PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY ON PRESIDENT YELTSIN BILATERAL WITH PRESIDENT CLINTON
Ghazala Hotel Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt
10:51 A.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: Let me just -- I want to, so we don't get too far behind today, I'll bring you up to date on what the President has been up to.
As you know, he arrived here just before 9:00 a.m. this morning. He had some down time scheduled, so he took a walk along the promenade that runs along the beach, walked a little bit on the beach; went through some souvenir shops, bought some undefined gifts for Chelsea and Hillary. I asked him what he bought and he said, I'm not going to tell you because you'll tell them and then my wife and daughter will hear before I get home with my gifts.
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres was delayed. I'm not sure the reason why he was delayed. So the scheduled meeting he had was pushed off until just a few moments ago. As a result, the President discovered his next-door neighbor was French President Jacques Chirac, so they met for about 20 minutes to review the program at the conference today to discuss ways that they could maximize the effectiveness of this extraordinary gathering of leaders today and how they could continue the work to both promote peace and fight terror beyond today's meeting. As I said, they met about 20 minutes or so.
At approximately 10:15 a.m., Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation, arrived for a half-hour meeting with the President, accompanied by his delegation and the President accompanied by the American delegation. The President greeted President Yeltsin, saying, "You look great." Indeed, the Russian President did. They spent considerable time discussing today's meeting. President Yeltsin joked about an upcoming meeting next week between Foreign Minister Primakov and Secretary Christopher, noted that Foreign Minister Primakov speaks English and so it's about time that Secretary Christopher learn Russian. The Secretary volunteered that he might try that, but wasn't sure how successful he would be at it.
The President complimented President Yeltsin for his attendance today. He said, "It's not only important because you are cosponsor of the peace process, but the fact that you could come here will give the peace process itself a boost, and I'm very grateful you came" -- President Clinton said to President Yeltsin.
President Yeltsin said that without any hesitation he had come because the Russian Federation takes seriously its role as a cosponsor of the peace process. He also said that the work that's being done here today to combat terror becomes an integral element of what Russia believes is its responsibility in the post-Cold War world.
They again reviewed in some more detail the meetings that Secretary Christopher will have with Foreign Minister Primakov. They are gathering next week in Moscow to really work through a lot of the issues in the agenda of the upcoming summit meeting that President Yeltsin will have in April with President Clinton when they attend the nuclear summit. They reviewed that agenda, then they had a discussion comparing notes on presidential politics, obviously both of them looking forward to reelection campaigns later this year.
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres just greeted the President about 15 minutes ago. They were going to talk briefly, just compare some final notes on the work that's being done on the statement that will be issued later this afternoon prior to the commencement of the summit in a few short minutes. Prime Minister Peres, as you know, will be flying with President Clinton up to Jerusalem later today. They'll have an opportunity to meet at greater length later and preview some of the meetings that they will have tomorrow.
So that brings you up to date on what's been going on here.
Q The American delegation and the Russian delegation and the two leaders -- how many people altogether?
MR. MCCURRY: Probably about a dozen altogether, six on each side.
Q Is it a formal meeting, in coats and ties? Or are they in beach attire?
MR. MCCURRY: They were in formal attire because they were leaving straight from the meeting to go to the beginning of the summit.
Q -- reports that his meeting with Arafat is cancelled --
MR. MCCURRY: Those reports are not correct. The President looks forward to meeting with Chairman Arafat this afternoon.
Q Is there a time for that, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: As you can tell from what we've been doing -- with a lot of people coming and going, these things are very flexible, but we are planning roughly for around 4:45 today.
Q But it wasn't in the schedule.
MR. MCCURRY: We're budgeting 15, 20 minutes for it, but it could go longer.
Q -- you said that there is complete agreement now between the U.S. and Egypt on the wording in the statement, the final declaration?
MR. MCCURRY: I would suggest that there is some last minute work that's being done on the wording of the statement that will be issued today involving not only the government of Egypt, but a number of the other delegations here. Our diplomats have been meeting with selected delegations to discuss wording of some of the particular issues they will address later today. But that's all going well according to the various reports that were given to the President just prior to the commencement of the meeting.
Q Mike, will that statement be issued in the name of all the participants in the summit this afternoon?
MR. MCCURRY: That will be plenty of time to report that story later on in the afternoon.
Q What was the exchange between Yeltsin and Clinton about their upcoming presidential elections?
MR. MCCURRY: They compared notes. The President asked President Yeltsin how his campaign is going. As you know, he is considerably farther along in the process. He's been campaigning around the country and President Yeltsin offered some observations of life on the campaign trail in a way that was not entirely designed to make it seem like a pleasurable experience, but President Yeltsin obviously described it as an important one.
Q Did Clinton respond?
MR. MCCURRY: He said he wanted -- it was important, during the course of this election year for both Presidents that they make sure that they understand issues that arise, that they are dealt with effectively. President Clinton suggested that the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission is a good way to resolve some of the bilateral issues that have been on our agenda, of which there are still some differences.
Q Did Clinton ever seek from Yeltsin any reassurance about the state of the economy and Yeltsin's recent decisions to restrict imports, things like that? Did that come up?
MR. MCCURRY: They did not discuss that issue -- economic reform issues in that much detail. The President certainly emphasized the importance of Russia's continued progress towards economic and political reform, something that President Yeltsin indicated was at the heart of his campaign for reelection.
President Yeltsin -- I won't speak for him or his delegation, but it's fair to say he contrasted his approach on those issues to some of the platforms of other candidates. The only specific trade issue that was referenced -- the President thanked President Yeltsin for the work that they are doing on the poultry issue, which, as you know, the Vice President has been working through with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.
Q Mike, did the President say anything to President Yeltsin about Russia's relationship with Iran? And did he talk about this continued desire that the Israelis have for other countries not to do business with Iran?
MR. MCCURRY: No, they didn't get into that detail on issues. But that's why I mentioned those issues that need to be discussed within the context of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission's work, since that is an issue that is in basket.
Q Did Yeltsin and Clinton talk about the China and Taiwan issue?
MR. MCCURRY: They did not, but National Security Advisor Tony Lake had an opportunity to compare notes on issues related to Taiwan with Mr. Rurikov, who was in attendance at the meeting. They compared the latest information that they had available.
Q What was the Russian view of what is going on there?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't hear him express a view. I just know that they discussed the subject.
All right. I think the conference is about to begin. And we will -- let's see -- we'll check and see later in the afternoon, after the President has his session with all of you whether there is -- what kind of additional readout we will do before -- we still are planning to do something in Jerusalem later in the day to sort of tie the whole day together.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:00 A.M. (L)