The United States hopes to resume high-level discussions of Afghanistan with the Soviet Union this month in Vienna, State Department officials said yesterday, but it is uncertain whether the Soviets will agree.
The Reagan administration has informed Soviet officials that Afghanistan is among the topics Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy intends to bring up in renewed discussions on the Middle East, which the superpowers agreed upon in principle last month.
In recent days, according to the sources, the two sides have agreed to hold their Mideast discussions in Vienna this month. A specific date is expected to be announced soon.
The senior Soviet official involved in the Mideast talks is expected to be Vladimir Polyakov, deputy director of the Soviet Foreign Ministry's Middle East and Africa section. Among several reasons for U.S. doubt about the discussions on Afghanistan is that Moscow considers Afghanistan to be part of Asia rather than the Middle East and Afghanistan usually is not dealt with by Polyakov and his aides.
In making known last month the decision by Washington and Moscow to resume discussions on the Middle East, administration officials listed Afghanistan as a likely topic along with the Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanon, the Iran-Iraq War, Libya and Soviet military support for Syria. The Soviets have not yet agreed to this full agenda, officials said yesterday.
The United States and the Soviet Union had a round of discussions solely on Afghanistan in Moscow in July 1982. These were unsuccessful, with each side merely stating a position far from that of the other.
State Department sources said there is no indication that a renewal of intensive U.S.-Soviet discussions about Afghanistan would be fruitful at this time. Nonetheless, Washington is said to be ready to offer to resume Afghanistan-only talks if they would advance a political settlement of the Afghan war.
In bringing up Afghanistan as one of many Mideast problems for discussion, Murphy expects to reiterate the U.S. positions and probe for Soviet shifts, the officials said.
Murphy reportedly plans to emphasize to his Soviet counterpart at Geneva the continuing U.S. commitment to a negotiated Afghan settlement and to the United Nations-sponsored talks involving the Afghan and Pakistani governments.
The U.S. position, which officials said would be expressed at Vienna if the Soviets agree to talks about it, is that no fully normal relationship between Washington and Moscow is possible until the Afghan question is settled.
Murphy is planning to reiterate the four principles that are the basis for the U.S. view of an Afghan settlement: the withdrawal of Soviet troops, recognition of Afghan sovereignty and independence, the return of refugees and self-determination for the Afghan people. U.S. officials have said they would not hold out for a pro-West Afghanistan, so long as it was clear that any successor government is the free choice of the Afghan people.
Officials said the United States is not pushing at this stage for recognition of Afghan resistance groups as a "government in exile," largely because of a lack of unity among the various groups and lack of even an umbrella organization.
A proposal may be made at the current meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva for recognition of the Afghan resistance as a "national liberation group" under U.N. rules. The United States has passed word that it does not object to the plan, but there are doubts in Washington about its practicality, officials said.