WASHINGTON (Sep. 16)
President Reagan said farewell Monday to Shimon Peres as Israel’s Prime Minister by praising him as a “valued friend and statesman for peace.”
“No one has done more than Prime Minister Peres” in the effort to bring about peace, Reagan said in a statement in the White House Rose Garden after the two leaders had met for an hour, including a 30-minute meeting just between themselves. “His vision, his statesmanship and his tenacity are greatly appreciated here,” Reagan said of Peres.
Left unsaid was that Peres came to Washington just before he has to turn over the Premiership to Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir in October in accordance with the terms of the national unity agreement between Labor and Likud. He will then become Foreign Minister.
But a senior Administration official, briefing reporters on the White House talks, stressed that Peres had “succeeded” in staying within the guidelines of the government of national unity during his two years as Premier. He said the U.S. expects “no change in the conduct” of Israel’s foreign policy when Peres and Shamir exchange jobs next month. The official said that the bulk of the discussion at the White House was on the peace process.
COMMITTED TO SEARCH FOR NEGOTIATED PEACE
In his Rose Garden remarks, Reagan stressed that the U.S. and Israel are committed “to search for a negotiated peace between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors.” Reagan said that both Peres and he “have agreed that a steady determined effort is needed by all if the remaining obstacles to direct negotiations are to be surmounted.”
Peres said that “peacemaking is a process which requires constant patience and cultivation. He said the next step should be “direct negotiations between the parties concerned.” He stressed that an international forum, which is demanded by Jordan, should only be an “opening occasion” that would bring about direct negotiations, “not substitute for it.”
Reagan said that also discussed was the “need to maintain a strong and secure Israel.” But he stressed this does not only mean military strength, but also “a vigorous and growing Israeli economy.”
REAGAN CITES A REMARKABLE SUCCESS
Reagan said Peres and his national unity colleagues “have achieved remarkable success in stabilizing the economy.” He said they are now trying to achieve growth “with our full support.”
Reagan also stressed the U.S. commitment to the cause of Soviet Jewry. “The United States government remains deeply concerned about the plight of Soviet Jewry.” he said. “This subject will continue to be in an important part of our dialogue with the Soviet Union.”
Secretary of State George Shultz, who met with Peres earlier in the day, and Reagan, in talking about their meetings with the Israeli leader, said the discussions “reflected the close dialogue that Israel and the United States enjoy as friends and partners.”