nuclear activists and other crusaders have brought their causes to Geneva hoping to make impressions on Reagan and Gorbachev.