A major East-West forum on culture ended here today without a concluding agreement and in a barrage of angry rhetoric, as Soviet and U.S. delegates accused each other of abusing the cooperative spirit of last week's Geneva summit conference.
After a long weekend of negotiations, western and Soviet Bloc diplomats at the forum of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe announced this morning that they had been unable to agree on a document summing up the six weeks of talks here among government officials and cultural figures from 35 participating nations.
The Soviet delegation, which had refused to accept references to free expression and dissemination of information in the document, then held a press conference to attack the United States, Britain and other western governments for "torpedoing the document, positively in cold blood."
The acrimonious exchanges came less than a week after President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had spoken in upbeat terms of a new beginning in superpower relations, noting, in Reagan's words, that the two sides now "understand each other better."
G.A. Ivanov, a Soviet deputy minister of culture, read a prepared statement today charging the United States with "calumny" and "attempts to introduce pornography and chaos" during the conference. He went on to cite "glaring infringements of human rights," saying "it does not seem to bother anyone in the United States that cultural and physical genocide is being practiced within their borders and that there is racism and anti-Semitism."
U.S. officials responded that the Soviets had failed to address western concerns about censorship, jamming of radio broadcasts and freedom of movement and expression and systematically had blocked open discussions between artists at the forum.
Walter Stoessel, the head of the U.S. delegation, added that Gorbachev had said after his meeting with Reagan that " 'we should stop saying stupid things about each other.' " He added, "It is regrettable that the Soviet spokesman does not seem to have understood that message."
The cultural forum, the fifth follow-up meeting to the 1975 Helsinki agreement on East-West detente, was the second in a row to end without agreement and increased concerns about stagnation in what diplomats call "the Helsinki process." A meeting on human rights last year in Ottawa also ended in an impasse, and an ongoing conference in Stockholm on confidence-building measures to avoid war in Europe has been stalled for months.
Western diplomats said the breakdown here was due to widely differing aims of the two sides as well as a western principle of refusing to agree to any document that did not address substantive issues.
"The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe looked on this conference as a meeting of artists who could get together for a cultural exchange," said one U.S. official. "The American position was that this was a political meeting to discuss the impediments to the free flow of culture and information."
Most of the conference consisted of meetings among more than 800 artists, writers and other "cultural personalities" who were meant to have discussions on their work as well as ways for increasing East-West cultural cooperation. Western participants included such well-known figures as American playwright Edward Albee, West German novelist Guenter Grass and British film director David Putnam.
By all accounts, the outcome was often frustrating. Most of the meetings were bound by rules of procedure that limited the "discussion" to a statement by each participant. Delegates could not be interrupted or questioned about their remarks, there was no time limit for statements and Eastern Bloc participants commonly arrived with prepared speeches heavy on statistics and quotations of official policies. Repeated efforts by western delegates to initiate more informal talks were vetoed by the Soviet Bloc as a violation of the rules.
Finally, the Soviet delegation agreed to allow several informal exchanges, on the condition that participants cover their nameplates. "The artists were frustrated to a considerable extent by the bureaucratic rigidity that the Soviets insisted on," said a member of the British delegation. "There were also some who expressed distaste at being caught up in an East-West confrontation."
In both the cultural meetings and the diplomatic plenary sessions, East and West battled throughout the conference over a familiar list of charges and countercharges. While the West, principally the United States and Britain, raised censorship, jamming and violations of human rights, the East -- led by the Soviets, Czechoslovakia and East Germany -- cited such issues as U.S. illiteracy and the "pollution" of western radio broadcasts, which Soviet Deputy Culture Minister Ivanov called "a spiritual bombardment from outer space."
Not all of the tension was between East and West. Hungary and Romania sparred over the issue of the Hungarian ethnic minority in Romania, and today Romania blocked a last-minute effort by Hungary to win the conference's agreement on a brief closing statement meant to compensate for the lack of a formal concluding document. Confirming its image as a communist maverick, Romania also refused to join the final Soviet Bloc document submitted to the forum. Hungary, the first Soviet ally to host a Helsinki meeting, also abstained.
Diplomats said that Hungarian officials had sought throughout the conference to strengthen the country's image as a relatively liberal outpost in Eastern Europe. While banning a group of western intellectuals and eastern dissidents from staging an independent symposium in a local hotel in the forum's opening days, the Hungarians allowed the event to proceed in private apartments and did not interfere with other independent groups monitoring the conference.
Several weeks after the forum opened, the government became the first in the Soviet Bloc to authorize the street sale of such western newspapers as the International Herald Tribune, Le Monde and The Times of London. Even as their Soviet allies lambasted the U.S. delegation in the last days, Hungarian officials offered a different view. "It was clearly evident that the U.S. delegation did not seek confrontation," said Gabor Drexler, the Hungarian delegation spokesman.
The official delegates and attending artists together introduced about 230 proposals, ranging from politically charged resolutions on censorship to suggestions on interchanges on youth orchestras. Grass suggested the creation of an "all-European cultural foundation" that would sponsor writers' conferences, film festivals and other East-West events.
Western delegates proposed that all of the suggestions be printed in an annex to be submitted to a general review conference on the Helsinki accords scheduled for next year in Vienna. The Soviet Union rejected that proposal, however, and the lack of any final document prompted some diplomats to predict that most of the proposals simply would be forgotten.