THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Moscow, Russia) _________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 19, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
Radisson Hotel Moscow, Russia
9:50 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: Good evening, afternoon, morning -- 24 hours a day, full-service press secretary, brief till you drop. Let me start -- as you all know, the leaders of the P-8 have just concluded about an hour-and-a-half-long dinner. They started at approximately 7:30 p.m. and broke around 9:00 p.m. They had, according to the President, a very lively discussion, one that he appreciated given the significance of developments in the Middle East.
They spent a considerable amount of time at the beginning of the dinner hearing an excellent presentation of the issues to be addressed at tomorrow's summit by President Yeltsin. President Yeltsin reviewed the agenda, went through the format for the discussion tomorrow, and they were satisfied with the excellent preparations the Russian Federation and the government of France have made to make tomorrow's discussion extraordinarily productive.
They then turned their attention to the situation in the Middle East and spent the balance of their dinner conversation on that subject. The leaders have now issued a statement on the events of recent days in Lebanon. This statement has already been issued, but for the benefit of those of you who are here who may not have the text of that, I will read that. I would ask that you check this against the wire summary that is moving because I may have missed a word or two here, but this is the way it's been reported to me by one of the members of the U.S. delegation.
The statement reads: We are seriously concerned by developments in the Middle East. We call for an immediate cease-fire. Only a political solution can provide a lasting settlement to the present crisis and enable a resumption of the peace process. We give our full support to the efforts undertaken to that end. The populations of Lebanon and Israel must be able to live in peace and security. No one must put obstacles in the way or hinder the move to peace in the whole region.
President Clinton was very satisfied with that statement, of course. He welcomes it. He also welcomes the engagement of all those governments that are working to bring about a cease-fire and a lasting solution to the crisis along the border between Lebanon and the government of Israel, and also the larger issue of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region.
The President is very satisfied after tonight's discussions that the efforts that are being undertaken by the government of France through the presence of Foreign Minister De Charette in the region, the efforts of the Russian Federation, indicated by the visit coming up in coming days by Foreign Minister Primakov to the region, the efforts that other governments as well have made, including the government of Italy -- Foreign Minister Agnelli is currently in the region as well -- these efforts will be coordinated with the work that Secretary Christopher has undertaken.
In fact, Secretary Christopher has already had substantial consultations with each of these governments. Those consultations will continue in coming hours as they reach for both a cease-fire and we hope something that will lead to further progress in the peace process itself.
Secretary Christopher has concluded a good meeting today with the Chinese Deputy Primier and Foreign Minister in The Hague, Netherlands. He intends to depart tomorrow for the Middle East. His first destination would be Damascus where he intends to pursue conversations related to both the cease-fire and to an overall discussion of the peace process itself.
That's the President's evening. The group of leaders from the P-8 have just enjoyed a concert performance. The President plans to return here to the hotel shortly. And one other program note, I'm not entirely certain the President will be taping the radio address tonight. That might hold over until tomorrow, but we'll keep you apprised of developments.
Q Mike, was there any discussion or did of any of the leaders want to go further and criticize Israel as some of the U.N. did, or is it the U.S. --
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing that has been reported to me indicates any conversation of that nature, and there seem to be substantial agreement with the very strong statement that's been issued and the very supportive statement for those efforts that have been undertaken by the United States government and by other governments.
Q What does it mean that the efforts will be coordinated by the U.S.? Does that mean Primakov and the French will work through -- how does that work?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I wouldn't say coordinated by us. It means that all of the separate efforts, diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing these parties into reconciliation and ending the current cycle of violence, these leaders understand that all those diplomatic efforts should be coordinated and, certainly, given the importance of Secretary Christopher's stop tomorrow, we will play a substantial role in making sure they are coordinated.
Q Mike, there are reports that Syria would possibly sign on to the cease-fire. Is there any truth to these reports?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you see from the region now a variety of reports. Prime Minister Peres has given an interview within the last several hours. There are developments there that certainly we hope indicate some movement towards a cease-fire, but there clearly is additional diplomacy that will need to be undertaken in the coming hours and into the weekend.
Q Were there any proposals for censure of any of the parties in the Middle East from any of the leaders at dinner tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: There was nothing of that nature reported to me. I'll get a fuller readout on the meeting as I can, but nothing in the report I've had of that conversation indicating that.
Q Mike, you're hinting that there was something perhaps bigger than a cease-fire in the offing. Are you getting indications from Syria or anybody else that the ingredients are there to put together something more substantial?
MR. MCCURRY: No, and I don't mean to hint at that. I'll make that clear. Our view and the view of other governments is that the violence in that region is fundamentally related to the peace process itself and the need for comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region that will bring peace to Israeli and Arab neighbor. That is a goal of the efforts that the United States has undertaken. We believe that is a common objective of the parties themselves as they undertake their own deliberations and discussions. It's clear that the antidote to any violence in that region ultimately will be a peace process that results in peace agreements that all parties adhere to permanently.
Q Did the leaders tonight agree that this discussion of the Lebanese crisis would constitute the totality of their discussions on that subject, or will this come up again tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe all these leaders, of course, as is President Clinton, will be receiving constant updates on the diplomatic efforts that are underway and I imagine each of them will be getting reports from their diplomats in the region as the conversations occur in coming days. To my knowledge, this was the most likely the extent of their conversation on this subject since they have an extensive agenda tomorrow related to the issues defined by the nuclear summit.
Q The question more bluntly put is, was there concern that this crisis might overshadow or undermine broader purposes of the G-7 meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: There are, you know, always events in the world that impact the gathering of leaders of this nature. But they've got an ambitious program of discussion outlined for tomorrow, and they will certainly turn their focus to those issues tomorrow. Whether you do is your choice.
Q Two questions. When you say the bulk of the dinner after Yeltsin's presentation was the meetings. Can you -- time-wise a half or a quarter? And also can you see some better coordination or are we seeing more of a G-7 instead of Christopher, and Italians, and De Charette differently? Are we seeing a G-7 approach with everyone gathered with everyone working towards it?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's not within the work agenda of an organization like the G-7 to tackle the Middle East peace process. But each of these governments has a keen interest in peace and stability in that region. And they are each in their own ways pursuing diplomacy to that end. I think that you've seen very positive work being done by a variety of governments toward the goals that have been expressed by the President and now collectively by the P-8 leaders and making sure that those efforts are coordinated and in synchronization is one of our objectives.
Q I know that you've said that the Secretary of State is the main person working this issue, but has President Clinton had any telephone conversations today with any Middle Eastern leaders about the prospects of the cease-fire?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has not held any telephone conversations today with any leaders in the region. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he might become engaged if necessary. He'll get a fuller report on it in Secretary Christopher's conversations when he returns here and we'll keep you advised if the President is directly involved in any conversations.
Q I was just wondering if Christopher is going to Lebanon as he had to do two years ago in a similar situation?
MR. MCCURRY: Again, I don't want to comment on Secretary Christopher's itinerary beyond to indicate that the Secretary's party has just indicated to me that they do plan to make Damascus their first destination. They will travel elsewhere in the region, certainly, to Jerusalem as well. But we will withhold any fuller explanation of that itinerary as we normally do in cases like this when any high ranking diplomat is traveling in the region. You probably know that Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross is already in the region, and Ambassador Ross will be traveling in advance of Secretary Christopher's arrival.
Q Mike, can you characterize Yeltsin's presentation this evening and if there were any items on the agenda were a surprise or --
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that President Yeltsin gave a very sharply focused and detailed presentation of the agenda for tomorrow. He focused on areas that will be addressed in the communique and those subjects are now well known to each of the delegation. I didn't see any indication that there would be anything that was unexpected in the discussion developing tomorrow.
Q Do you have the outcome of the dinner tonight at all?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any report that it did. I can check further and see if it did come up, but it was not -- not to my knowledge a subject of conversation tonight. It will be a source of -- subject of conversation during the President's bilateral meetings, at least in the totality of the meetings taking place. I don't know whether we'll report to you on Sunday whether the President raises it directly, but we do have some intent to engage with our Russian hosts on that subject just to determine the status of events there.
Q Mike, based on this statement tonight, do you expect other countries, like Russia, to become more involved in trying to bring pressure for a cease-fire?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Russian Federation has already announced that Foreign Minister Primakov will be going to the region, I believe tomorrow, if I'm not mistaken. And we welcome that participation.
Q You said it was a lively conversation. Were options discussed, as far as you know, and some people were in agreement of some? Can you characterize that? Or it was just general agreement?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that each leader reported on their own diplomatic efforts and they, in a sense, compared notes. I'm not aware that any disagreements grew out of the discussion and there was unanimity quickly achieved on the statement that they have now issued.
Q Can I ask you to do what we did earlier about Dole and the criticism of the judges -- the White House reaction to Dole's speech to newspaper editors, calling it a judicial hall of shame?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'd prefer to read it in greater detail, but we've heard from him on that subject before. The President fully intends in the months ahead to talk about the very vigorous efforts he's made to combat crime in the United States of America, including the appointment of excellent judges -- highly qualified, as rated by the American Bar Association --who've done a superior job on the bench.
But the President has also acted himself, working in concert with law enforcement agencies to get assault weapons off our streets, to put 100,000 cops on the beat in communities, and to reduce the level of crime. Crime is coming down in the United States. That's the ultimate test of whether or not we're protecting the safety of American citizens.
As to Senator Dole's comments on the bench, it's clear from his presentations that he would like to see a very adamantly conservative judiciary in this country that, among other things, would seek to criminalize abortion for those women who wish to exercise that constitutional choice.
Q Did the upcoming Russian elections come up in the conversation this evening?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge.
Q What does the nuclear summit want to accomplish by close of business tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, in a variety of areas by the end of the day tomorrow, whether it's discussions of nuclear safety, safeguarding nuclear materials, finding better ways of dealing with hazardous nuclear waste, dealing with the question of energy needs as we look ahead to the 21st century. We would hope that these leaders who represent those nations that have the largest consumption of nuclear-based energy in the world would have come to some agreements on how the byproducts of that nuclear energy development are handled and how we better handle the questions that are related to what is, after all, one of the last remaining issues as the Cold War comes to an end, dealing with nuclear arsenals and dealing with the threat that nuclear testing presents to the world.
So we looked also to a statement related to the need for a comprehensive nuclear test ban, which we believe would be very significant. We believe all of those things are within reach and that the summit tomorrow will be extraordinarily successful, including these issues that so dominated the 20th century in a place where they are effectively managed as we head into the 21st century.
Q Is it possible that this concern with the Middle East is enough of a distraction so that you don't get there?
MR. MCCURRY: No. As I indicated earlier, I fully expect the very ambitious agenda that President Yeltsin outlined tonight to be fully addressed by the leaders tomorrow.
Any last questions before we shut down for the evening? As soon as the President is back here we intend to give you a full lid for the evening, and we'll keep you apprised of whether or not he tapes the radio address.
Q Mike, can you confirm that Christopher will meet with Primakov and the French Foreign Minister tomorrow in Damascus?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't confirm that because I was not told that by the Secretary's party earlier, but that would not at all surprise me given the determination of the leaders as they address themselves tonight to fully coordinate the efforts that the various diplomats in the region are undertaking.
We have already had very positive and good discussions with each of those governments, and I'm certain Secretary Christopher would be available for such a meeting. I just didn't hear any confirmation from his party earlier that they intend to have a meeting like that tomorrow. That wouldn't surprise me if it works out, given the travel schedules of each of the foreign ministers involved.
Q You mentioned that more diplomacy was needed during the weekend. You were saying during the coming hours during the weekend -- is it a time frame you're working on, a matter of a couple of days?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I just said weekend because that was a good way to fudge a little bit since we're heading into the weekend now. Clearly, we're working this on an accelerated schedule and we look to make progress in the hours and days ahead.
Q What did you say --
Q Will he see Chirac tomorrow or -- President Assad do you know? Secretary Christopher in Damascus.
MR. MCCURRY: President Chirac is here.
Q Secretary Christopher -- will he see Farook Shara?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, will he see Foreign Minister Shara? Yes, I'm certain at some point in the day in Damascus he'll be with the Foreign Minister and perhaps the President as well. I'll leave that to his party to report -- keeping well fed all the able journalists traveling with the Secretary of State.
Q Can you remind me of what you said he was going to do his radio address on?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President intends to talk about the threat of terrorism generally. We've had some significant developments back home with passage of the terrorism bill and the subject matter of this summit relate in a very real way to the security of Americans in the 21st century. I think these subjects the President intends to tie together in his remarks on the radio tomorrow.
Q You don't have that bill yet, do you?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have it yet and I just made that up and I'm winging it. It's close enough.
Q He's not going to sign it while he's --
MR. MCCURRY: We have no intent of signing it here because they would have to be flown from the United States here and we intend to sign the measure sometime next week at the White House.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 10:10 P.M. (L)