President Meets With Soviet Foreign Minister The President held a lengthy meeting--2 hours or so--with Foreign Minister Shevardnadze today and then had him for lunch in the White House.
Q. Can you tell us if there was a new proposal or if Mr. Shevardnadze said he would soon offer a new proposal on arms reduction?
A. The sequence of the meeting was that, first, the President presented a comprehensive view of his thoughts about the upcoming meeting in Geneva, and then Mr. Shevardnadze gave the President a lengthy letter from General Secretary Gorbachev. The letter was in Russian, and it was rather lengthy, so, obviously, it wasn't read. But Mr. Shevardnadze talked about it and described it as giving Mr. Gorbachev's views about the upcoming Geneva meeting, including some material in the field of arms control, which is, obviously, an important part of all of this.
The counterproposal that they have to what we have on the table in Geneva will, we understand, be presented in 2 days of plenary session in Geneva next week, although the general outlines were described to us.
There were many other matters discussed and referred to in terms of our bilateral relations and in regional matters. So that was, in general, the nature of the meeting.
Q. What was our reaction, and can you tell us what generally was in their proposal?
A. I think the right thing to happen now is for their counterproposal to be placed on the table in Geneva and for it to be discussed there in the privacy of that negotiating forum. If we're going to really make progress in these negotiations, they ought to be conducted there and by the negotiators. I'm not going to characterize the general sense that was presented to us beyond simply saying that there were some materials presented.
Q. Does that satisfy what we were told yesterday, that the President was hoping that there would be a new proposal? In other words, does it constitute a full proposal, in your judgment, or just a bit here and a piece there?
A. The President welcomed what was put before him, as he did some of the other things that were said. The fullness of the proposal, of course, we'll have to judge when we see it in Geneva. Anything that is genuinely serious in this field is complicated, and they have asked for 2 days of plenary session to do it, so we'll have to see what's there--our negotiators will.
Q. Sometimes in the past when the Soviets have made proposals, they have been discounted very quickly by this country as propaganda, as not serious. Would it be fair to say, then, that you regard this proposal as serious?
A. It is something that comes forward; it's different from what they have been saying, and we look for it to be put on the table in Geneva, and combined with what we have on the table, we hope that can lead to a process of genuine negotiation. So we welcome that.
Q. You take it seriously?
A. We welcome the fact that something has been brought forward, or will be Geneva, to lay alongside what we …