Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance proposed yesterday that the United States and Cuba enter into discussions without preconditions on the broad range of issue between the two countries.
Saying that President Carter would concur in his statement , Vance told a news conference that Carter did not intend in remarks last month to insist on the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola prior to the start of Washington-Havana talks.
Cuban President Fidel Castro has insisted in the past that Cuba would begin serious "negotiations" only after the United States lifts its trade embargo, but his attitude toward "talks" is unclear. In a statement to the Associated Press in Havana, Trade Minister Marcelo Fernandez said yesterday that Cuba is ready to buy a wide variety of U.S. goods ranging from foodstuffs to heavy industrial equipment if the 16-year-old embargo is lifted.
Vance said the current restrictions on travel to Cuba are being restudied, and he approved as "constructive" exchanges of athletic teams. Castro has suggested such sports exchanges. However, Vance declined to comment on possible relaxation of the trade embargo.
Vice President Mondale, in an interview with Washington Post editors yesterday, said "I think we're far short" of a decision to lift the trade embargo against Cuba. He cited Cuban involvement in Africa, political prisoners in Cuba and confiscation of property as points of tension that create "great difficulties."
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Informed officials said a major review of policy toward Cuba is nearing completion in a study committee of the National Security Council, and that an NSC meeting to establish a Carter administration policy is anticipated during this month.
Vance's proposal of broad discussions with Cuba came in response to a narrow question from a reporter about Cuba-American talks, proposed by Havana, on fishing rights within 200 miles of the U.S. coastline.Vance said the United States had told Cuba of its desire to discuss the fishing problems "promptly" in direct talks. Sources said the United States would soon propose a time and date for such a meeting.
Without being asked by reporters, Vance addressed the question of discussions with Cuba on the wide range of issues between the two countries. Saying that he had previously expressed U.S. willingness to undertake such discussions without any preconditions, he added, "I repeat that at this time and the President would concur in what I am saying."
At the Department of Agriculture on Feb. 18, Carter said he would be willing to move toward normalization of relations with Cuba only "if I can be convinced that Cuba wants to remove their aggravating influence from other countries in this hemisphere, will not participate in violence in nations across the ocean [and] will recommit the former relationship that existed in Cuba toward human rights." Vance said Carter did not intend to describe these actions as preconditions for talks, but rather as "important subjects that would have to be discussed."
Regarding press reports of Cuban troops or military advisers in Uganda, Vance said the United States has "no hard evidence" of large numbers of Cubans there, but cannot rule out the presence of "a few." Uganda Radio announced yesterday that President Idi Amin met the Soviet ambassador and the senior Cuban diplomat there in "very fruitful" discussions of an unspecified nature.
Vance's new conference, his second at the State Department since taking office, touched on a wide range of foreign policy topics. Among other things, he said.
The Soviet Union has "a continuing, deep and abiding interest" in reaching a nuclear arms control agreement despite its criticism of new U.S. outspokenness on human rights violations there. "Detente does exist today" and should be improved by arriving at ground rules to permit competition side-by-side with cooperation.
A study of President Nixon's records has disclosed no indication of a secret agreement or understanding with China about the schedule for normalization of relations. Vance said he plans to visit China before the year is out.
The United States will be discussing some ideas of its own on Middle East peace with Israeli and Arab leaders who are soon to visit Washington Vance would not elaborate.
The United States and Britain have reached general agreement at the working level on a new initiative for peace in Rhodesia. He would not disclose details.