Secretary of State George P. Shultz may meet Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko for the next round of top-level U.S.-Soviet diplomacy in Vienna May 15, administration officials said yesterday.
The occasion would be the 30th anniversary commemoration of the Austrian State Treaty, which reestablished the freedom and sovereignty of that country after World War II.
The Austrian government has invited Shultz, Gromyko and the foreign ministers of Britain and France -- representing the four treaty signers -- and several of Austria's neighbors from East and West.
U.S. sources said Shultz is being pressed to come by Western European foreign ministers who want the superpowers to take another step this spring in developing their diplomacy. Another Shultz-Gromyko meeting might help to advance the U.S.-Soviet nuclear- and space-arms negotiations scheduled to begin March 12 in Geneva.
Diplomatic sources said that French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas and British Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe have agreed to come to Vienna and that it is "90 percent certain" that Shultz will come.
One diplomat said Shultz will attend if Gromyko does. The sources said that no official word has come from Gromyko but that informal indications are that he will attend.
A parallel celebration in May 1980, the 25th anniversary of the Austrian treaty, provided the forum for a three-hour meeting between Gromyko and Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie. It was the first meeting of the top diplomats of the two powers since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.
The likelihood of a May 15 U.S.-Soviet meeting in Vienna became known as the State Department announced two days of U.S.-Soviet talks on the Middle East in the Austrian capital next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Department spokesman Bernard Kalb went to unusual lengths to limit expectations for any major accomplishment in the talks, proposed by President Reagan last September and agreed to in principle by the two sides last month.
"These talks should not be seen as negotiations, and we do not anticipate any agreements. They are merely an exchange of views. They do not represent any change in the U.S. position regarding issues affecting the region, nor do we expect them to result in changes in the Soviet position," Kalb said.
Reagan, however, seemed much more optimistic about the outcome. In an exchange with reporters as he prepared to leave the White House for California, he said, "There's some reason to believe that we can straighten out some things" in the Mideast talks.
The Israeli government had expressed concern in diplomatic exchanges about resumption of U.S.-Soviet talks on the Middle East. The very expectation of such a U.S.-Soviet discussion had stirred speculation about it in the Middle East.
Kalb said the U.S. side "expects" that such subjects as Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq war, southern Lebanon and Arab-Israeli issues would be raised in the talks. Other officials said it is not clear whether the Soviets will agree to discuss Afghanistan, which they consider part of the Asian region rather than the Middle East.
Richard W. Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, will head the U.S. delegation. The Soviet delegation is to be led by Vladimir Polykov, head of the Near East division of the Foreign Ministry.
In a related development, the Soviet Embassy rejected recent U.S. charges that the Soviets have violated arms-control agreements, calling them "unsubstantiated and groundless" and the cause of "profound concern and condemnation."
The embassy statement appeared to summarize a presentation which, according to the document, was made by Soviet diplomats to the State Department last Saturday.
The U.S. charges of Soviet noncompliance, made in a report to Congress Feb. 1, cast doubt on U.S. intentions "with regard to the existing arms-limitation agreement and to reaching such agreements in the future," the embassy said.
"This does not contribute to a favorable atmosphere for the forthcoming negotiations on nuclear and space weapons . . . . The American side should be no less interested than the Soviet side in the positive outcome of these negotiations," the Soviet statement said.