THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Budapest, Hungary)
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
The Helia Hotel Budapest, Hungary
12:15 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As you know, the President came to the Budapest summit because of the commitment that he has displayed to building a more secure and integrated Europe. And as he said in his statement today, CSCE has a major role to play in this regard, and his presence here was meant to signify continued U.S. engagement in this effort.
Strengthening the CSCE is part of a broader agenda for European security that we've been setting forth over the past year, beginning with the NATO Summit and extending up to this event. It involves a range of institutions as well as the deepening of our bilateral ties with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
As the President said in his statement, he remains committed to adapting NATO as one of the number one priorities in this overall effort. NATO is not only adapting in terms of its own missions, but seeking to project stability eastward through the Partnership for Peace and through its eventual expansion. And, of course, the decisions taken by the North Atlantic Council last week -- very much part of the push forward that this summit here is intended to continue.
I would say that Partnership for Peace and expansion of the alliance are two sides of the same coin, part of NATO's effort to help promote stability and cooperation. And as the President said, to erase old lines without creating new ones.
In terms of the CSCE, we see it as particularly important in developing more effective means for preventing conflicts, for preventing future Bosnias. And in that regard, we've seen a lot of positive accomplishments coming out of the summit. My colleague will talk in more detail about the specifics of the summit results.
Clearly the biggest threat to European security today is ethnic conflict, regional conflict and making the CSCE more effective, more proactive in dealing with conflicts at an early stage is going to be critical for the future security of Europe.
One of the most important accomplishments that we are quite hopeful about, as the President said, we are on the verge of achieving what will be a very significant decision to establish a CSCE peacekeeping force in the Nagorno-Karabakh. This is key to establishing the rules of the road for peacekeeping operations in the future in Europe, and particularly in the Newly Independent States.
CSCE has also been working on principles for peacekeeping and conflict prevention which will provide a more general road map for the future. Important progress has been made on that and my colleague will give you the latest state of play.
So, again, the President's engagement here on the CSCE half of the agenda was to continue the development of the broader security regime that we hope will provide for increased security and integration in post-Cold War Europe.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just to comment on the CSCE meeting itself. As my colleague said, the most important fact in understanding and detailing the results of this meeting is to see it in the context of what we have been doing in other places and to see it in the context of what we're starting to call the outlines of a security architecture in Europe.
And this security architecture, as the President has set forth also in his remarks this morning, is meant to establish a basis of cooperation, both among countries and among institutions so that the things that each institution best can be related to each other and hopefully extend a sense of security throughout Europe and especially to the parts of Central and Eastern Europe which feel that they are without a security framework at the moment.
The CSCE's role in this is severalfold. And it is in particular to be the place, the broad framework which has the methods and the means to start to do basic democratic development and to look at conflicts when they come early on.
Now, are goal here at this meeting was first to give the CSCE what we believe is its deserved political profile and its deserved political credibility. This is important because however useful the tools are that the CSCE has developed -- and actually many have been developed over the past few years -- it is still a different kind of undertaking. It is still something which works very slowly, very much at the grass roots of problems. And, as most of you I think would agree, describing even what it is and how it works for someone who has to write about it is a very difficult thing to do.
So on the basis of an American initiative, we first did a very simple thing, and that is propose that its name be changed from conference to organization. That's a symbolic change, but it is now also expected to behave like an organization -- to be operational, to be focused, and to have the credibility than an organization does.
Secondly, you will see later in the documents when they're approved, the CSCE has a clear now mandate. Several tasks, which are clearly defined and which the heads of government states as a political commitment that they will see the CSCE as their primary tool, their primary institution for dealing with this mandate. And the mandate is of the areas that we've been talking about -- human rights, democratic development, conflict prevention, but also arms control. Conventional arms control remains a very important subject, and the CSCE is the framework for conventional arms control in Europe.
And two very important decisions on conventional arms control, or on conventional armaments have come out of this. The first one is a framework proposed by the United States for future conventional arms control negotiations, which relate them to the goals of the CSCE. And secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, is the so-called code of conduct of military relations, which stresses in particular a point which is also important in NATO -- that is civilian control of the armed forces. And in these newly emerging democracies, civilian control of the armed forces is not a foregone conclusion. And to have a common code agreed among the CSCE countries, which prescribes and people commit themselves to civilian control of the armed forces is really quite important.
There are a number of other decisions which have been taken and which we can talk about if you wish. But I think -- I'll just say one more time -- the most important point is to see this in the context of what is in fact now a growing set of interrelationships which will hopefully give those countries in Europe, and there are unfortunately a large number of them, who feel right now that they are living under insecure circumstances -- who whatever we think about the overall situation feel that they are living in threatened circumstances, that the CSCE will take an important step in helping to increase their sense of security, and in developing tools which will avoid conflicts before they break out.
Q Do you have a full, detailed agreement now with Russia on dealing with Nagorno-Karabakh?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as the President said in his remarks this morning, we have a basic agreement with Russia. And we hope that this basic agreement can be turned into an agreement of all CSCE countries. But NagornoKarabakh, as you know, is a very complicated issue. And so it has to be worked now with all the countries in the CSCE, and that's going to take us during this day to make sure we can confirm that agreement.
Q You said the others, and I'm asking you about the U.S. and Russia.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The U.S. and Russia --
Q I'm asking you details, and you're saying you have a basic agreement.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, we have. We have a --
Q So let me rephrase the question. Are you still in disagreement with Russia --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q on exactly what to in Nagorno-Karabakh, like what percentage of the troops will be Russian?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're not necessarily in disagreement, but we haven't reached agreement. In other words, we have agreed here to have an agreement on the basic principle of doing it with the understanding that the details would be worked out.
Q Would you give us a readout of Christopher's meeting with Kozyrev last night, because we never got a full readout yet? And also, given what Yeltsin said this morning, was there any consideration given to a meeting between Clinton and Yeltsin so that you could figure out exactly what he was trying to say?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as my colleague can answer the second part of it, Christopher's meeting with Kozyrev last night, which I attended, was arranged to work out a number of final details. It was a very positive session and a very businesslike session. And it spent most of its time, and my colleague can talk about this later, working on the question -- the remaining detail questions of the signing ceremony today. But we also discussed several detailed issues of the CSCE, including Nagorno-Karabakh, and including some of the other documents. And it was really very much a working session, which was a very successful one. And many of the things that we're going to be able to agree today were set in motion in that meeting.
Q What about Yeltsin's remarks today -- any consideration that maybe they were sufficiently worrisome that you would want to clarify them at the highest levels?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we're clearly going to continue the dialogue with the Russians. This began, of course, during Yeltsin's visit to the U.S. at the end of September. We laid out the agenda that was adopted pretty much as presented to Yeltsin back in September, adopted by the NAC on Friday.
Clearly, the Russians don't have full understanding of exactly what was decided. But we will continue to work this. There may not be time for a serious conversation here, but we have plenty channels of communication between the President and Yeltsin so that we don't see any opportunity missed here.
Q So he's not going to meet with Yeltsin here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To be honest, it's possible that a very brief conversation might be arranged, but it will happen in the next hour or it won't happen at all, given that the President has a very tight schedule and is going to be leaving.
Q And you don't expect any results, obviously -- you don't expect any breakthrough?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, first of all, I don't know if a meeting's going to take place. But, as I said, I think that the Russians have understood where NATO was going, that NATO will expand. But this is going to be a process that is going to be taken step by step. It'll be transparent. We will continue to discuss all aspects with Russia and other members of the Partnership for Peace. The basic outlines of the NATO decision that was taken last week were well understood by the Russians beforehand. Clearly there are some aspects that have caused the more alarmist statements we've heard from Mr. Yeltsin today. But we don't see any insurmountable difficulties.
Q Can you tell us a little bit more about the -- (inaudible) -- worked out last night?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My colleague is going to do that. That's the next chapter of this briefing.
Q But we will get it, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, they're waiting in the wings.
Q Would you give us a little bit more sense of what you have resolved in Nagorno-Karabakh, because you've had elements of understanding -- (inaudible) -- it hasn't -- (inaudible) -- to the summit, it's one of the -- (inaudible) -- didn't work it out then. It sounds like -- (inaudible) -- agreement to agree but get an agreement. On the details -- (inaudible) -- all along.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, since I know you've been following this, you know how difficult and complex this issue is. I, myself, have been working on this for three years. And I can't tell you how many times we've thought we were within one minute of signing something and then there was a military offensive by one or the other side or an insulting statement by one or the other side. I mean, it really is one of these issues which is deep, deep down in emotion and history.
And I think the first thing, which ought to be mentioned here, is in fact the perseverance. And not just the perseverance of the United States, but also of Italy, which was the chairman of the Minsk Group for a long time, of Sweden, which was the Chairman of the Minsk Group. I mean, yes, but working through these issues like pulling apart a thread. And what we have achieved now -- what we think we have achieved, I can tell you very directly, is agreement by the Russians, and hopefully by everybody else, that the CSCE, working with the Russians, should be the central focus of the peace process; that we should move now from the cease-fire, which has been in place for some months, to a formal cease-fire, which is a negotiated document. And once that negotiated document is agreed, that there should planning to provide -- and that word will be in the text, hopefully -- to provide a peacekeeping force. And that peacekeeping force will be the basis, hopefully, of convening the Minsk Conference, which will be the formal peace conference, hopefully, to come up with a true negotiated settlement.
So it is not -- but again, to expect that we should sit down here at this meeting and work out the numbers, the command arrangements, that was something that was a little bit much to expect. What we do have is the basic agreement to do this.
Q Specifically on the makeup of the peacekeeping force -- as a matter of fact, Christopher said the Russian -- (inaudible) -- would be under 50 percent. Do you have a Russian agreement on that point? And who would basically lead --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's not part of the agreement. I mean, that is -- what we have is an agreement to set up the force. And it will be weeks or months of discussion over the questions of how many troops and who commands them and things like that.
Q So you're still sidestepping that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we're not sidestepping it. We're doing what you do in such processes. A summit meeting, such as this, is not the place where you get into those details.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But this will be a CSCE peacekeeping force. That's the important accomplishment here.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END12:32 P.M. (L)