Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the President's Meeting With Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland


October 3, 1986


The United States approaches the Iceland meetings with a deep sense of serious purpose. Our goal in Iceland is to narrow the differences that separate the United States and the Soviet Union. The President believes that face-to-face private discussions with General Secretary Gorbachev are the best way to seek progress at this critical juncture in our relationship. The President's goal is that both sides will gain a better understanding of each other's position at this time and move forward toward a summit in the United States. We will be satisfied with the Iceland meetings if we accomplish better understanding.


Arms control is important to both nations, indeed, to the world. We will be diligent in our efforts to seek a common ground that can provide the basis for progress at Geneva, but our agenda is broader than arms control. On regional issues -- the tensions in Afghanistan, Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia contribute to tensions between the two superpowers and build mistrust that makes an arms buildup a dangerous fact of life in today's world. Elimination of regional tensions will go to the cause of mistrust between the United States and Soviet Union. On human rights -- as Americans we share with freedom-loving people everywhere a deep concern over human rights on a worldwide basis, and human rights in the Soviet Union is a major cause of concern to the President. Bilateral relations -- improving government-to-government and people-to-people exchanges in the fields of arts, education, and science can improve understanding among the citizens and contribute to the cause of peace.


The President believes that this is not the time for public rhetoric, but, instead, for private talk. The President goes to Iceland with a continuing commitment to seeking understanding that hopefully can lead to agreements that will benefit both the United States and the Soviet Union.


Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 9:38 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.