Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom

July 17, 1987

The President. It has been my pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Thatcher back to Washington after her remarkable reelection triumph. She is beginning an historic third consecutive term in office, and her visit today reflects the close cooperation and friendship between our peoples and governments. It's no secret that I personally admire the Prime Minister and that we share a common faith in freedom and enterprise. She's a strong and principled leader in the international area.

Today we had a comprehensive and thorough discussion of the issues confronting our countries and the Western alliance. We looked at a number of challenges in a variety of areas, from arms reduction to the Middle East to terrorism. Consistent with the working relationship we've developed these last 6 years, we enjoy a high degree of agreement on the major issues of the day.

One issue we discussed in detail was the status of negotiations with the Soviets on conventional and nuclear arms reductions. These negotiations have been a constant topic of consultation with the alliance. Today the Prime Minister and I reaffirmed the priorities we set out last November at Camp David, priorities the NATO foreign ministers endorsed last month in Reykjavik.

The Prime Minister and I also discussed in some detail the actions that our two countries are taking with respect to the war between Iran and Iraq, particularly our strategic interests in the region, our activities to protect shipping, and our diplomatic activities in the United Nations. Prime Minister Thatcher noted in this connection that the Royal Navy has been providing protection for British ships in the Gulf for some time. Similarly, the United Nations delegations of our two countries are pushing for strong Security Council action. It is time for an immediate end to the Iran-Iraq war, and we believe the United Nations Secretary-General should personally undertake a mission to achieve that end. If either or both of the warring parties refuse the United Nations call for a cessation of the fighting, an arms embargo should be brought to bear on those who reject this chance to end this bloody and senseless conflict.

Today Prime Minister Thatcher and I also reviewed the general prospects for peace in the Middle East, including the proposals for an international conference and the conditions necessary for peace negotiations to be successful.

Our own talks today were highly successful. As I said, it was a pleasure to have the Prime Minister here. I wish her Godspeed as she now continues her journey on to Jamaica this evening, and I look forward to seeing her again soon.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen -- Mr. President, I'm most grateful for your kind words and for your invitation to visit Washington. I very much wanted to come to the United States right at the beginning of my third term to underline once again the absolutely essential importance to us of the United Kingdom-United States relationship. And I'm glad to report that it is as strong and as special today as it has ever been.

Great changes are taking place in the world, including historic changes in the Soviet Union. It's a time of unprecedented opportunity if we are wise and skillful enough to grasp it. Now, more than ever, we need American leadership, and your President is uniquely able to give it and will give it. We must not let slip the tremendous gains of the last few years. America and Europe together can secure that more stable and peaceful world, which has been our hope and our dream, if we face up to the challenges ahead.

Mr. President, our talks today have covered those challenges: our wish to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, always keeping in mind the great preponderance that the Soviet Union enjoys in chemical weapons and conventional forces. We must ensure that the strong defense of the West is preserved at every step. We must watch the strategy, watch the tactics, and watch the presentation.

The Middle East -- where the President and I both see an opportunity to take a major step forward in the peace process and have committed ourselves to work for it. The countries of the region should not have to go on spending such enormous sums on defense rather than on their development. And we must help them take the difficult steps necessary for peace.

And we must continue policies which lead to the economic growth and prosperity which we need in order to meet our own people's ambition for a better life and, at the same time, to provide the resources to help others to raise their standard of living.

The President and I are at one in wanting to see an agreement eliminating intermediate nuclear missiles on a global basis. The main elements are on the table. Effective verification is vital; trust is not enough. Performance has to be checked at every stage. The Soviet Union has massive stockpiles of modern chemical weapons, and we do not. This puts our Armed Forces at a wholly unacceptable disadvantage. The United States and United Kingdom have put forward proposals to eliminate or otherwise deal with this imbalance. The President and I also confirmed the priorities for future arms control negotiations on which we arrived at Camp David last November. We reaffirmed the vital importance of nuclear deterrence in preserving peace.

And second, we discussed the prospect for peace in the Middle East. We agreed -- and here, Mr. President, I use words which we both formally endorsed -- we agreed that direct negotiations between the parties are the only practical way to proceed. We explored how an international conference might contribute to bringing about such negotiations. Clearly, it would not have the right to impose solutions or to veto agreements reached by the parties. And we must continue to make progress in the peace process and commit ourselves to work for that.

And third, we devoted particular attention to the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf, where we strongly support the proposed Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire and withdrawal. We hope that it will lead initially to an end to attacks on shipping in the Gulf and, ultimately, to a negotiated end to the conflict. In the meantime, as you said, Mr. President, we are each protecting our own merchant ships and tankers.

And fourth, we agreed on the importance of resisting protectionist measures, in whatever guise, and on the need to reduce agricultural support and protection. No one is blameless, and we will not make progress by casting stones at others. It must be a cooperative effort.

Mr. President, may I thank you once again for your hospitality, for America's friendship and staunch leadership of the West, and for these constructive talks to chart the way ahead. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. Mr. President, thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:28 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House. Earlier, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office and then attended a luncheon in the Residence.