Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev rejected a package of compromise proposals handed to him Tuesday by Lithuania’s leader, saying it did not go far enough toward meeting the demands he has set for opening talks with the breakaway Baltic republic.
Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania’s president, was told during the unscheduled meeting in the Kremlin that for negotiations to start, his small homeland must unequivocally decree a moratorium on its March 11 unilateral declaration of independence, the official Soviet news agency Tass reported.
However, the 90-minute session, previously unannounced and held at Gorbachev’s request, showed there is a desire on both sides to find a mutually acceptable formula to end the crisis between the Kremlin and the Landsbergis government, which has led to punishing Soviet economic sanctions against Lithuania and become a thorny issue in U.S.-Soviet relations.
In Vilnius, Lithuania’s Parliament had been scheduled to begin debate on a proposal from the republic’s prime minister, Kazimiera Prunskiene, that it suspend the March independence proclamation so that talks could begin on Lithuania’s secession from the Soviet Union.
Landsbergis, however, said that an assortment of draft documents toward that end failed to placate either Gorbachev or another top Moscow official, Supreme Soviet First Deputy Chairman Anatoly I. Lukyanov.
“They were dissatisfied with all our efforts to ensure a dialogue with Moscow,” Landsbergis said at the airport in Vilnius after returning home. “I showed Gorbachev eight draft documents on how to reach the goal, but he as well as Lukyanov did not accept them, saying that these documents did not suit them.”
He said the republic’s Supreme Council, or Parliament, which he addressed later in the day, will “have to seek a way out of the situation.”
Monday night, state-run Soviet television news reported, without elaborating, that a majority of members of the Supreme Council oppose a moratorium on the independence proclamation and want it to remain in full force.
Landsbergis has called for Lithuanian lawmakers to present a united front on the issue. He has indicated that he supports the Prunskiene proposal, and by having Gorbachev pore over the drafts, may have been seeking clues as to what Moscow really wants as a means of forging a consensus in the Vilnius Parliament.
Under the Prunskiene government’s proposal, Lithuania would suspend the declaration immediately, but would implement the decision and begin the talks, which have been sought by both sides, only when Moscow fully lifts its economic sanctions, which include cuts in oil and gas supplies.
Prunskiene urged the Parliament to compromise, saying: “We need negotiations. We don’t have a magic wand to solve these problems.”
Lawmakers, expected to hotly debate the issue in Tuesday’s plenary session of Parliament, will meet instead in smaller groups today to seek wording that will satisfy both themselves and the Soviet leadership.
More radical legislators object that a freeze on the independence declaration would be tantamount to recognizing Soviet sovereignty over their homeland, which was forcibly annexed by the Kremlin in 1940 along with the two other formerly independent Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia.