Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official
The Briefing Room
12:55 P.M. EST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Basically I'll go through briefly the four stops that we're planning and tell you basically what we're trying to accomplish in each stop and then open it up for questions. I'd rather just go through the whole agenda first.
The first stop the President will make is in London. It will be actually his first visit to London as President, the first time he's gone to 10 Downing Street. The general tenor of the trip will be to underscore the importance of the alliance, the close working relationship of Prime Minister Major and the President, and the need to continue to work together on the full range of security and economic issues, which you all are very familiar with. I would expect the meetings with Major to focus quite a bit on Bosnia, the other range of issues -- NATO expansion, Middle East, Ireland. I think you all know the agenda pretty well. I'd be happy to take questions on that later.
In London, he will also be meeting with the opposition leader, Tony Blair, as he does in every major country that he goes to, he usually tries to do that. Again, they will touch base on the full range of issues that the time allots.
He will also be giving a major address in London at Westminster. And that will -- I think you should look at it as a fairly major foreign policy address. He will be emphasizing the need to advance our common agenda, building a bit on the sacrifices of World War II and his themes from his visit to the commemoration of the D-Day in Europe, the need to continue those efforts to preserve the peace; we won the war, we need to win the peace, building a little bit on the themes that the children of our sacrifice and the need to mobilize support for building the peace equal to that, which was mobilized during the war.
He will also go into a little bit on the European security issues there. But the theme of that speech primarily will be the need for America's leadership in the world and the need to really have the champion of peace, building on Bosnia and whatever else is going on there.
He will also have a dinner that evening with Prime Minister Major. It will be some sort of 60-some-odd people, I think -- a working dinner with Major. The next day he goes to Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is the first President, U.S. President to go to Northern Ireland. The trip itself is significant. His presence there should not be minimized as a historic event in itself. He's going there primarily to underscore the importance of the cease fire, to celebrate with the people of Northern Ireland the new era of peace there, to underscore and support their efforts for peace and to, again, see what we can do to help support the peace process in Northern Ireland.
His sheer presence in Northern Ireland in itself sends a strong message of encouragement to the people, will help remind them just how far they've come and give them encouragement to continue to build on the peace. He will be giving, again, what I would term an important address at a plant in the center of Belfast called Mackie's Plant. It's a manufacturing plant of machineries that has an interesting history. It's gone -- it had a difficult history of employment in the past, serious unemployment issues, discrimination issues. They are now back on the move, doing the right thing. They're equalizing their work force. Their employment is growing. We're going there to symbolize both the importance of investment to peace and the importance of trying to eliminate the problems of discrimination in that area.
The text of the speech will primarily deal with the themes of trade and investment and America's role in the peace process in Northern Ireland. And probably in a -- a slightly broader context of what's happening in the world, putting Northern Ireland a little bit in the context of other global marches towards peace.
He will also go up to Londonderry/Derry, depending on which community you're in, to walk -- he'll give a slight -- a speech to the people of the city, walk the walls of the city a bit, and then have a reception with people from the city, as well as some Americans who will have flown over for an event, and announcing the endowment of a chair on behalf of Tip O'Neill on for the University of Ulster. The President will be there to announce that while he's up there.
Q: What day are we at --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is Thursday. He will also, while in Belfast, visit an enterprise park in East Belfast, where he'll have a chance to talk to workers who are dealing with the issues day to day of employment in Belfast, so he can have a chance to talk to some real workers and get a sense what life is really like there. He will also light the Christmas tree for the evening, which is a historic event in Belfast in the season of peace. He will not be dressed like a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. (Laughter.)
And then he will attend a reception hosted in his honor at Queens University to which we expect to invite a broad spectrum from Northern Ireland there. As far as meeting with political leaders in Northern Ireland, there is no firm schedule on that front yet. We are going to be working in seeing basically all the major political leaders.
I know there's a lot of questions as far as who and where and when, but we simply will just leave it right now. We are going to try and work in all of the major -- we will be seeing all of the major political leaders while we're there.
He spends the night in Belfast, which is again symbolic of how far Belfast has come, as well as underscoring our own interest in doing what we can to secure the peace.
Next morning, he goes and moves to Ireland for a visit there, again, his first visit as President to Ireland. He will be having a meeting with President Mary Robinson, again discussing sort of a range of issues. They'll do the traditional tree planting there.
He will then have a meeting also with Prime Minister Bruton, again they're to discuss a range of security issues. EU issues will probably be on the front of the agenda, since Ireland will assume the presidency of the EU in the second half of 1996. I assume Northern Ireland will on the agenda as well as humanitarian issues, European issues.
He will also touch base with the opposition leaders there and give a speech to the citizens of Dublin. Expect this to be a fairly large sort of gathering of citizens outdoors in downtown --let's see where are we now -- Dublin. And then he will also to parliament and give greetings to parliament. There is some traditional exchanges of gifts there. The remarks to parliament will again touch on the range of issues among us, although it should not be billed as a major foreign policy address; it's more sort of remarks/greetings.
He then will be the guest at a dinner hosted by the government that evening at Dublin Castle. And that pretty much covers the substantive part of the Ireland trip. From there he will go to Spain for a EU summit meeting with Gonzalez and Santer. He will also have bilateral meetings with Gonzalez and opposition leader Aznar. He will also see the King and Queen.
The purpose of the EU summit, I think you all are fully aware of, this one is somewhat more substantive and important in that it will be -- the President will be announcing a transatlantic initiative, which falls onto the agreement from the last EU summit under the French presidency. It's really an unprecedented action plan underscoring the U.S. commitment to Europe, underscoring the need for more cooperation, more specific action between us facing the new challenges of drugs and crime and the broadening agenda of trade issues.
He will be signing two documents while he's there. One is the new transatlantic agenda, and the second one will be an action plan. What the initiative is is really an ongoing, working relationship, rather than having two summit meetings where you agree on a common agenda, but there's no work in between them of putting these into effect. This has launched a work plan, action plan between the two communities, which I think will really have concrete results.
The agenda for this first one, the new transatlantic agenda, will focus primarily on four areas of common interest. And, you know, there's sort of a concrete action plan on all these. The first one will be, sort of generally, the promotion of peace, development and democracy dealing primarily with former Yugoslavia and Middle East issues.
Second is global challenges dealing with the crime, humanitarian aid, disease, the environment. That one is elevating to the agenda for the first time. These type of transnational issues, again, underscore the need for cooperation among these nations on dealing with the tough issues of crime, terrorism, drugs, as well as reflecting the need to share resources in all of our tightened budget eras.
The third issue will be trade, an action plan for further reducing the barriers to trade, ways to open markets, create jobs. He will basically launch a series of studies that will look at how to do that. Fourth is what they're calling a building block. It's basically a series of cultural and scientific exchanges. I think you can expect the bilateral meetings in Spain to cover again the range of security issues. Spain has 1,200 troops in Bosnia. I'm sure that will be a part of it. The Middle East, they've obviously been very involved in the Middle East process since the Madrid summit -- got military bases there, and the trade issues.
And then the President comes home in time for the Kennedy Center honors on Sunday evening.
Q: Where do the British-Irish talks stand? I mean, are they totally stalemated, or is there some new initiative? And do we think that the IRA should disarm totally before the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me give you just a quick summary of our Irish policy, which I think will cover most of those questions. This trip is very much reflective of this involvement. This President has been the first to really put Northern Ireland on the agenda of this office and between the UK and us. We have from day one, the President has asked us to take a look at Ireland -- Northern Ireland to see where we could be helpful, where we could help make a difference to move things forward, given our relationship between both the UK and Ireland.
He has put it on the agenda of the presidency as well as within the two governments. And I think we have managed to support those who take risks for peace in a way that has advanced the cause of peace in Northern Ireland.
We have reached out to those, such as Adams, who are trying to bring an end to the violence and those in the Unionist community who have a, I think, long-held misperception that we have a special agenda or a Nationalist hidden agenda behind us. The U.S. role is not to push our agenda on them, but rather to support those who can move things forward on the basis of consent in Northern Ireland.
We have been working very hard over the last couple of years, and particularly over the last few weeks to try and see how we could be helpful to support moving things forward. We have endorsed what they call the twin-track proposal by the two governments in Northern Ireland, which is basically a proposal to have prepatory talks of varying levels move forward at the same time that there would be an international body to address the issue of arms that has become an obstacle to moving towards all party talks.
There have been a lot of conversations over the last couple of days and weeks between us and the parties in Northern Ireland and the two governments to see how we could be helpful in moving things forward.
The current status is that the two Prime Ministers, Major and Bruton, have been writing and talking to each other over the last week or so in an effort to try and move things forward. We believe that is a genuine effort. They are truly trying to work through the remaining outstanding issues. I'm not in the position to go into what those issues are really, other than to say that I think they're honestly trying to move this forward. Helen asked what our position on the decommissioning issue was. It has long been, and remains, that we have urged the parties to address seriously the issue of decommissioning of arms and continue to do so. That is included in the twin-track process.
Q: What specifically do we expect or do we hope this trip will produce on those talks?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think for the press it's been -- I mean, I see a lot of stories of expecting basically Clinton to pull a rabbit out of a hat in Northern Ireland. And it simply is not going to happen. It is not clear to me whether the twin track is going to be launched before or after we get there. Our role is to continue to move it forward. I think it's difficult to predict whether Prime Minister Major and Bruton will be able to come agreement before we get there.
I think the important to remember here is what's happened in the last 15 months there. It's a truly changed society. People live normally. They can go out shopping or to the pubs without getting blown up. They can drive their cars without getting their cars searched at checkpoints. The military presence has been dramatically reduced. And for the first time life is becoming normal there.
That is not an insignificant change. Change is going to take time in Northern Ireland, but I think there is a process going there where the two governments are deeply engaged. And we can hope that it moves forward. I think anyone who's predicting what's going to happen is ill informed.
Q: Do you consider Ian Paisley a major political leader?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. I mean, on the leaders there, I think we will try and work in the leaders of the major political parties, certainly, and Paisley would be one of them. Beyond that, we're just really not able to go into -- we'll be sure and see them while we're there, if they will agree.
Q: Can you tell me more about the economic component of the trip, particularly in the -- in Northern Ireland and Ireland, he's got a couple speeches and appearances at industrial facilities? But is this -- is this a specific selling mission? Are they taking any American businesspeople over there to try to close any deals, or is it just kind of general to help the peace process?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would not expect us to be closing deals while we're there, but it will be a continuation of a process that we launched last May with the trade and investment conference, which is to put the full weight of the U.S. government behind efforts to promote trade and investment in Northern Ireland.
Ron Brown has been over there, Assistant Secretary Chuck Meissner, from the Commerce Department, has made several trips over there. We've had a continuing effort with those in the business community that expressed interest there.
There will probably be a delegation that comes with us, which would include some business leaders. Frankly, we're still working out that piece of it. But I think we would want to emphasize while we're there -- and the schedule reflects that -- the importance of trade and investment.
A lot of the violence is fueled by the economic deprivation there, and to the extent you can help alleviate much of the causes as you can help solidify the peace process.
Q: Is Ron Brown going as part of the delegation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd have to check. Again, the actual delegation, I think we're not -- frankly, I'm just not briefed up on exactly who is going from the government yet.
Q: Where do things stand on the international commission, and what role, if any, would George Mitchell play --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm really not in a position to discuss any role that George Mitchell would play since there's no commission yet.
Right now it's very much part of the twin track. There is agreement among the various governments that they would expect to invite a distinguished American to be involved in this commission. And beyond that until the twin track is launched, I think it's premature to get into it.
Q: To what degree with the President's talks with Major focus on Northern Ireland relative, to say, Bosnia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It depends on where both of them are. Q: -- equal weight, or is he primarily focusing on -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, I think it's
always dangerous to give one weight to one country's interest over another country's interest and trying to weigh them. I think they're both important issues. Bosnia, obviously having just gotten the agreement, is going to be very much in their mind, and I'm sure they'll talk about Northern Ireland. I can't get into characterizing it.
Q: On the EU transatlantic agenda you mentioned, EU is one party to it, but which is the other community you mentioned? Is it NAFTA, or what's the North American community that's the other side of this transatlantic --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's the United States and the European Union.
Q: Just the U.S. and the EU?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Correct.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They're shaking their heads yes.
Q: Adams was very gloomy the other day -- (inaudible) -- about the prospects and saying that the process was almost at and end. Do you share this --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We continue to believe that the gaps that exist between the various parties on the twin track can be bridged. And we believe the two governments are committed to doing what they can to launch it. I think we're still hopeful that it can move forward.
Q: The telephone calls and the contacts that you've mentioned in the last days and weeks have obviously been at your level and at Anthony Lake's level. Is there a possibility that the President himself will be involved in this diplomacy in the next few days before he goes to Ireland? And if there is still no agreement, will he actually himself, involve himself in this trying to bridge the gap once he is in London and Belfast?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, there's nothing scheduled at the moment for the President's involvement on this, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out if it were appropriate right now. I'm sorry, what was the second half?
Q: Once he's in London and Belfast, might he himself continue this diplomatic effort to help bridge the gap?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I mean, I think -- you have to look -- this is not a shuttle diplomacy by the President of the United States on Northern Ireland peace process. So I think when you're characterizing this, you need to have a sense of reality there. Of course, it's going to come up in his meetings. It's very much part of the agenda. I think it's unrealistic to expect him to be negotiating the details of this. But he is there supporting the peace process there. It will come up in his meetings, and I think his presence there and his involvement there will continue to advance the peace process. But there is not a secret shuttle diplomacy going on behind this trip.
Q: To flip the question over, have the British and Irish governments told the United States that there will definitely not be any kind of agreement while he's there next week?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q: -- specifically said -- ruled that out?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Absolutely not, no. No, I think they're genuinely trying to move it forward. And, no, it has not -- frankly, it hasn't been ruled in or out. I mean, it's linked less now to the President being there to the two governments trying to get it done.
Q: With the Bosnia agreement -- (inaudible) -- is that -- is there a possibility that Bosnia will play a larger role in the speech to the British Parliament, because the speech as you described it sounds like something we've heard a lot of before?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I think we have to -- I didn't go through everything that was going to be in the speech, but clearly when I talked about the -- a large part of the theme of the speech is going to focus on peace and U.S. leadership role in peace. And Bosnia is a large chunk of that message -- that unless the United States leads, the peace processes across the globe, are going to, you know, suffer. And Bosnia is the number one effort at the moment, so I think -- if I didn't make that clear the first time, certainly Bosnia is going to be a piece of it.
Q: Is there a feeling that England or other European countries need to be bucked up as well as the U.S. Congress, as far as the idea of sending troops in? Is that part of the message?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know if "bucked up" is the right point. I think the British government is fully committed to doing its part in Bosnia. I think overall the message there is that this is a major agreement that we're all going to have to do our part to support. That's going to include troops and money, frankly. Part of the discussions with the EU is certainly going to revolve around reconstruction funds. There's a major reconstruction fund to Bosnia that is going to have to take place, and the Europeans are going to do their part. But I don't think you should write the story that we're going there to pressure Major. I think he's fully on board.
Q: How much of this trip is important in terms of the President's effort to convince Congress to go along with Bosnia? And do you expect that we'll see European leaders publicly say if U.S. troops don't come, we're not going to be part of it either?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think Bosnia is going to center very much on this trip, both in the meetings with Prime Minister Major, the EU summit on the reconstruction fund, and the message back here that this is an important leadership role. I think the Europeans clearly understand the need for American leadership in this role. And that message will help underscore to those in Congress who need to get that message as well.
Q: Will they be sending the message that American leadership is a prerequisite for it happening at all -- I mean, American participation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that's a negative way of putting it. I think they will underscore that it's important. I think we're trying to send the message that we're going to be there, there's not a question of that. So I'd flip it a bit.
Q: What's the message of this trip to Irish Americans? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To Irish Americans? Q: Who live in Boston. (Laughter.) SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And New York.
Q: Who read my paper. (Laughter.)
Q: We feel your pain. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think, first of all, this is not just an Ireland trip. And I think the message to the American people is that America needs to lead in the world, in every part of the world; and that unless you have an activist American president, American interests are going to suffer, whether it's Bosnia or elsewhere. On Northern Ireland, I think the message is that we are going to stay engaged in Northern Ireland to help secure the peace and to the extent they can help support peace and bring an to the violence. They should continue to do that.
Q: How large is the reconstruction fund, and what is the U.S. contribution likely to be?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Luckily I'm going to pass all those questions to Mike, who's going to briefing later.
Q: Is he going to look for any ancestors?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He's going to be certainly looking out for people, whether or not they look like him, but he -- (laughter) -- he, as you know, he's got Irish roots -- the Cassidys, the Hayes, and the Ayers, and --
Q: The Cassidys, the who?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hayes and Ayers -- on both sides of his family. There's nothing formally planned with them. Frankly, the roots are pretty far back, but I'm sure that he will have a chance to touch base with his roots in some form, but there's nothing formally scheduled.
Q: The British were unhappy when the President in the campaign talked about a peace envoy. Then they were unhappy when he let Adams in. Is there any element of fence mending with Major and the British --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Frankly, I think we're way past that. I think we've built a very good working relationship with the British on the issue of Northern Ireland, consult with them regularly. I think you'll find, if you ask them, that they welcome our role and find it constructive.
So I don't really think there's a problem there.
Q: Is Princess Di going to be at the luncheon?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Ask McCurry that question.
Q: At the beginning of the briefing you didn't mention Saturday's schedule in Ireland. Has that been scrubbed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I just really want to just go through the sort of substantive events on the schedule, just in the interest of -- there are going to be some briefings later on, on exactly what the final schedule is. I'm just trying to go through the substantive events on the schedule, so --
Q: -- to accompany the President?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sorry?
Q: Is Secretary Warren Christopher going to accompany the President?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would expect so, yes.
Q: He will accompany --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: At the moment, yes.
Q: Is the First Lady going?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q: -- he meeting with Princess Di while he meets with -- (laughter) --
Q: Prince Philip.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not that I'm aware of. I frankly have not -- I haven't really gone through what the First Lady -- for the most part, she'll be with the President.
Q: There was a piece in the Irish Echo last week saying that efforts to establish the President's patrimony, particularly on the Cassidy side, were ultimately unavailing because they couldn't ever establish the vital transatlantic link between the -- is that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's my understanding. Frankly, I haven't spent a lot of time on the genealogy -- (laughter). That is my understanding of -- those who have attempted to really trace this back. I would not put a lot of money on whatever anybody tells you are the family trees here.
Q: -- you know when he had a visit from the Mormons the other day if they -- they are genealogical experts in the extreme -- did they discuss this question at all?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe they did leave the President with some genealogical information on it. I have no idea -- I haven't looked at it -- I have no idea whether it's accurate. I would just caution all of you to, you know -- he's clearly from -- his ancestors are clearly from Ireland, beyond that I'd be skeptical about what you read.
Q: Is Prime Minister Major going to be going to Belfast or Dublin?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sorry?
Q: Is Prime Minister Major going to be going to Belfast or Dublin with -- while he's there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not Dublin. He, I think, has -- it's his budget day that day in London, and it's not clear he's going to be able to join us. But it's not resolved yet.
Q: Are you still hoping to get all the principal leaders in Northern Ireland together under one roof at the Queens University reception?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We expect to invite a broad spectrum to the reception at Queens there and hope everyone comes.
Q: -- receptions in different rooms for the Unionists and the Nationalists?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not here.
Q: Why is there a separate meeting with David Trimble, the leader of the Unionist party and not with any of the other leaders? I understand there's going to be a separate meeting with him.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. I mean, as I said earlier, I think none of the actual -- none of the actual details have been finalized with anyone. And there was some information put out for planning purposes earlier that was just that. And I would leave it at that.
Q: In the visit to Madrid, will the President discuss the possibility of a Spanish candidate to the NATO post?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The issue of the NATO Secretary General is very much being discussed in many capitals. I think it's under discussion now. Whether it will be resolved by the time he gets there, it's really too hard to tell.
Q: Is the U.S. blackballing anybody else?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I can buck that to Mike, so -- (laughter).
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:26 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269845