The President met with Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze for approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes this morning. The President's meeting follows 2 days of meeting that the Foreign Minister has held with Secretary Baker at the State Department. The 3 days of meetings encompassed the 5 baskets which have characterized our relationship over the past year: human rights, bilateral relations, regional affairs, arms control, and transnational issues.
In their discussions, the President urged continued peaceful dialog in Lithuania. The President made clear that the United States does not recognize the forcible incorporation of Lithuania into the Soviet Union. He expressed our desire for self-determination by the Lithuanian people and his concern that the Soviet Union not undertake any actions that might thwart resolution of this issue through peaceful dialog and mutual agreement.
The working group on arms control continues its work this afternoon. There are difficult technical issues yet to be resolved.
In other areas of discussion, there was a fruitful exchange of views. In particular, we pressed the Soviet Union to reconsider its position on direct flights to Israel. The United States has always supported freedom of emigration. This step by the Soviet Union would bring about the freedom of movement that we have long urged for Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union.
In regional affairs, the two Presidents [the President and the Foreign Minister] continued the discussions on Afghanistan, Central America, Cambodia, Africa, and other regions. The President made clear once again our position on Afghanistan: that the people of Afghanistan must have the freedom of self-determination in selecting their own government.
On European affairs the issue of German unification was discussed and the United States repeated its position that a united Germany should be a full member of NATO. Both sides noted the rapid changes toward democratic and economic reform that are progressing in Eastern Europe, and both emphasized the need for these changes to continue.
Foreign Minister Shevardnadze reaffirmed President Gorbachev's commitment to glasnost and perestroika. He delivered a letter from President Gorbachev on arms control. The Foreign Minister also reiterated President Gorbachev's commitment to resolve the Lithuanian issue by open and frank dialog.
Near the end of the expanded meeting, President Bush offered his personal assessment of the U.S.-Soviet relationship. And I quote:
``Ours is a vitally important relationship. We have problems, including Lithuania. We are determined to resolve current arms control issues and move forward with the process. And finally, we acknowledge the changes in Europe and share a conviction that stability is important.''
The President feels this meeting was extensive, cordial, and productive. He looks forward to the summit meeting with President Gorbachev and to this afternoon's discussions between Secretary Baker and the Foreign Minister.
Note: Press Secretary Fitzwater read the statement during his daily press briefing, which began at 1:10 p.m.