Soviets to Let 117 Citizens Join Their Relatives in U.S. : Largest Number in 30 Years

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Associated Press

The Soviet Union has agreed to settle 36 divided-family cases by permitting 117 people to emigrate to the United States to join family members here, the State Department said today.

It will be the largest number of cases resolved since the United States began pressing the Soviets nearly 30 years ago to let specific citizens join family members in this country, State Department spokesman Charles E. Redman said.

Word of the decision and the names of the individuals were given to U.S. representatives Monday at an international human rights conference in Bern, Switzerland, the spokesman said.


None of the names were released, and Redman said it could be several weeks before completion of Soviet paper work permitting the emigration.

Names Not Released

Two other cases, one involving the spouse of a U.S. citizen, and one involving a dual national, also are going to be resolved, Redman said. The names of the persons involved in those cases also were not released.

“The U.S. government and the American people welcome this development,” Redman said of the emigration agreement.

“If these individuals, together with the other cases as yet unnamed whom the Soviets have indicated will also be resolved, are allowed to depart, it will mark the largest single resolution of representation list cases since the U.S. government began submitting such lists to the Soviet Union almost 30 years ago.”

He said the decision “gives real meaning” to vows made by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev at his November summit meeting with President Reagan.

‘Positive Step’

“It is a positive step that will contribute to an improved atmosphere in our relations, will facilitate efforts to build on the progress begun at the Geneva summit last year,” Redman said.


He also called it a significant step and said he hoped that it signals a Soviet willingness to make progress in other human rights areas.

The United States has been pressing 126 cases in which families have been split, with members in the United States and the Soviet Union.

In addition, there are 21 cases involving Americans with Soviet spouses who have not been allowed to come to the United States and 20 cases involving people with dual nationalities.

The Reagan Administration, seeking a better human rights performance by the Soviet Union, has made settlement of cases involving divided families one of the benchmarks.

Gorbachev promised after the summit meeting that 33 cases would be resolved, and the Soviets have followed through with the names of 24 cases since then.

New Agreements Studied

The new list was provided on the eve of the conclusion of a meeting of experts from 35 nations studying the possibility of new agreements toward bettering human rights under the 1975 Helsinki pact on security and cooperation in Europe.


Despite the Soviet announcement, the participants ended their meeting today by failing to reach agreement on new human rights accords. Redman said the United States rejected a proposal by the nonaligned bloc at the conference because it did not feel there had been adequate compliance with previous agreements.

Since the 1975 pact, in which nations pledged to permit liberal emigration, civil rights and toleration of religious and minority groups, the United States has accused the Soviet Union and its allies of non-compliance.

Redman said the United States hopes there might be further progress at a follow-up meeting in Vienna in November.