Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita of Italy

 

June 14, 1988

 

The President. Ladies and gentlemen, it's been my great pleasure to meet today with Prime Minister De Mita of Italy, who is no stranger to the White House. But this is the first time that he comes as Prime Minister, and I want to begin by offering our warmest congratulations.

 

I regard this visit as extremely important. As members of the Atlantic alliance and as major industrial states, the United States and the Republic of Italy have much to discuss and much to do. Accordingly, our discussions today were wide-ranging and extremely useful. Although our agenda was far too long for me to discuss in detail, let me just give you some of the highlights. First, I gave the Prime Minister my views on where our relationship stands with the Soviet Union and where it is going. I told him that we're very pleased with the progress that we've made on the broad agenda and, of course, with the entry into force of the INF treaty. I also told him of my firm belief that without Italy's courage, determination, and support throughout INF deployment and negotiations there would have been no treaty. In arms reductions and the other areas on our agenda, much work remains to be done. We will continue to depend, and gratefully so, upon Italy's support as an ally and advice as a friend.

 

One of the important issues before our alliance is where we will redeploy the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing, the F - 16's. Italy's willingness, at NATO invitation, to consider accepting the planes on its soil is typical of Italy's serious approach toward its alliance commitments. Its willingness to do its part, to share the risks and responsibilities as well as the benefits of NATO membership, is exemplary.

 

The Prime Minister and I will meet again shortly in Toronto, where we'll participate in our economic summit. We reviewed some of the issues that we expect to discuss there, including Italy's welcome initiative to strengthen international environmental protection activities. Prime Minister De Mita and I also talked about our mutual desire for a peaceful end to the conflict between Iran and Iraq and for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. I know there's deep interest and concern among the Italian people on these issues, and we appreciate the positive role that the Government of Italy has played in that troubled region.

 

Another issue of great concern to all of us is international terrorism. In the last 6 months, Italy has been the victim of two shocking incidents: the death of one of your close friends, Mr. Prime Minister, in which I want to extend again my deepest condolences, and an attack on a USO club in Naples, in which an American servicewoman was killed. These incidents, terrible as they are, only serve to strengthen our resolve. And they remind us of the importance of our cooperative efforts against the human scourge of terrorism.

 

Mr. Prime Minister, in closing, I must confess that 6 months ago I said that U.S.-Italian relations could hardly be better, but remarkably, they are. In fact, I believe that we've made significant progress in a number of areas, and I'm confident that we'll continue this trend for the foreseeable future. Mr. Prime Minister, we're indeed pleased and honored to have had you as our guest.

 

The Prime Minister. I should like to thank President Reagan for the welcome extended to me today, which bears witness to the longstanding bonds of friendship that exist between Italy and the United States.

 

I have once again expressed to the President the admiration and esteem of the Italian Government for the courage and determination with which he has pursued his farsighted plan to effectively ease the tensions between East and West during his recent discussions with the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Gorbachev. Italy warmly welcomes the outcome of the Moscow summit and believes that it is a prelude to further and more wide-ranging agreements along the paths of peace.

 

I reaffirm the fact that Italy will continue with conviction to share in the commitments and undertakings of the alliance which binds us, safeguards our freedoms, and underpins the development of the West. The prospects for a lasting peace which are now emerging in the world require us to prevent any weakening of Atlantic solidarity, to refrain from any actions of unilateral disarmament, and to ensure that differential security zones are not created in Europe. I also stressed to President Reagan the importance we attribute to strengthening the relationship between the United States and Europe -- that Europe which represents the other major goal of the Italian Government and the major contribution which a strong, united, and prosperous Europe -- coupled with a solid Euro-American partnership -- can make towards the peace and development of the whole world.

 

With President Reagan, I reviewed the main aspects of the international situation. We expressed a shared concern at the protracted states of crisis in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, southern Africa, and Latin America. We also expressed the hope that the improved climate of trust which now characterizes the dialog between East and West may exercise a favorable effect on these crises and help lead to peaceful and fair settlements.

 

Particular attention was devoted to the preparations for the summit of the seven most industrialized nations in Toronto in relation to economic growth, trade issues, and problems of international indebtedness. In Toronto, the seven will have to demonstrate their political farsightedness in order to withstand any backward protectionist tendencies and any selfish inward-looking attitudes. I also reminded President Reagan of the particular importance which Italy attaches to the risks connected with the deterioration of the environment and the fight against the worldwide scourge of drugs.

 

Lastly, we reviewed bilateral relations between the United States and Italy and expressed our satisfaction at how well they are faring, along with the hope that cooperation and exchanges in every sector will continue to increase and intensify. There is a fundamental bond which unites Italy and the United States in this respect, and that is represented by Americans of Italian origin. They continue to make a growing contribution to strengthening the ties between our two countries.

 

Today's conversations have enhanced my personal conviction that there exists a special relationship between Italy and the United States, a permanent political solidarity from which our two countries will greatly benefit in their commitment to the pursuit of a future characterized by peace, justice, and progress.

 

Note: The President spoke at 1:29 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House. The Prime Minister spoke in Italian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.