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Remarks of the Vice President and Prime Minister Andreas A.M. van Agt of The Netherlands Following Their Meetings

March 31, 1981

The Vice President. We've just had a delightful visit with Prime Minister van Agt, and I told him how much the President had been looking forward to seeing him. And I know from having visited the President in the hospital, prior to this visit, that today how much our President regrets not being able to receive this very, very distinguished visitor on this beautiful day here at the White House.

Our talks, we think, on the American side, have been extremely useful, despite the overlying concerns that everybody feels about our President. But these talks do testify to the continuing importance which the United States places on our transatlantic ties, including those with all of the members of NATO.

In that connection, the President asked me to extend through the Prime Minister, to extend to Her Majesty Queen Beatrix our hope that she will come to the United States in 1982. A visit by Her Majesty would be a fitting culmination of our joint celebration during that year of our bicentennial of the U.S.-Dutch relations.

And the Prime Minister also comes to us as Chairman of the European Council. I have welcomed this opportunity to exchange views on issues of concern to the Community and, of course, bilateral concerns to the United States. And I know we feel—and I'm sure I speak for Secretary Haig and all that were privileged to meet with the Prime Minister—that there is a mutual understanding on many issues.

There is a mutual understanding, for example, in the Middle East and of our efforts there, efforts in which they have played a key role. The Netherlands and the United States are also allies in NATO, which I mentioned, and which, of course, remains the backbone of our mutual security. In our talks, I reiterated the U.S. determination as President Reagan has made clear, to pursue vigorously the two tracks of NATO's December '79 decision on theater nuclear weapons, both modernization and arms control.

We discussed Poland and were in strong agreement that the Polish people must be allowed to work out a solution to their own problems. Outside intervention or internal suppression in Poland would have severely-you'd have severe negative effects on East-West relations.

We discussed a little bit, to some degree, the crisis in Afghanistan, brought about by this illegal invasion and occupation of the country. We talked about the regional security of the Caribbean. We discussed, to some degree, El Salvador. I explained that American policy is designed to help that country defend itself against attacks from Marxist guerrillas that are supported and trained by Communist countries. The Duarte government must be given the opportunity to institute its reform programs.

And so these are some of the subjects. We had a very fruitful meeting. I expressed my regrets to the Prime Minister that he did not have the opportunity to be received and to meet and to discuss these issues with our President. But it was a tribute to our friendship that, our President being absent, the Prime Minister was willing to accord us every courtesy and come here and to have these fruitful discussions. Mr. Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister. Mr. Vice President, let me first say again how much we were shocked by the events of yesterday. We wish, again, the President, wholeheartedly, a speedy and full recovery.

The meetings we had today have no doubt further contributed to the excellent relations between the United States and Europe. Our historic relationship has proved to be essential at the most crucial moments in our past and will continue to be so in the future. Today we are strongly united in an alliance aimed at our common, single goal—preserving peace and freedom in the world. At the same time, we are dedicated to contribute to national and international efforts to improve the quality of life for the millions in the world who are in the most serious need.

The European Council meeting in The Netherlands last week further emphasized the need for the closest possible cooperation between the European Communities and the United States in solving the extremely serious economic problems we are facing. The only way to win the economic fight is through well-coordinated, joint efforts.

Mr. Vice President, you mentioned the fact that our countries are preparing for the celebration next year of the 200th anniversary of our diplomatic and trade relations. They are the oldest, unbroken, continuously peaceful relations between the United States and any other foreign power.

Mr. Vice President, the announcement you just made to extend an invitation to Her Majesty Queen Beatrix to visit your great country in 1982 fills us with a great sense of gratitude. Your gracious invitation will enable our Queen to continue a tradition which has become a symbol of our friendship in all times. We regard your invitation as a seal on that unalterable and unique relationship between our countries across the ocean.

Mr. Vice President, I'm convinced that these celebrations, highlighted by your visit of our Queen, will serve their high purpose in contributing to an increased recognition of our respective shares in efforts to improve the lot of mankind.

May I, repeatedly, thank you, Mr. Vice President, for your willingness to receive us today under such extraordinary, exceptional circumstances. I said to you already, we would not have been surprised in case you would have canceled entirely, or at least partly, the program which had been prepared for the visit long before. Now, the gratitude is ours. We had very valuable and instructive talks. We spoke as allies and friends. And I'm sure these talks will contribute to our common efforts.

Again, I ask you, we'll convey our best wishes, friendship, respect, and sympathy to your President.

The Vice President. May I just share, Mr. Prime Minister, with the people here on the lawn what I told you. I did visit the President in the hospital this morning, a very short visit, but I was very pleased at the way he looked. He, in his typical, unfailing thoughtfulness, asked me to convey his regards here and then also asked about my wife, and everything seemed so normal. And I just thought I'd tell this group what I've told you, that we feel very relieved in this country at what appears to be a very speedy recovery. And I know he would want me to say, as you leave these grounds, farewell and Godspeed and come back, sir.

Thank you very much.

Note: The Vice President spoke at 1:38 p.m. to reporters assembled at the South Portico of the White House.

Earlier the Vice President and the Prime Minister met in the Roosevelt Room, and then they and their delegations held a working luncheon in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

George Bush, Remarks of the Vice President and Prime Minister Andreas A.M. van Agt of The Netherlands Following Their Meetings Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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