The deadlocked 35-nation Madrid meeting reviewing the Helsinki accords moved today to recess until November in recognition of the sour stalemate in East-West relations brought on by the imposition of martial law in Poland.
The final session ended on a note of mutual recrimination between the two blocs, with each side accusing the other of stalling negotiations in Madrid and endangering the future of the Helsinki accords. The chief U.S. delegate to the conference, Max Kampelman, said current Soviet behavior in the human rights field represented "disdain, if not defiance, of the Helsinki Final Act."
Kampelman said the conference ended with the participants, who represent the United States, Canada and all European nations with the exception of Albania, "fully conscious that the Helsinki process is in danger." A statement from the Soviet Union accused the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies of conducting a "destructive, obstructionist line," which it said "threatened to destroy everything positive that had been achieved as a result of Helsinki."
The recess, due to last until Nov. 9, represented a tactical victory for the Western alliance. When the Madrid meeting reconvened Feb. 9 after its Christmas break, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. and other NATO foreign ministers firmly told delegates that there could be "no business as usual" at the conference while the Polish crisis persisted.
The subsequent Western move to adjourn the meeting as early as possible met with resistance from the Soviet Bloc, which withheld the necessary consensus for the break. The Warsaw Pact resolve to keep the Madrid session going under the appearance of normality broke down a week ago when the NATO delegations withheld their consensus for further meetings in a marathon, overnight session until a recess date was agreed upon.
The crucial session last Friday, termed by a Western delegate as "one of the few times the West has outsat the East at an international conference," underlined the united stand among the NATO allies that has been a marked characteristic of the Madrid sessions. Kampelman claimed at a press conference that Western unity was one of "very positive results" of the Madrid conference, which has been meeting off and on since November 1980.
Poland was the focus of attention of Western speakers at plenary sessions during the past weeks despite repeated protests by the Soviet Bloc that criticism of martial law represented an interference in the Warsaw government's internal affairs. The common front over the Polish crisis mirrored a similar Western unity 16 months ago, at the start of the Madrid conference, when NATO delegates used the meeting as a platform to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
One Western European delegate stressed that the decisive bid to force a recess was to prevent the Madrid conference from slipping into "a post-Poland rut" in the same way as it had fallen into "a post-Afghanistan rut" with the Soviet Union weathering the criticism and the conference continuing to meet as if the substance of detente had been unaffected.
Reflecting the concern of neutral and nonaligned European nations over the future of the Helsinki process, Austrian Foreign Minister Willibald Pahr paid a lightning visit to Madrid to tell the session that "in a period of growing international tension" detente was being "contemptuously pushed aside." Pahr added: "the present climate of confrontation is such that adjournment of the Madrid conference is the lesser evil."
The shared view of Western delegates is that unless there is a marked improvement in the international climate there are unlikely to be substantive negotiations over a concluding document when the conference reconvenes. The Madrid meeting, according to the original schedule, should have produced such a document, reaffirming Helsinki's principles and broadening them, about this time last year.