BONN, JUNE 3 -- West Germany declared tonight that the U.S.-Soviet summit conference showed problems raised by German unification can be overcome "in time" despite persistent Soviet misgivings about a combined Germany's continued membership in NATO.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, in separate statements, carefully ignored a suggestion from President Mikhail Gorbachev in Washington that the Soviet Union will have to take a hard look at its security position if a reunited Germany becomes a full partner in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as planned.
The West German government appeared determined instead to emphasize positive effects on Germany's unification process that it said will flow from signs of U.S.-Soviet agreement in other fields. These include nuclear and chemical disarmament, economic cooperation and, in particular, willingness to reinforce the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) as a forum for East-West relations, Kohl declared.
"The results of the American-Soviet summit gave us reasons for an optimistic outlook that the domestic and foreign aspects of German unification can be solved in time," he said. "That also goes for the question of the alignment of a united Germany."
The chancellor welcomed the expression of determination by Gorbachev and President Bush to complete conventional arms negotiations in Vienna by the fall, saying this is "the key to the solution" of a united Germany's status in European security arrangements.
U.S. and other allied officials have expressed fear in recent weeks that the Soviet Union was dragging its feet in Vienna to dramatize opposition to seeing a reunified Germany continue within the NATO integrated military command under a U.S. general. Simultaneously, U.S. and West German leaders have insisted that Soviet demands for a reduction in German troop strength can be met only within general force cutbacks worked out in the Vienna conventional arms discussions.
Gorbachev's willingness to recommit Moscow to a conventional arms agreement by the fall, as previously agreed, was therefore an important achievement that augured well for further progress in the six-nation talks on German reunification due to resume this month in East Berlin, a West German Foreign Ministry official said.
In addition, Kohl pointed out, Gorbachev let stand an assertion by Bush that it is up to the German people to decide their future, including the alliances to which they want to belong.
Genscher emphasized what he said was U.S. and Soviet accord on "institutionalizing" the CSCE to provide a broad European framework for political cooperation that would embrace East European nations as well as the Soviet Union. Reinforcing the CSCE thus provides a natural way to assuage Soviet fears about German membership in NATO, the official said.
The Soviet Union, which also has pushed an idea to expand the CSCE into a pan-European security forum, suggested last week that it be capped with a European council with regular meetings and a broad mandate. But the United States has been reluctant to see the 35-nation coordinating process take on a substantive security role, largely for fear that it would supplant NATO and dilute the United States' security role and influence in Europe.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III, however, in an April 24 letter to Genscher, gave strong indications that Washington was ready to be more flexible on the issue, the official said. In suggestions to Gorbachev for the summit, Bush agreed to a CSCE permanent secretariat and, in effect, a larger role as a way to offset Soviet misgivings about seeing the Warsaw Pact fall apart while NATO takes in East Germany.
"I regard the progress achieved in Washington as far as the CSCE process is concerned as good," Genscher declared, "an institutionalizing which has been made in accordance with our ideas and suggestions. This is very remarkable and, moving on from here, it will be possible to solve all questions arising in connection with the German question and in connection with the European process."
Kohl raised the CSCE process in his 10-point plan for German reunification last November, citing it as a way to draw the changed governments of Eastern Europe into a forum with Western Europe and the United States. Since then, Genscher has been a persistent advocate as well, despite the U.S. objections.
An upcoming CSCE foreign ministers' meeting in Copenhagen, originally called to discuss human rights, also will serve as a preparatory conference for a CSCE summit conference expected to be held later this year in Paris, a German official said. The Paris summit is designed to crown a conventional arms accord expected from the Vienna talks and to provide an international blessing for the German reunification agreement that Kohl and Genscher hope will be finished by then, he recalled.