MOSCOW, JULY 6 -- West German President Richard von Weizsaecker used a Kremlin speech today to challenge the division of East and West Germany, saying that citizens of both states still "feel that they belong to one nation."
At the start of the first state visit by a West German president to Moscow in 12 years, von Weizsaecker also urged leading Soviet officials to stop thinking of Europe as a region split into blocs.
At a Kremlin dinner, von Weizsaecker called for greater economic and political interdependence between West Germany and the Soviet Union. "We should cease to think as blocs and in terms of bloc boundaries," he said, according to a text released by the West German Embassy here.
Amid differences between Moscow and Bonn over negotiations for a U.S.-Soviet agreement to reduce medium- and short-range missiles, Soviet President Andrei Gromyko called on Bonn to "contribute not just in words, but in deeds to the success of these talks."
Moscow has insisted that 72 West German Pershing missiles, with NATO warheads, should be included in a U.S.-Soviet accord to eliminate intermediate and short-range nuclear missiles from Western Europe, but West Germany opposes their inclusion.
The difference has been described by Soviet officials as one of the major obstacles to achieving an intermediate-range missiles agreement, now under negotiation by U.S. and Soviet arms experts in Geneva.
Despite the dispute, relations between West Germany and the Soviet Union have thawed in recent months, and the speeches by both von Weizsaecker and Gromyko were laced with the language of compromise.
"We should not regard each other as enemies," von Weizsaecker said, "nor be indifferent to one another, but should live together and cooperate with one another actively and peacefully."
But he also urged improvements in Kremlin foreign and domestic policies, including the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and better treatment and emigration rights for ethnic Germans in the Soviet Union.
"We welcome the Soviet Union's initiative in deciding to enter into an open dialogue with the West on the question of human rights with a view to improvimg mutual understanding and ushering in a new policy toward those with different convictions," he said.
Von Weizsaecker also stressed "Europe's common identity," highlighted by an appeal for greater cooperation between the Germanys.
"The Germans who live separated in East and West have not ceased to feel that they belong to one nation, nor will they do so," he said. "The better it is in the whole of Europe the better it is for us Germans. For this reason our primary aim in developing the two German states is to ease tensions."
Stressing Moscow's traditional defense of the current boundaries between East and West Europe, Gromyko said, according to the official Tass news agency, that "by signing the Moscow Treaty in 1970, our countries drew a line under the past and opened a door to the future."
In 1970, Bonn and Moscow signed an accord that acknowledged the rights of the four allied World War II powers -- the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union -- to govern the prewar German capital of Berlin. That treaty and others between East and West "have consolidated the postwar political and territorial realities," Gromyko said, "in accord with the requirements of stability and peaceful development in Europe."