Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva of Portugal

 

February 24, 1988

 

The President. It has been a pleasure and an honor for me to meet today with Prime Minister Cavaco Silva on his first official visit to Washington. Portugal is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a valuable friend and an ally. We salute Portugal's impressive transition to democracy and its continuing commitment to the collective defense of the West. Beyond the shared values and common interests that link our two countries, the Portuguese-American community has made a lasting contribution to American society that we can all appreciate.

 

Mr. Prime Minister, you and I have just concluded a most useful discussion covering a broad range of international as well as bilateral issues of importance. Southern Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan were among the topics we covered today, and I'm grateful for your advice and counsel, Mr. Prime Minister. High also on our list of topics was the agenda for the NATO summit, where we will meet again next week. I listened intently to the Prime Minister's views on East-West issues. I brought him up to date on recent developments in U.S.-Soviet relations and our plans for the Moscow summit. Secretary Shultz discussed his meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze. Prime Minister Cavaco Silva briefed us on Portugal's assessment of the recent European Community summit in Brussels and the current political and economic situation in Portugal.

 

As our meeting today underscored -- while trying to improve relations with adversaries -- America still remains strong and unflinching in its commitments to our friends. The core of our foreign policy is our permanent partnership with our fellow democracies in the Atlantic alliance, on which the global balance of power and the cause of freedom so crucially depend. Be assured, we will never sacrifice the interests of our allies and friends in any agreement with the Soviet Union. The people of the United States and the people of Portugal are united with all other free peoples in the cause of freedom and the responsibility of maintaining the peace. The United States, Mr. Prime Minister, and Portugal are doing their part in this historic adventure. We're honored to have such friends.

 

These are challenging times. From our cordial and candid conversation, I know that we share similar goals and many of the same concerns. Portugal's role as a key and trusted ally is much appreciated here. We applaud Portugal's desire to modernize its armed forces and to play a more active role in NATO's collective defense efforts. Our commitment to assist Portugal in these efforts remains firm, ever within the context of the harsh budget realities that we all face. The task of leadership is to rise to challenge. I believe from our meeting today our two governments will accelerate the pace of our extensive cooperation and develop even further the close and mutually beneficial relationship which has traditionally existed between our two countries.

 

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, this morning we had the opportunity to have a useful exchange of ideas on the strengthening of the Atlantic alliance in a perspective of peace and security for the Western World, on the relations between our two countries, and finally, on the international situation. Portugal's and the United States positions converge toward the need for firmness and cohesion in the Western world.

 

I reiterated to President Reagan the Portuguese Government's support of the INF agreement and the continuation of the dialog with the Soviet Union. I expressed my firm belief that Western Europe's defense is not feasible without the United States commitment in the framework of NATO. I am sure that, at the next NATO summit meeting which will be held in a few days, we will have the opportunity to restate our common determination to strengthen the Atlantic alliance as a requisite for the preservation of peace and our common values. I informed President Reagan of the conclusions of the last European Council and the prospects for building a united Europe and for Portugal's development and modernization.

 

In the context of Portugal-U.S.A. relations, I reasserted our desire to maintain a preferential relationship since Portugal, being the United States maritime frontier with Europe, is a strategically important ally and wishes to remain a close and reliable ally.

 

A few differences have emerged regarding the agreement signed between our two countries in 1983, in the context of the defense agreement, which has bound us since 1951; namely, the legitimate Portuguese expectations regarding assistance levels granted to Portugal by the United States. We approach this subject in the spirit of openness that should guide relations between friends and allies. I stressed the difficulties that will result for Portugal if that assistance were curtailed, particularly at a time when we are committed to the reequipment of our armed forces and trying to modernize the country in an effort that cannot be deferred. I stated to President Reagan, that the Portuguese Government intended to request that consultations be held in the terms of the agreement.

 

In holding these consultations, we do not have the intention of ceasing or reducing the facilities enjoyed by the United States in Portuguese territory but rather to identify and overcome existing difficulties. As friends and allies, we want to look for solutions that will meet our common interests, so as to ensure a framework of cooperation to strengthen the preferential relations that exist between our two countries.

 

When we analyzed the international situation, we gave special relevance to the situation in Southern Africa, a region where Portugal has important responsibilities to fulfill. I am gratified by the ongoing talks between the United States and the Angolan Governments -- which are a positive step in the peace process -- and by the support provided to Mozambique.

 

Mr. President, I wish to express my appreciation for the opportunity to meet with you on this occasion which, I am sure, has contributed to strengthen the relations between our two countries as well as the Atlantic alliance's cohesion.

 

Note: The President spoke at 1:30 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House. The Prime Minister spoke in Portuguese, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Earlier, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office and then attended a luncheon in the Residence.