Informal Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting With Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze

 

September 23, 1988

 

Q. Mr. President, did the Minister bring you new proposals for START or arms control?

 

The President. We have only just met and come out here for this particular purpose, and then we're going back in and start the meeting.

 

Q. But -- must know; hasn't he given you a clue?

 

The President. We haven't had any conversation yet.

 

Q. Mr. President, what do you think you've accomplished in improving the relationship over these years? Excuse me. What do you think you've accomplished? What is the most important thing that you've accomplished since your first meeting with Minister Shevardnadze?

 

The President. I know we haven't time to have a press conference here, but I think I can answer that by simply saying that I think on virtually every subject that we have discussed, we have made sizable progress.

 

Q. Minister Shevardnadze, how would you assess the relationship now after these years of working with Mr. Shultz and President Reagan?

 

The Foreign Minister. We have a very good relationship, and we have been able to achieve very much over the last few years.

 

Q. Mr. President, do you see any --  --

 

The President. I think he got cut off, and then we'll come back to you.

 

Q. Mr. President, do you see any advantage to the U.S. point of view in interim arms control agreements with the Soviets?

 

The President. This is something that we haven't had an opportunity to discuss either, and will be discussed.

 

Q. What message did Mr. Gorbachev send you?

 

The President. We haven't had the meeting yet. I am expecting a message, a letter from him. I haven't seen it yet, because we haven't had the meeting.

 

Q. Mr. Shevardnadze, what's the message?

 

The President. What?

 

Q. I'm asking Mr. Shevardnadze. He apparently knows --  --

 

The Foreign Minister. It's a long letter.

 

Q.  --  -- a breakthrough on conventional arms? Would you like to see a breakthrough on conventional arms?

 

The Foreign Minister. There is in the letter suggestions on all areas --  --

 

Q. Mr. President, is this your last hurrah for U.S.-Soviet relations, personally?

 

The President. I've got 4 months to go; I'm not going to sit them out. I'm going to stay busy.

 

Q. Senator Byrd believes that you should not be talking about interim agreements, that you should instead be demanding that the Soviets do something about Krasnoyarsk and about other violations.

 

The President. Everything you're mentioning are things that we continue to talk about. But I think we had better get back and start the meeting.

 

Q. Why don't you come and see us after you've talked to him? Maybe you could answer some of these questions.

 

The President. I think the Secretary of State will be talking to you.

 

Q. Will you be sending a letter back to Mr. Gorbachev?

 

The President. It's possible.

 

Q. Do you think you'll see Mr. Gorbachev again before you leave office?

 

Q. Perhaps in Oslo?

 

The Foreign Minister. It's a good possibility.

 

Note: The exchange began at 3:34 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The Foreign Minister spoke in Russian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.