THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Lyons, France) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release June 29, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY ON BILATERAL WITH THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Pavillon du Parc Lyons, France
3:40 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: All right. Let me, very briefly -- I wanted to do this -- since we are departing immediately after the press conference, I wanted to give you a read out on the President's very good, substantive meeting with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.
Since the two of them had talked and since much of the subject matter of Russia's relationship with the West had been addressed during the G-7 Summit, there was not a lengthy recounting of those aspects of the discussion, but let me just give you a few points about what they did talk about.
First, I have to say they spent the first two or three minutes discussing Helen Thomas. Helen asked a very direct question, and as the press pool left the room both the President and the Prime Minister burst out laughing because the question had been, if you see in the transcript, to the point -- covered -- went right to the key questions.
The President said that -- I guess it's fair to tell you this -- said that, "Helen is a very fine person, and she works much, much harder than most of the younger reporters in the press corps." And he pointed out that he has been out walking in the mornings while he has been here, and she is always there to ask the very first question. And Chernomyrdin got quite a chuckle out of that.
Q (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: An objection is heard from United Press International.
The President and the Prime Minister reviewed the political climate in Russia, as Russia proceeds to elect a president in a matter of days. And the President inquired about the Prime Minister's own judgment of where things stand; what is the likely composition of a government, depending on anticipated results, and what role the opposition might play; what role, specifically, Mr. Zyuganov -- if he is not the victor in the election -- might play. The focus of much of this discussion was about -- was on the important agenda of work that lies ahead as Russia and the United States deal with many of the serious questions that remain on our bilateral agenda as we think ahead to the 21st century.
The President cited several that he thought are important issues that should be dealt with in the future: START II and ratification of START II by the Duma; the comprehensive test ban. Certainly the Russian Federation of the United States will continue to work closely on the problem of Bosnia. They reviewed the peace process in the Middle East -- Russia is, of course, a cosponsor of that process with the United States.
They reviewed the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission process, the importance of that. They anticipate future sessions of that Commission in which sensitive issues can continue to be dealt with. They reviewed the status of Russian reform with the President stressing the importance of meeting the IMF target levels for 1996, and the Prime Minister reassuring the President that that is certainly the Russian Federation's intention.
The President raised the matter of Mr. Lebed's remarks recently and say they caused him great concern. The President also raised the status of the Jewish Agency in Russia which is an agency that's been enormously important to emigres as they go to other country, particularly Israel. And he received some assurances from the Prime Minister the Russian Federation was working on that issue. It arises from a decision in April by the Russian judicial -- Justice Ministry.
The President noted that Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Primakov had had extensive discussions on NATO related issues and he reaffirmed the importance of resolving some of those key questions about Russia's relationship with NATO.
The Prime Minister, who clearly has an enormous breadth of substantive knowledge about Russia's global positions and certainly the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship, reviewed in great detail his own assessment of the situation in Bosnia. They talked at great length about the Middle East. He presented some of his ideas about that process, and responded to many of the President's points.
The President closed the session with a very warm expression of gratitude to the Prime Minister for the good work he does with the Vice President on many issues that are central to our relationship with Russia, and the Prime Minister seemed genuinely flattered by that expression of gratitude.
Q What was his response to the -- (inaudible.)
MR. MCCURRY: His response was that he certainly understood our concern, he would -- that expression of concern would reach Moscow.
Q Did he in any way renounce the comments --
MR. MCCURRY: There was a sense that those comments may have caused concern elsewhere in the Russian Federation government. Beyond that I think I should leave it to the Russian government to address the remarks.
Q -- elaborate beyond expressing great concern what the President said to him about those remarks?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I wouldn't want to over-stress this part of the discussion. The President mentioned his concern, brought it very directly to the attention of the Prime Minister, and later referenced it in connection with his substantive discussion of the Jewish Agency, which is an issue that we have been working on closely. And there was no question that the Prime Minister understood the offense the President took at the remarks.
Q Did the President send any message to President Yeltsin through the Prime Minister?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President did not -- he certainly, in parting just now, asked the Prime Minister to convey his best wishes for a speedy recovery to President Yeltsin, said that he did so on behalf of the American people. He also heard from the Prime Minister about the President's program of activity in coming days, and it sounds as if it would be an active one, as if the President intends to pursue a schedule in coming days. That was the impression we got, but that really, of course, will be up to the Russian Federation to address.
Q Is he headed back right now to Russia?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin had some additional bilateral meetings. He had clearly met with Mr. Camdessus from the IMF. That was a very important meeting. In fact, I would say the bulk of the substantive discussion in the President's meeting with the Prime Minister dealt with IMF related issues and the West's support for economic transformation in Russia.
Any others? Okay, good. We'll bring on the main act shortly.
END 3:45 P.M. (L)