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Public Papers - 1990 - November

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Paris, France

1990-11-21

The President. We're going to have a statement on what transpired here in the CSCE talks. And really, the first sentence, although written in the past tense, says it all: that in signing the Charter of Paris this morning, we have closed a chapter of history. I'm about to sign this, and we are closing a chapter in history. The cold war is over, and now we move on to working with the various countries in the CSCE and others for a peaceful and stable Europe.

And so, I've been very pleased with that part of the agenda. I commend those who worked hard on the CFE [conventional armed forces in Europe] treaty. It's been lost because of understandable interest in the Gulf, but it was the most significant arms control treaty perhaps in history.

And we've had a lot of active bilateral talks. Secretary Baker, who is with us, has had extensive consultations. And the mood with the CSCE partners I think is very positive.

And then I would comment on the Gulf -- as I did in there -- that we're together. One thing to note is that the countries of Eastern Europe, against whom force and aggression was used in the past, are as solid, if not more solid, than anybody in terms of support for what the United States and others are trying to do in the Gulf. It is very moving when you hear a Vaclav Havel or the Polish delegation talking about the need to have the United Nations resolutions against Iraq complied with in their entirety. No compromise! The Greek Prime Minister just left -- solid as a rock, strongly in support. And of course, you know how the Turks feel.

And so, this was very encouraging to me that the world is still strongly together. And member after member came up to me and said: Thank God for the United States leadership in standing up against this aggression. And it just happened all the time.

So, that subject was in every corridor, in every bilateral discussion, on everybody's mind. And yet things are holding together very well indeed. I can understand when Saddam Hussein takes a propaganda move everybody starts writing, well, the coalition is coming apart, or he may divide the support. It's not happening. The coalition is together. The support is not getting divided. And people are seeing more clearly that Saddam Hussein's aggression cannot pay off and that whatever steps are necessary to support fully, without compromise, the United Nations resolutions must be taken. And so, I'm encouraged, very encouraged, about this holding together of a coalition that's in the sands and on the seas of the Gulf and in terms of the support from countries across the board that may not be there in physical presence.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Are you seeking a resolution from the U.N. to authorize the use of military force if needed? And I'd like to follow it up.

The President. Go ahead. Or do you want me -- do you want an answer first?

Q. Okay. We've gotten a lot of statements that really take an English interpreter to find out what you and the Soviets are really saying.

The President. Exactly. And I can understand your frustration about that, but when you're dealing with the technicalities of diplomacy and each is trying to understand where the other heartbeat is -- I can only tell you that we are together with the Soviet Union. The process is going forward properly. There have not been the diversions that I have read about. The reception with Mr. Gorbachev, the reception we had here, and the dinner and the meeting I had were -- the last word I would use to describe them was ``chilly.'' And I read that in several places in the American headlines. It wasn't chilly.

Gorbachev told me last night that in his view it was the best meeting we've had. And I've felt that way from the very beginning. And it was frank and open and, I think, in broad agreement. And so, I want to lay that one to rest because it really was relaxing. Anybody that was at the dinner can tell you that there's never been a more relaxed occasion. And that stemmed from the fact that Jim Baker and Shevardnadze had hammered out a lot of the difficulties, and Gorbachev and I saw eye to eye on these issues.

Now in terms of timing and what we might do at the United Nations, sometimes we can't be quite as forthcoming as you would understandably like, but more important than trying for me to get some headline is to have the process go forward properly. And that's exactly what is happening. It's extensive consultation. But let me just sum it up, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]. I leave Paris in a few hours feeling not only are we together with the Soviet Union but that we are together with most of the members of the Security Council, and certainly together with the CSCE members.

Q. Well, on the first part of the question: Are you seeking a resolution -- what stage are you in?

The President. I'm just working carefully with the process, and I'm not directly responding to your question because more important than the headline that would come from the question is that we get the results we want. And I would just leave it there and please ask your understanding that when you're trying to hold a coalition together and trying to take collective action it requires some behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiation. But I can sum it up for you to say that -- well, put it this way: What came out of the Baker-Shevardnadze meeting really says it all. And I'd leave it right there. But that I would characterize as saying, things are on track. But I can't go into every behind-the-scene detail. I certainly understand your wanting to know about them, but there are some things -- to get them done you have to have all the diplomacy done behind the scenes.

Yes, Brit [Brit Hume, ABC News]?

Q. Mr. President, are you not concerned that this phased release of hostages which Saddam Hussein has announced he will do would interfere with any effort you might undertake to have sterner measures against him during the very time when a series of hostage releases is underway, particularly in the eyes of other leaders and European leaders?

The President. No, because I believe that that cynical dealing of human life, parceling out lives from Christmas to March, has backfired on Saddam Hussein. I think people have seen it as a cynical, cruel ploy. And every person I talked to at the CSCE meeting summarized it that way. So, I don't see it working the way he wants. And the way he wants is to divide the coalition, hand over human life here or there to some visitor and try to undermine not just what the United States is doing but what the whole coalition is doing.

So, I don't see it with any downside. When it first came out I wondered a little bit. I saw it as a cynical ploy, and I wasn't quite sure how others would see it. But I'm telling you I talked to a lot of people yesterday, and I don't know whether Jim got the same reaction, but it was universally condemnatory. And they said this is just another cynical ploy by an embattled dictator who's trying to drive wedges between us and the rest of the world, and it will not succeed. And it hasn't altered my view of what I might or might not do in one single way.

Q. Mr. President, it's been widely reported that there is some sort of a deadline that you're trying to reach an agreement on for Iraq to get out of Kuwait. Is that correct?

The President. Well, the deadline should have been the day the U.N. passed its first resolution or, in my view, the day he first went in. But I have no specific deadline in mind. But we are just going to keep ratcheting up that pressure until the man does what he should have done long ago. And so, I can't help you on a specific deadline at this point.

Q. Mr. President, you spoke with some passion in there about the condition of the people at the Embassy in Kuwait. What is the condition of the people at the Embassy in Kuwait, and what might you be able to do about it?

The President. Well, the condition is that they are still in a beleaguered state. Americans are in there, in an embassy that is supposed to be sacrosanct. And it is being violated. The people are being -- the attempt by Saddam Hussein to starve them out in face of a United Nations resolution that calls for replenishment is getting nothing but hatred, more hatred for Saddam Hussein, around the world, because other people see our Embassy in this beleaguered state and say: Well, what will happen to my Embassy tomorrow?

There's a precedent here that transcends the Gulf. And so in terms of how people look at the problem, there's a universal condemnation of what he is doing. In terms of how long the people can last, I don't know the answer to that. I know at first, the first reports we got were sometime in November, but then they discovered a little new water supply that apparently can be purified. So I can't give you a specific time, but I think the time has slipped into December some, hasn't it, Jim? But leave it in a very general way, but I know it's not within the next few days that they have to pull down the flag.

Q. Is he going to succeed in starving them out?

The President. The answer is: Not if I can do anything about it.

Q. What can you do about it?

The President. Well, I guess the last thing that would be productive would be to say what I might do about it.

Q. Mr. President, you referred to the meeting with Secretary Baker and Shevardnadze. What exactly did they agree to?

The President. Well, I'll let the Secretary talk to that after I finish, which I'm about to do, but let him talk about it. But I think what you're seeing is the relationship in its real light, after the Baker-Shevardnadze story, because what I thought came out wrong yesterday was great divisions between Gorbachev and me on how we're looking at the next steps to get Saddam Hussein to turn around this aggression. And I think the major thing that came out of the Baker-Shevardnadze meeting was kind of: Look, we are together; we are working together. And if we have differences -- and I would think if we did they would be extraordinarily minor -- that they can be resolved.

But we are on the same wavelength. We are together. And that's what I saw coming out of Jim's meeting. Just as it was the result of the Gorbachev-Bush meeting.

Q. Do you think there's a chance that U.N. action could be taken this month?

The President. Well, I would just say stay tuned, because we're doing an awful lot of diplomatic work behind the scenes; other countries are doing diplomatic work behind the scenes. And I'd say certainly there's a chance, but I can't give you dates or time or what the resolution would contain because more important to me than to get a splash peak of interest is to see that it works out properly.

This is the last one, and then I really do have to head on over to the -- --

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. A couple of questions about the next stop in Saudi Arabia? First of all, what do you hope to accomplish there in your meetings and in your visits with the troops? And secondly, we've had a lot of questions from people back home about concerns for your safety while you're over there. What can you say to that?

The President. Let me answer the second part first. I have never felt more secure in going anyplace than I do in going to see our troops over there. There's a lot of young men and women there who I think are looking forward to the visit, and I think my own personal safety and Barbara's is just guaranteed. It really doesn't enter my mind at all. And so, it is not a risky mission, in my view, not in the least. And I'd tell you if I felt any tremors, and I don't.

I remember when we went down to Cartagena, people were saying: Well, this was rather dangerous. Well, even there I felt secure. I think that was vindicated by the result. So, let me just assure people who are concerned that there is no risk, and I feel very, very comfortable about that.

And then, why? It's Thanksgiving, and gosh, we have a lot to be thankful for at this time of year -- this particular year, too. And so, I will be trying as best I can, right from the heart, to express my thanks to the young men and women that are serving over there. It is a time for prayer; it is a time when we all thank God for our blessings. And I will try through this visit, perhaps only symbolically, to tell every single man and woman over there that we thank them and we thank God for the blessings that we have and that we are going to prevail. They're not there on a mission impossible.

The very fact that they are there in these numbers offers the best chance for a peaceful resolution to this crisis. And I'll be telling them that, and I'll be saying: Thank you. Thank you from this grateful heart. And I know I speak for all the American people on this one. I don't care where they're coming from on resolutions or whether the President is moving too slow or whether he's moving too fast. If I do nothing else, I will convey to them the heartfelt thanks of the American people at this very special time of year for Americans.

Thank you all so much.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom

Q. Mr. President, a non-Gulf question.

The President. There is no such thing as non-Gulf.

Q. Did you speak to Mrs. Thatcher last night?

The President. I did.

Q. What did you say to her?

The President. Well, I said, how's it going? [Laughter]

Q. And what did she say to you?

The President. That's a different matter. [Laughter] No, she seemed very determined. Nobody ever said she was anything other than that.

Q. And she didn't seem down?

The President. No. I'll tell you, to show up there in the wake of a traumatic election process, during a traumatic election process of this nature, I thought in itself showed her fiber and her steel. And she couldn't have been more pleasant. Barbara had more chance to talk to her than I did. There was a lot of standing around there, and we -- said they walked in together. But I think we both felt that she was determined. And I respect her. A lot of people might have said it's been too traumatic a day and gone to the hotel, but not Margaret Thatcher.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke in the morning at the U.S. Ambassador's residence. In his remarks, he referred to President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia, Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis of Greece, President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.

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