March 5, 1986

President Duarte's proposal to Daniel Ortega yesterday has created a new opportunity for peace in Central America. We applaud President Duarte's willingness to renew a dialog with the Nicaraguan-backed guerrillas in El Salvador if the Nicaraguan Communists are also willing to begin a dialog with the democratic resistance in Nicaragua.

President Duarte's offer creates an opportunity to begin simultaneously three parallel sets of talks aimed at peace and national reconciliation throughout Central America. If the Nicaraguan Government responds favorably, we could soon see: 1) a dialog leading to internal reconciliation and democracy in Nicaragua; 2) talks for bringing an end to the conflict in El Salvador; and 3) the simultaneous resumption of talks between the United States and the Nicaraguan Government.

These three sets of talks offer the best hope of ending the strife and the bloodshed in Central America and creating new possibilities for peace and democratic progress throughout the region. We call upon Mr. Ortega to accept President Duarte's proposal and agree to negotiate with the democratic resistance now. We hope that the eight Contadora and support group nations will enthusiastically support President Duarte's proposal. These three sets of simultaneous talks would provide a great impetus to the Contadora group's efforts to mediate a comprehensive, negotiated settlement of the conflict in Central America.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 12:12 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.