Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev today sharply criticized the forthcoming Egyptian-Israeli summit meeting and asserted that such "notorious" talks are aimed at "thwarting a genuine settlement" of the Middle East conflict.
Brezhnev lambasted Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's peace initiative as one of "unilateral concessions to Israel and separate negotiations with it." By implication, the Soveit leader accused the current peace talks in an effort to split the Arab world and thus "deprive the Arabs of their strength."
Brezhnev made the remarks in an interview with the newspaper Pravda that also included a warning that included a warning that if the United States continued development of the "neutron bomb," the Soviet Union would "answer the challenge" with a similar device.
Brezhnev has been sick with the flu since Dec. 10 and is now recovering, according to Western diplomatic sources. His interview with the Communist Party daily was distributed by the official news agency Tass.
Referring to the Middle East, the 71-year-old Soviet leader said that since Sadat's initiative toward Israel, the prospect for reconvening a Geneva peace conference and "reaching an overall settlement in the Middle East has become more difficult."
He reiterated Soviet commitment to reaching an overall settlement that included Moscow's support for the Palestine Liberation Organization and the creation of a Palestinian state.
"Only if these provisions" are implemented, he said, will be a Middle East peace be "lasting and . . . not turn into a precarious armistice."
Brezhnev's remarks appear to reflect Soviet unhappiness with the current course of Middle East developments without offering any suggestions of possible new diplomatic departures.
His remarks about the neutron bomb, however, appeared clearly designed to convey the impression that the Soviet Union is working on its own "enhanced radiation" device. These weapons release killing amounts of radiation over a wide area but do relatively little blast damage to buildings.
"In the final count, all this shall raise the arms race to an even more dangerous level," he said. "We move to reach agreement on a mutual renunciation of the production of the neutron bomb so as to save the world from the appearance of this new mass annihilation weapon. This is our sincere desire, our propossal to Western powers."
On other subjects, Brezhnev declared that it would be "a good thing for the Soviet Union, the United States and the world" if the two superpowers could agree on a strategic arms limitation (SALT) accord.
Pravda did not say precisely when the interview occured but Brezhnev's answers implied that it was fairly recent.
Citing his own speeches "some time ago" before the Sovet Parliament during last month's celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Bolshevic Revolution. Brezhnev said he would single out "only some points" to answer the interviewer's question about assessing the Soviet Union's position "now that the year of 1977 is going out."
There has been substantial controversy among NATO allies over the wisdom of storing neutron bomb warheads on their territory.
The device has been described as a tactical weapon, not a strategic warhead. But some arms critics have said the neutron bomb erodes the crucial difference between those two classes of weapons, and thus, they argue, its use could more easily lead to escalation to a full, catastrophic stategic weapons exchange between the two superpowers.
Brezhnev touched on both these issues, saying the development of the new weapon is an attempt "to erase the distinction between conventional and nuclear arms, to make transition to a nuclear war outwardly unnoticeable. This is pure falsehood." Referring to West European fears about the warhead deployment there, he said this question may be "easy and simple for those who live far from Europe. But the Europeans, who live under one roof, are of a different opinion, it should be presumed.
On SALT, Brezhnev asserted that "there is no lack of willingness on our part to bring these talks to a successful conclusion. In our opinion, there exist opportunities, and very good ones, for this. To judge by some statements, the American side also expresses certain optimism."
In general, Brezhnev's views contained no surprises. The Kremlin has compaigned against the neutron bomb, has been seeking SALT agreement, and has denounced any Middle East peace moves that might undermine its own position as co-chairman of the Geneva peace conference.