The Belgrade conference on European security and cooperation summed up six months of work yesterday in a declaration containing no mention of human rights - the issue that most sharply divided East and West bloc delegates.
In his final speech to the conference, chief U.S. delegate Arthur Goldberg deplored the lack of agreement on any new measure improving East-West relations. Throughout the conference here, Western delegates have accused the Soviet bloc of failing to live up to promises given at the 1975 Helsinki conference on European security, particularly those dealing with human rights.
"Efforts to squelch the truth at Belgrade or at home will not change the truth. And they will not deflect the United States from insisting that candor is as important to the healthy development of international confidence as is respect for sovereign equality and individuality," Goldberg told the 35-nation conference.
Despite Goldberg's continuing emphasis on the human rights issue throughout the conference, the bland final communique did not even refer to the subject because the Soviet Union threatened to veto the report if human rights was included.
Thus, as the conference neared its end, there was little in the way of tangible progress in East-West cooperation that could be claimed, except for a decision to hold another review conference in 1980 in Madrid.
Some Western delegates did, however, express satisfaction over their efforts to raise human rights as a significant issue in the on-going debate between East and West.
Goldberg told delegates in an open plenary session that United States would continue to speak out on human rights - despite Soviet claims that this constitutes interference in other countries' internal affairs.
Although the most important decision taken in Belgrade has been an agreement to meet again in 1980, Western delegates are at pains to emphasize that this does not mean the conference has been a worthless exercise.
Golberg said this was the first time that cases of individual human rights violations had been raised at a multilateral gathering, adding that it was no longer possible to pretend that such questions were irrevelant to the implementation of the Helsinki Declaration or damaging to detente.
"We live in the real world, not one of make-believe. We cannot make our world a better one if we turn a blind eye to its faults," he told delegates.
The failure to agree on a substantive concluding document reflects widely differing interpretations of the Helsinki Declaration. While Western delegates consistently put more emphasis on the human rights provisions in the declaration, the East Europeans were more interested in security and military detente.
There were even differences over what consitutes basic human rights. In his closing address, chief Czechoslovak Delegate Richard Dvorak accused the West of a "one-sided approach to human rights" - ignoring to social and economic rights like full employment and the right to live in peace in favor of the rights of a handful of individuals.
Talking to reporters, chief Soviet delegate Yuli Vorontosov described American insistence of human rights as "a political campaign conducted for specific political reasons." "Like other such campaigns, it is bound to fail," he said.
The agreement on the concluding document came after the meeting had been held up for five days at Malta's insistence that more attention be paid to security in the Mediterranean. In the end, this was resolved with the compromise that the topic would be discussed at the Madrid meeting.
Most disappointed at the outcome of the conference are neutral delegates who saw it as an alternative to secret bilateral diplomacy between the big powers. They were not as concerned with human rights as the West, but did want the conference to end by taking important political decisions.
None of the more than 100 proposals submitted to the conference was approved.These included measures to protect from official persecution individuals and groups monitoring implementation of the Helsinki accords, clearly aimed at the Soviet Union, further steps to promote emigration, reunification of families and other human rights.
"The conference was a 1 per cent success and a 99 per cent failure," said Swiss delegate Rudolf Bindschedler. He said apart from the 1980 conference in Madrid and several meetings before then to discuss specific issues, the status quo continues.
Representatives of the 35 signatories of the Helsinki Declaration did agree to establish a working group on the peaceful settlement of disputes that will meet in Switzerland, a forum on scientific cooperation to be held in Germany, and a panel of Mediterranean experts who will meet in Malta. The duration of each meeting is limited to six weeks.
The conference is likely to end today with closing speeches from the remaining delegations, including the Soviet Union.