Following is last night's joint statement by Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh:

In the course of the discussions held in Washington on January 26-29, 1991, USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Bessmertnykh and U.S. Secretary of State James Baker devoted considerable attention to the situation in the Persian Gulf.

The ministers reiterated the commitment of their countries to the U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted in connection with Iraq's aggression against Kuwait. They expressed regret that numerous efforts of the United Nations, other international organizations, individual countries, and envoys were all rebuffed by Iraq. The military actions authorized by the United Nations have been provoked by the refusal of the Iraqi leadership to comply with the clear and lawful demands of the international community for withdrawal from Kuwait.

Secretary of State Baker emphasized that the United States and its coalition partners are seeking the liberation of Kuwait, not the destruction of Iraq. He stressed that the United States has no quarrel with the people of Iraq, and poses no threat to Iraq's territorial integrity. Secretary Baker reiterated that the United States is doing its utmost to avoid casualties among the civilian population, and is not interested in expanding the conflict. Minister of Foreign Affairs Bessmertnykh took note of the American position and agreed that Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait must remain the goal of the international community. Both sides believe that everything possible should be done to avoid further escalation of the war and expansion of its scale.

The ministers continue to believe that a cessation of hostilities would be possible if Iraq would make an unequivocal commitment to withdraw from Kuwait. They also believe that such a commitment must be backed by immediate, concrete steps leading to full compliance with the Security Council resolutions.

The Iraqi leadership has to respect the will of the international community. By doing so, it has it within its power to stop the violence and bloodshed.

The ministers agreed that establishing enduring stability and peace in the region after the conflict, on the basis of effective security arrangements, will be a high priority of our two governments. Working to reduce the risk of war and miscalculation will be essential, particularly because a spiraling arms race in this volatile region can only generate greater violence and extremism. In addition, dealing with the causes of instability and the sources of conflict, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, will be especially important. Indeed, both ministers agreed that without a meaningful peace process -- one which promotes a just peace, security, and a real reconciliation for Israel, Arab states, and Palestinians -- it will not be possible to deal with the sources of conflict and instability in the region. Both ministers, therefore, agreed that in the aftermath of the crisis in the Persian Gulf, mutual U.S.-Soviet efforts to promote Arab-Israeli peace and regional stability, in consultation with other parties in the region, will be greatly facilitated and enhanced.

The two ministers are confident that the United States and the Soviet Union, as demonstrated in various other regional conflicts, can make a substantial contribution to the achievement of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East.