Secretary of State George P. Shultz said today he intends to limit his discussions here with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko to the downing of Korean Air Lines flight 007 and human rights issues, as the European security conference prepared to close in an atmosphere of heightened East-West tension.
There had been hopes that this session of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe would spur nuclear arms negotiations and possibly lead to a superpower summit, but three years of frustrating talks by 35 nations to find ways of improving East-West ties now have ended with U.S.-Soviet relations seriously strained over the Soviet downing last week of the South Korean airliner.
As a result of the new crisis, interest in the lengthy conference document, designed to foster detente mainly through future accords on human rights and disarmament, has been all but obliterated.
Even spokesmen for neutral nations such as Switzerland said that the Soviet downing of the South Korean plane must be a central theme of conference speeches, which will end with an address by Shultz Friday.
Shultz, speaking aboard his airplane en route to the conference, said he would refuse to discuss with Gromyko a possible U.S.-Soviet summit meeting or other substantive issues before the two nations because "the shoot-down is such a gross violation of human rights that I think it is very important to emphasize it and to call for an accounting."
Shultz said it is now uncertain whether he will meet Gromyko in New York later this month for the usual discussions of the broad range of Soviet-American problems and prospects in connection with Gromyko's annual visit to the U.N. General Assembly.
White House and State Department officials had been saying for several days that Shultz's session here with the Soviet foreign minister would center on the airline issue and human rights, but it had not been known until today that Shultz would refuse to talk about anything else.
U.S. officials accompanying Shultz were uncertain whether Gromyko would appear for the scheduled meeting Thursday under the restrictions Shultz has announced.
Shultz told reporters on his plane that he wanted to "confront directly a member of the Politburo" who presumably had a role in setting the procedures for dealing with airspace violations. He said that he did not accuse Gromyko of personally authorizing the attack on the aircraft, but said the foreign minister and long-time Politburo member definitely had a part in formulating the official response to the disaster.
The secretary spoke before receiving word aboard his plane of the statement released in Moscow admitting that the airliner was shot down by a Soviet missile. Spokesman John Hughes said the statement does not change the positions outlined by Shultz.
The meeting will enable Shultz to consult with NATO foreign ministers in an effort to gain support for American measures to punish the Soviets for the airliner disaster. So far only Canada has announced that it will take the U.S.-urged step of banning flights of the Soviet airline Aeroflot, for 60 days effective today.
From its outset, the Madrid meeting--a follow-up to a similar session that produced the 1975 Helsinki accords--has been overshadowed by events elsewhere. The conference began in the wake of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, reached its midpoint with the 1981 declaration of martial law in Poland and now draws to a close in the midst of the airliner crisis.
In the end, little of substance has been achieved beyond keeping the so-called "Helsinki process" alive.
In fact, some of those the United States has been eager to help are among the most dissatisfied with the results. Although the Soviets reluctantly agreed in July to renewed pledges on human rights issues such as family reunification, those promises were denounced today by leading activists on behalf of Soviet Jews who said nothing concrete had been achieved in the accord.
"This agreement is being signed without any deed" by the Soviets, Avital Scharansky, wife of imprisoned dissident Anatoly Scharansky, said at a press conference.