Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Meetings in Iceland With Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev

October 15, 1986

General Secretary Gorbachev's report to the Soviet people was unprecedented in its detail. He emphasized the same areas of progress upon which U.S. officials have commented over the past 2 days, namely, strategic arms reductions and potential agreement on intermediate nuclear forces. He also clearly indicated, just as we have done, that the sticking point which prevented an overall agreement in Iceland was the Soviet Union's demand for an end to the U.S. program on strategic defense. It is our view that the agreements and positions reached in Iceland remain on the table. The meetings, which reconvene in Geneva today, will begin where we left off in Iceland. The Iceland talks were a very important and significant step in moving negotiations forward. We want to build upon the groundwork of Reykjavik.

We take note of some of the political rhetoric in the General Secretary's speech, but that was expected and unexceptional. What was remarkable was General Secretary Gorbachev's explanation of the progress made. We are pleased to note that, both at his press conference in Reykjavik and his address to the Soviet people, General Secretary Gorbachev stated that the work that was done in Reykjavik will not go to waste, and the way has now been cleared for further movement towards significant arms reduction. That is our view.

We believe we can go forward from this moment in a businesslike way. We must listen to each other, each explore the views of the other, and seek common approaches and agree on solutions. We think that goal was accomplished at Rekyjavik and should be the goal whenever we meet. We, like the General Secretary, believe that the meeting overcame obstructions and minute details and that new approaches have been developed. We believe there is no going back on what was developed at this meeting, and we look forward to continued negotiations which will build on the progress achieved in Reykjavik.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 9:45 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.