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Remarks of President Reagan and President Francois Mitterrand of France Following Their Meetings

March 12, 1982

President Reagan. This has been a very unusual friend-to-friend meeting and one for which I'm very grateful. President Mitterrand and I have had a very productive day. In the Oval Office and during our working lunch, we covered a very broad range of subjects which naturally included our preparations for two major summit meetings in June.

President Mitterrand will host this year's economic summit in Versailles, and we are, along with the other participants, committed to a conference which will help the industrial democracies deal more effectively with today's economic challenges. With that in mind, I look forward with special pleasure to my visit to France, America's oldest ally.

We also touched on the Atlantic Alliance summit and the need to demonstrate allied unity and resolve in response to Soviet expansionist pressures. I will attend that summit in Bonn with the greatest of interest and commitment.

As I indicated a moment ago, our talks were comprehensive. Since President Mitterrand has just returned from Israel, I was particularly interested in his assessment of the peace process in the Middle East.

Regarding Central America, I believe that President Mitterrand now has a better understanding of United States policy objectives in that troubled region. Our discussion on this subject was particularly candid and thorough. President Mitterrand shares my concern that the failure to promote the evolution of democratic government in this region would have the most serious consequences. The principles and goals that we share suggest that we will be able to work together on this problem in the months ahead.

Our exchange of views on the economic concerns of our two countries was equally frank and productive. President Mitterrand made a forceful and thorough presentation of his government's views on outstanding trade and financial issues. While it would be impossible to resolve our economic differences in one day, I think we've made tangible progress toward better communications on these important issues.

And now let me just repeat my personal thanks to President Mitterrand for coming to Washington.

Merci beaucoup.

President Mitterrand. Ladies and gentlemen, the first thing that I would like to say is to thank President Reagan for the welcome extended here in Washington to the President of the French Republic. The welcome extended to us was, as is in the very nature of things, of course, both friendly, open, and frank. We were able to talk about a number of problems. Some of them had been prepared, of course, by the continuous exchanges which exist among our ministers, our embassies, and representatives of all kinds.

But direct talks such as these, after I have recently had opportunities of meeting a number of European political leaders and following my recent visit to Israel and in the light of the events that take place each day in Europe, in Africa, in Latin America-well, because of all these reasons, it was natural that our talks today were brought to bear on a number of very topical problems, and indeed such talks are in themselves very fruitful. And indeed, this certainly fully justified making this trip.

Now, the prime reason for my visit to the United States was to prepare, in more specific terms, the so-called summit of the industrialized nations which will be meeting in Versailles, in France, at the beginning of June. And the conference will be an opportunity of considering the economic, monetary, and financial problems that our countries have to face, and the purpose, the exercise being that we should harmonize our goals so as to be able to lend each other mutual assistance and not hindrance. And it is clear that in that, we see very much eye-to-eye.

Then we talked of the other summit meeting that will take place a few days afterwards in Bonn, which will be the summit meeting of the Atlantic Alliance. And so, naturally, that led us to discuss East-West problems and, in particular, the relationship with the Soviet Union and the need to demonstrate our force so as to be able to further the possibility of negotiations; and so as to be able to work towards peace while asserting our rights and the rights of the peoples of the world and, in particular, of Europe.

And as President Reagan has just said, we also talked about Central America. And I repeated what I have often stated in France and in Europe, that our first duty is to fight against poverty and the exploitation of human beings and the domination on the part of bloody dictatorships. And as has just been said, we must work in order to find the way of furthering—and this is not always an easy path to discover—but the way of furthering the cause of democratic government. And there, there is something that we have in common and that leads to a meeting of the minds between us.

And I feel that we should do everything that can enable the democratic powers of the West to achieve a better understanding and to be able to give more assistance to the peoples that are rebelling against their fate and that can lead to peace, civilian peace, and more freedom, is a good thing. And, as I said when I was receiving Chancellor Schmidt, that I appreciated the economic proposals made in the context of the Caribbean plan which would also apply to Central America. It is clear that what is needed is more aid and consistent aid. And I think that what is being suggested is a step in the right direction. The path to be followed will clearly be a long one, but everything that is done that can show us where that path lies and can enlighten us in that respect can but be a good thing.

And as far as the Near East is concerned, I was in the area recently. And only last week, I indicated what my feelings were on the subject. And it was, therefore, only natural that, in talking with the President of the United States, that we should, in fact, also discuss those very serious questions. And we found that the assertion of the rights of Israel and the rights of all peoples of the region should make it possible to define, with patience and tenacity, the policies that will lead to peace. Now, our two countries are not the ones to pass judgment on such policies, but they are policies which should be of interest and concern to the countries directly involved in the area.

Now, lastly, on bilateral matters—well, there we were talking among friends. And there, of course, that is a long story that goes back many years. But we were able to discuss these matters frankly, as friends and allies, whose calling it should be in the world to express their views clearly, so as to be able to bring them closer together when they are not the same and in order to be able to assert them with greater force when one's positions do converge, so as to be able to give the right kind of orientation to the peoples of the world who are waiting with anxiety for the outcome.

Now, as to the hospitality that has been extended to me, I would like to say that it has given me, again, the opportunity of feeling the real depth of the ties between our two countries. And I certainly intend on the next occasion, which will be in my own country, to continue along the very same lines. In such talks, we have been able to discuss matters. And we must continue to do so, to talk about these issues with method, in order to be able to indicate clearly the areas on which we can move forward together and in order to be able to serve, to the best of our ability, the cause of world peace.

So, my last words will be to say thank you. And I turn, particularly, to the President of the United States, in order to extend to him, directly my heartfelt thanks.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 1:43 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House. President Mitterrand spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Earlier in the day, the two Presidents met in the Oval Office and then attended a working luncheon in the Blue Room.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks of President Reagan and President Francois Mitterrand of France Following Their Meetings Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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