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Remarks of the President and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom Following Their Meetings

September 29, 1983

The President. I have had the pleasure of cordial and productive discussions with Prime Minister Thatcher on a wide range of mutual interests and concerns. Our conversations reflected the superb relations that exist between our two countries and our determination to broaden our cooperation and consultation.

We reaffirm today our resolve to maintain a strong Western defense to protect freedom and maintain peace. We'll carry out our commitments to the alliance, moving forward in the modernization of NATO's conventional and nuclear deterrent. At the same time, I have pledged America's best efforts to reach acceptable agreements on arms reduction with the Soviet Union.

The Prime Minister informed me of what her government is doing to prepare for the scheduled deployment of cruise missiles should we fail to reach an agreement with the Soviets. I expressed the thanks of the American people to the Prime Minister for Britain's strong and unequivocal support on this vital issue.

We also discussed developments in the Middle East, especially the situation in Lebanon, where both our countries are participating in a peacekeeping force. We agree that the solution to that tragic conflict can only come from the Lebanese themselves, free from all foreign interference. I've reviewed with the Prime Minister U.S. efforts to engage all Lebanese factions in a constructive dialog toward the goal of withdrawing all foreign forces from their country and reestablishing the rule of peace and law.

Prime Minister Thatcher and I also discussed developments in this hemisphere. I explained our energetic efforts to end the violence that plagues Central America and to promote democracy and economic development in that region.

In our discussion of economic matters, we reaffirmed the course set out at the Williamsburg summit as the best blueprint to sustain economic recovery and counter protectionism. We agreed on the need for continued close consultations as a means of resolving any differences between us in matters of trade and commerce.

Prime Minister Thatcher, we're grateful for your visit, your friendship, especially as this month marks the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Paris which made us friends instead of countrymen. And when you finish speaking here, we can go over and look at that Treaty of Paris.

The Prime Minister. Thank you very much. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, today's visit has been a very important one. I've had just about 2 hours of talks with the President on the many things which he has indicated, all of them which are extremely vital for the future of our peoples in our several countries.

I've also seen, earlier this morning, Secretary Began, when we discussed economic matters and, in particular, the problems of unitary taxation. I saw, too, Mr. Volcker, because naturally we are all concerned that the great international debt position should find a solution which enables trade to continue and those countries to come out of their grievous debt problems.

The President and I started first, as he has indicated, on East-West relations. I think I can put our position like this: We both believe in defending our way of life, and we must do that to keep that way of life secure. But our purpose in having military strength is entirely defensive—to defend our way of life. We would like to be able to have that security at a lower cost in weaponry and in expenditure and in men. In order to achieve that lower cost, we have seriously and continuously to negotiate with the Soviet Union to try to get a balance in men, materials, weapons, and in nuclear strength. If we can achieve that, we can keep our security at a lower expenditure.

It takes two to negotiate, and the President has constantly put forward detailed proposals to the Soviet Union. Such is the anxiety of the West genuinely to negotiate disarmament reductions. He has put forward the latest proposals. Mr. Andropov has replied. I hope now that the proposals will be seriously discussed by the Soviet Union at the negotiating table. If they are not successful in reaching zero option, the cruise and Pershing missiles will be deployed by the end of this year. Our nerve is being tested; we must not falter now. That should not be the end of the negotiations. I hope and it is my earnest belief that they should continue, so that although we were not able to negotiate zero option, we should be able to negotiate the deployment of a lesser number of weapons than the full total, provided, again, the Soviets will genuinely negotiate on balance.

We have also discussed, as the President indicated, the Middle East and we're very conscious that although all eyes are focused on Lebanon, the fundamental problem of the Middle East—a secure Israel and a legitimate deal for the Palestinian people-has still to be resolved.

I have pointed out to the President we support his Central American policy and, particularly, the most excellent strategic view he gave of it during his very famous speech in April. And we are constantly pointing out that of the aid which the United States gives to Central America, 75 cents out of every dollar goes to civil aid, and that is a record to be proud of.

We've also had a word about Belize, and I, naturally, as you would understand, have made my views known about arms to Argentina. I discussed with Secretary Began this morning and again at lunch the wider issues affecting the economy and the importance of trying to secure lower interest rates so that we can get a full recovery in the world which would be to the benefit of the United States, Europe, and also to the peoples of the underdeveloped countries.

If I may sum up, altogether this has been another chapter in the close discussion, consultation, and similar beliefs in shared ideals between the United States and Britain. Against that background, it's not surprising that we find common views and we pursue them with common purpose in the wider world.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:33 p.m. to reporters assembled at the South Portico of the White House.

Earlier, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office and then held a working luncheon, together with American and British officials, in the State Dining Room.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks of the President and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom Following Their Meetings Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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