The 35-nation Madrid Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, convened two years ago amid hopes for a resurgence of detente, resumed today after an eight-month recess on a confrontational note between the Western and Eastern blocs.
In a harsh exchange of opening speeches, the West presented a series of new proposals directly linked to the crisis in Poland and toughened criticism of human rights violations in Eastern Europe. The Polish delegation in turn accused the United States and other Western nations of interference in the internal affairs of Poland.
The 1975 Helsinki accords, that call for respect for human rights, economic exchanges and peaceful solutions to international disputes, were regarded at the time as a landmark in East-West relations. The Madrid conference opened two years ago to review the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act and to examine an improved framework for detente.
The conference adjourned in March with a consensus that a "cooling-off" period might remove some of the acrimony that had arisen as a result of the imposition of martial law in Poland last December.
Today, Danish Ambassador Thomas Rechnagel, speaking on behalf of the European Community and the West, said that during the recess "the negative trends in the international situation have not been reversed. General East-West relations remain at a low ebb characterized by mutual distrust and lack of confidence."
The Danish speech, later endorsed by U.S. officials at the conference, cited martial law in Poland, continuing political detentions and the dissolution of the Solidarity trade union as contrary to "the letter and spirit of the [Helsinki] Final Act."
The Polish crackdown on Solidarity since the recess has been a major cause of the aggravated East-West tension, as the union has defied government efforts to neutralize it and continued underground activity.
Hopes for a rapprochement between Solidarity and the government were dashed Oct. 8, when the government officially annulled the union's charter and passed legislation providing for new, restricted unions to replace both Solidarity and the discredited party-run labor organization.
In retaliation, the Reagan administration stepped up its sanctions, canceling Poland's most-favored-nation status.
The clash over Poland came as underground Solidarity leaders, in a communique issued this week, called on workers to stage a nationwide strike Wednesday.
In response to the Western criticism today, the Polish delegation accused the West "and in particular the United States" of taking advantage of the Polish crisis "to increase international tension and to complicate the already tense and complex East-West relations."
The Polish delegation told the plenary meeting that the U.S. suspension of the most-favored-nation clause in trade with Poland, among other actions, ran "counter to the entire process initiated at Helsinki."
[The Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda Tuesday charged that the United States and other Western countries have "obstructed" the conference through the policy of "diktat," The Associated Press reported.]
The Danish speech unveiled new proposals prepared by the Western group intended to be introduced as amendments to existing drafts for a concluding document.
The Danish delegation mentioned three specific proposals to safeguard the right of self-determination, guarantee the freedom to form trade unions and ensure the freedom of expression of those who monitor the implementation of the Helsinki accords.
The three proposals are the first of 14 amendments drawn up by the Western allies at a series of preparatory meetings in Oslo, Lisbon and Brussels over the past two months. Other proposals, to be put forward later, cover working conditions of journalists and access to foreign missions.
[Although prospects appeared slim that the Eastern nations would accept any of the Western presentations as part of the conference's final document, a Western official denied they were intended to scuttle the meeting, AP reported.]
A senior Western official said the amendments reflected "the Polish developments and the pattern of repression in the Soviet Union." He said that the dissolution of Solidarity had "increased the tempo" of the Western actions at Madrid against human rights violations.
U.S. delegation leader Max M. Kampelman and Soviet chief delegate Anatoli G. Kovalev did not speak at the three-hour opening session.