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Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters at Camp David, Maryland, Following Discussions With Prime Minister John Major of the United Kingdom

December 22, 1990

The President. Well, let me just say that this meeting with the Prime Minister has been very fruitful, at least from the United States standpoint. As you all know, we have had a very special relationship with the United Kingdom. And I am totally convinced that not only will that relationship continue, we will work to enhance it in every way possible. And so, I feel, Mr. Prime Minister, that we've gotten off to a wonderful start, and I want to thank you for coming at this terribly busy time of year for you, just coming into office and then, of course, with the holidays just over the horizon. So, thank you for coming. And I do think it shows exactly the right sense in terms of this special relationship.

We talked about the Gulf. We talked about the changes in the Soviet Union that have dominated so much of the international news lately. We talked about the importance of resuming and successfully concluding the GATT talks. We talked about NATO and its continuing importance. And we talked about South Africa, both sides expressing encouragement on developments. So, I found common ground with Prime Minister Major on these very, very important issues.

And once again, sir, thank you for coming to Camp David in this dreary weather.

The Prime Minister. Well, Mr. President, thank you very much, indeed. If I could perhaps, firstly, express my thanks to you and Barbara for your hospitality here this weekend. It's been a remarkable occasion, a splendid opportunity to get to know one another and our thoughts and our community of interest a good deal better.

We had some splendid entertainment, if I may say so, last night from the Army chorus -- an absolutely magnificent way to spend the evening. I think the only danger there is to the Anglo-American special relationship is your weather here this weekend. [Laughter] Other than that, it's all been absolutely splendid.

The most heartwarming part of the weekend, I think, has been the very large areas of policy where we've clearly illustrated yet again there's a very strong community of ideals as well as a community of interest. And the President has set those out. We had the opportunity of having a lengthy discussion on those: clearly, some problems to be overcome with the GATT; the Gulf self-evidently as a matter we spent some time on; and also, as the President said, the encouraging activities that are coming out of South Africa with the prospects of more to come.

So, I found it a very rewarding and worthwhile occasion, and I think it was entirely proper that one of the very first visits I was able to make as Prime Minister was here to the United States, where we've had such a long and fruitful and worthwhile relationship. And I'm grateful that it's gone so well.

The President. The Prime Minister has agreed to take a few questions, and I'll be glad to do so also.

Resignation of Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze

Q. Mr. President, have you heard from President Gorbachev since the announcement?

The President. No.

Q. Mr. President, could you care to comment on the resignation of Shevardnadze and what impact you think it will have on U.S.-Soviet relationships, particularly in the Gulf?

The President. Well, again, this was a matter that Prime Minister Major and I discussed. I have no additional comment beyond what the Secretary of State said the other day and Marlin Fitzwater put out. I am convinced from what we have received so far from the Soviet Union that the policy on the Gulf will continue. I would let Prime Minister Major comment on that from their vantage point.

But we, as you know, had a very close relationship with Eduard Shevardnadze, and Jim expressed it very well -- Jim Baker did. But life goes on, and we will pursue the policies in the Gulf, confident that the Soviet Union will continue on its path. And I will continue to work with this new and very encouraging bilateral relationship -- work to enhance that in every way possible. So, what I'm saying is, I don't see any radical changes affecting our bilateral relationship.

And obviously, people are wondering about the concerns raised and expressed by Mr. Shevardnadze, but we will continue to deal with them in the future here as we have in the past, and hope that the changes that are taking place will be done in a very peaceful way.

Did you want to add to that?

The Prime Minister. I'll just add a word, if I may. Clearly, it's sad he's gone. He's played a remarkable part in the peacekeeping process over the past year or so. What we now need to do is to make sure that -- as Mr. Gorbachev has said it will -- that Soviet foreign policy continues unchanged. We'll have to wait and see how that pans out, but the early signs are encouraging. Gorbachev said that's how it would be. The Congress of Deputies voted precisely in that fashion within a matter of hours. So, we wait to see who the new Foreign Minister is.

Q. Can I ask you, both gentlemen -- --

Q. Mr. President, do you have any doubt, given the changes that now are occurring in the Soviet Union and the turmoil there, that if you need to make a decision to use force in the Gulf that they will be fully behind you?

The President. No, I think they -- every indication we've gotten is that there will be no change in their Gulf policy.

Do you want to comment on that one?

The Prime Minister. Well, we've seen no indication of a change in the Gulf policy. There was no indication of it in the immediate comments after Mr. Shevardnadze's resignation. We hope there won't be.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. If I could ask you both: Saddam Hussein says he's not about to leave Kuwait. If he doesn't change his mind, is the world doomed for war?

The President. Do you want to go first?

The Prime Minister. Well, if there's going to be a conflict in Kuwait, that's really a matter for Saddam Hussein. He knows what the Security Council resolutions say. They couldn't be clearer. They've had an almost unprecedented amount of support internationally. I think one has to bear in mind what he's done is unforgivable. What he and his colleagues are doing in Kuwait at this very moment is unforgivable, as you will have seen from the Amnesty [International] report.

I hope he takes seriously the fact that the Security Council resolutions will be enforced. If he moves out, there won't be a conflict. If he doesn't, well, he knows what the consequences may be.

The President. That says it all. And that's exactly the way we feel. We are totally together on this point. And I think we're both still hoping that there will be a peaceful resolution. But I am convinced that Saddam Hussein hasn't gotten the message yet, for some odd reason, the message as to what he's up against and the message that all of us are determined to fulfill to the letter the United Nations resolutions. But let's hope he does get the message.

Q. Do you see any chance for direct talks?

Q. Mr. President, we've been getting conflicting signals this past week from General Waller [deputy commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf], others in the military, in Congress, and so on as to whether the U.S. and the coalition are actually ready for war by the 15th of January. Is the U.S. ready or is the U.S. not ready?

The President. I will be discussing this matter here at Camp David on Monday, I believe it is, with Dick Cheney [Secretary of Defense] and General Powell [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff]. But put it this way: If there was some clear provocation 10 minutes from now, the allied forces are ready to respond vigorously.

Q. On a slightly different topic, there continue to be reports that American servicemen are not being allowed to wear American flag patches on their uniforms. There continues to be restrictions by the Saudis on religious materials, entertainment. Do you go along with this position, especially during the Christmas season? And why should the Saudis be allowed to impose such narrow restrictions on those who may very likely give up their lives for mutual interests?

The President. I've discussed this with our commanding general [H. Norman Schwarzkopf], I've discussed this with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and I am satisfied that our young men and women over there will be able to do what every other American family will be doing -- thanking God for our many blessings at Christmas. And in terms of manifestations of their patriotism or love of country, they will be able to do what is proper.

So, I'm not worried by the sporadic reports that we get. And I think that the cultural differences are well known, but I think the Saudis and our people are working very closely to see that we are able to do what every American family does at Christmastime, and that is to worship in our own way the holidays here for other religions. And so, I've seen some reports, and then I've made inquiry, and I'm satisfied that these kids can worship their God in their own way.

Q. What about the flag patches, the American flag?

The President. I asked about that, and I forget the details of the answer, but I was satisfied that the way it was worked out is acceptable to our general officers and, thus, to the men as well.

Q. Sir, have you abandoned any hope that there will be talks before January 3d with Iraq?

The Prime Minister. Insofar as talks are concerned, there's nothing to negotiate about. Insofar as whether there's a meeting between Saddam Hussein and Secretary of State Baker is concerned, Mr. Baker's offered a whole series of dates to Saddam Hussein. He's had a wide variety to chose from; he hasn't yet chosen. But insofar as negotiations, there's nothing to negotiate about.

Q. President Bush?

The President. Exactly the same answer. We're totally together on this. We've offered up dates. We've made clear that, as the Prime Minister has just said, that these meetings were designed to explain fully to Saddam Hussein the situation that he faces now. But we'll continue to hope that he'll be reasonable. But I see no evidence of it, if that's your question.

I see from Marlin -- we're looking a little frantic, so we'll take one last one over here.

Soviet Reforms

Q. A question for both of you. Mr. Kryuchkov, the head of the KGB, has said that bloodshed may be necessary to restore order in the Soviet Union. What are your comments?

The President. What was it, again, I'm sorry?

Q. Kryuchkov, the head of the KGB, has said that bloodshed may be now necessary to restore order in the Soviet Union.

The President. Would you like to go first on that?

The Prime Minister. Well, we -- --

The President. This is what they call bowling us a googley. [Laughter]

The Prime Minister. Yes. [Laughter] If it's a googley, I dare say it's a curve ball for me. [Laughter]

Well, I think we hear a lot of comments of various sorts from the Soviet Union, some of it rather garish, of that sort. We hope very much not. What, clearly, one wants to see is the reform program continuing. It's come a long way in a short period of time, but it has a long way still to go. We hope it can travel that long road, and do so without bloodshed and peaceably.

The President. Last one. Who didn't get one?

Multilateral Trade Negotiations

Q. Have you managed to get any closer on the GATT issue at all? The trade issue?

The Prime Minister. I think there's a community of interest there. We're both aware, and so are the other community heads in the European Community, the great advantage is to get an agreement on GATT. It may not be an agreement that will have every one of us dancing in the streets on every issue. But there'll have to be a community of interest for the agreement. And I think there's a political will to make sure that it's reached.

Thank you very much.

Resignation of Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze

Q. Were you surprised by Shevardnadze's resignation?

The President. Yes.

Q. Do you wish he'd stayed on board?

The President. Yes, I was surprised. And that's a matter for the internal affairs of the Soviet Union. But everybody knows of the respect we had and have for Eduard Shevardnadze. Same respect we had and have for President Gorbachev.

Q. Mr. Bush, let me ask you about Congress.

Q. Congressman Hamilton said the U.S. -- he has it from U.S. officials, sir, that -- --

The President. This is the final -- this is the last of the last. You already had one, Sandy [Sandy Gilmour, NBC News]. Go ahead. Go on, go on.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. I wanted to ask you about your meetings with Congress this week. What do you see the prospects that you will be seeking some sort of resolution similar to the U.N. resolution?

The President. We've had the most vigorous consultations with Congress. We will continue to have that. Congress appointed a group of 20 at the end of the last session. I will clearly be meeting with them and soliciting their views. We're talking to all of these Members of Congress as they come back.

It's not just the President doing this -- Brent Scowcroft [Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs], Jim Baker, our legislative people in the White House -- and we will continue to consult in every way possible. I want Congress fully on board. I'd love to see Congress say this minute that we fully endorse the United Nations resolutions and the President should fully implement them, because I'm determined to do that and it would be very nice to send that solid signal out to Saddam Hussein. I think it would help him get the message as to what he's up against. But they've got to decide. The Congress is a separate body. They are entitled to do it any way they want. But I know the powers of the Presidency, and I've had a chance to discuss that with the key Members of Congress.

Thank you all very, very much.

The Prime Minister. Thank you.

Note: President Bush spoke at 8:20 a.m. on the helipad. In his remarks, he referred to Marlin Fitzwater, Press Secretary to the President, and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George Bush, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters at Camp David, Maryland, Following Discussions With Prime Minister John Major of the United Kingdom Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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