Remarks of the President and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom Following Their Meetings

February 26, 1981

The President. I just have a few words here -- both of us -- but I also want to say that due to the schedule that has been arranged and the meetings of the Prime Minister yet to go to, there'll be no time for any questions.

It's both appropriate and timely, I think, that Prime Minister Thatcher should be the first West European leader to visit here in the new administration. Our deep ties and perceptions we share give us much to talk about. Together we're confronting an extremely grave international situation. We do so with determination and optimism. We're both committed to safeguarding fundamental Western interests worldwide, including Europe, the Persian Gulf, Southwest Asia, and Central America.

Out partnership in NATO is a vital part of that effort. We're determined to consult closely with each other and with the rest of our allies on all matters involving our common security. In that connection, we affirmed our support for the Alliance's decision of December 1979 to modernize long-range theater nuclear forces and to pursue arms control efforts at the same time, in parallel.

We've also noted the Soviet proposal for a summit meeting. We believe this proposal needs to be carefully studied, and we will be consulting closely on this matter. For our part, we certainly have an interest in pursuing serious, constructive dialog with the Soviets on those issues which divide us.

And again, let me say, Madam Prime Minister, we're just delighted to have you here with us.

The Prime Minister. Thank you. Mr. President, friends, may I just add one or two things to what the President has said?

We're very sensible in Britain of the honor you do us, Mr. President, by asking us to make the first official visit of a head of government to see you here, and we have indeed taken advantage of the opportunity afforded us to discuss many things which will be extremely important in the coming months. The President and I had a tete-a-tete for some time, and then were joined by the Vice President and the foreign secretaries, when we discussed many of the wider issues the world over.

Of course, we take the same view in the United States and Britain that our first duty to freedom is to defend our own. And our second duty is to try somehow to enlarge the frontiers of freedom so that other nations might have the right to choose it. It is indeed a very difficult time the world over, and we have, of course, discussed the many problems, as the President said, including President Brezhnev's recent speech, the problems in Africa, the problems in the Middle East, and the problems in Central and South America.

I really regard it as the beginning of a process of consultation. We shall both of us be going to a number of summit meetings this year. It is absolutely vital that we coordinate our efforts and decide upon a common line for the many problems that will face us.

Mr. President, thank you very much for the wonderful welcome you've given us. Thank you for giving us so much time and for talking in so much detail about the things which concern us both, which concern our peoples, and which concern the peoples in the world everywhere. And I think, if I may -- can I just end on a note of optimism? Yes, there are enormous problems. Yes, there have always been enormous problems, but I believe, together, we have the capacity to solve some of them. And those which we do not solve, I believe we can improve so that we can set them on their way to a solution in the end.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:35 p.m. to reporters assembled on the South Grounds of the White House.