Press Briefing by Counselor to the President David Gergen
2:00 P.M. (L)
MR. GERGEN: Good afternoon. Can I have your attention, please? We promised you a brief readout from this morning's session. This will be on the record. At the conclusion of this readout, we'll have a background briefing by two senior administration officials about the morning, about the political communique. So if I can go through that, then we'll march that and then open this up to questions.
The two senior officials I think you know are [names deleted].
Now, with regard to the on-the-record portion of this. The President was very pleased with the outcome of this morning's discussions. He thought the discussions were highly productive and freewheeling.
The political communique, you should have received a copy of it by now. The President is pleased with the communique because he believes it's serious, it cuts some new ground and it looks to the future. He came here, as you know, with a number of issues that he thought should be on the international agenda and should be reflected in this communique, and he believes they are.
Among the issues: nonproliferation; terrorism --and this communique includes strong language on state-sponsored terrorism; Bosnia -- the President believes the communique is strong and realistic with regard to Bosnia; the increasing level of concern about the threats posed by Iran; and issues relating to democracy, democratic reforms, and Russia.
President Clinton has believed that this communique should serve as a vehicle for defining an international agenda for the future and encouraging foreign policies to move in that direction. And he believes this communique succeeds in that task.
Now, with regard to the discussions this morning, the bulk of the discussions were devoted to the drafting of the communique. That part of the discussion started -- as you know, the morning started around 9:30 a.m. and that portion of the discussion went until about 11:30 a.m.
I think you're aware a good deal of the discussion was directed to Bosnia. During the discussions, as the heads of state decided that they wanted some further drafting, they delegated the foreign ministers to go to another chamber where they met. There was a pause in the proceedings while they waited for the foreign ministers return. I think that pause was somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes in length, and the heads of state had an opportunity to visit with each other personally during that time. The foreign ministers returned with some language which was accepted by the heads of state, and then was issued.
Now, I think a little background is helpful on the Bosnia language. I think a number of you have questions about it. You may remember, for those of you who were here late last night that we said that in the dinner last night, that the President initiated a discussion about the United Nations, about the reform and strengthening of the United Nations. And from that flowed a discussion about Bosnia. The heads of state had an opportunity to have a lively discussion about Bosnia and to put a number of ideas on the table. As you know, the President also discussed Bosnia more briefly with Prime Minister Major in their bilateral late last night.
But the bottom line is that this morning the heads of state agreed that they wanted to see the communique reflect the discussions they had last night and some of the ideas that they had discussed there. They, in particular, wanted to elaborate upon some of the language that was included in the first draft, and in elaborating that, they wanted to be more precise and to strengthen the language and to strengthen the communique itself.
In effect, they wanted to toughen it up without raising false expectations. And they believed that in the end that they did that. Now, we'll tell you in terms of what the President was particularly pleased about was not only the way the communique came out with regard to Bosnia and these other issues, he also thought that there was a very collegial process that helped to produce this language with regard to Bosnia; that there were a number of heads of state that were actively engaged in the discussions; that this was what a summit ought to be about -- a chance to talk freely as they did last evening and then to have a statement issued from those discussions which reflected the back and forth that they had.
Because of the rules of the summit, the protocol of the summit, we're not in the position to go into the full back and forth, but I think you well understand that a number of the heads of state have been engaged in this process, several of them have been engaged in the discussions and seeking some changes in the language, and they unanimously agreed upon the outcome. Now, in our background briefing, we will go into more detail on some of those issues.
As I say, that discussion ended about 11:30 a.m. The second item -- there were three items on the discussion today. The second item on the discussion was a reform of the G-7 process. Prime Minister Miyazawa spoke up on that first. Prime Minister presented some ideas, a number of ideas. There was a back-and-forth discussion, and it was fair to say that the President, as well as the others, were supportive of a notion of more informal summits, more focused summits.
We talked about the fact the President wanted to have a summit, to have these summits address one or two serious issues if they could, and to be largely devoted to that. There was a lot of discussion in this session about that. They haven't yet resolved how they will have the next summit, but I think it's fair to say that there was a good deal of agreement in the room about the need for more informality, less emphasis upon communiques or trying to draft, the drafting process, more give and take and more focus.
Now, the third issue that was on the agenda this morning was that of the status of Russia and the reform efforts there. On this subject, the President gave one of the longest interventions that he has made during the process of the summit. He told his fellow summiteers how much he thought that Mr. Yeltsin appreciated their efforts. The President said that the efforts of the G-7 in supporting the democratic reforms in Russia were the single most important foreign policy initiative that the G-7 members were undertaking. He said he thought that the efforts -- that the clear, unqualified support by the G-7 members this past several months was very helpful to Mr. Yeltsin and the referendum that took place in late April.
He also talked about the privatization fund and said how significant he thought a privatization fund would be and hoped that they would bring closure on that issue here very shortly. And I think you know that that's one of the objectives he came here with, this whole question of Russian aid is something he's taking the initiative on.
The President also spoke in this context about Russia -- and I'll be brief on this. He talked about the threat that the nuclear plants now pose to the environment, and Russia thought more effort needed to be made in that field. He explained how the United States was focusing more clearly upon support he could give to various sectors of the Russian economy. He thanked the EC members for the specific work that they're doing, said how helpful Japan has been on a number of fronts and said in general that the G-7 members of the industrialized nations have done a great deal and should be very proud of what has been accomplished.
Those are the three items on the discussion during the day. We will have, I think, in this background a chance to talk more specifically about individual elements. I'll take one or two questions, but then the rest we'll do into the background session.
Q: Why did they want to toughen the language without raising false hopes? I mean, what does it mean?
MR. GERGEN: I think we'd have to ask them individually about where they were driving, but the discussion last night showed that all -- coming here before in the original working efforts, there was a view that was common to all of the governments that an effort should be made to avoid raising false expectations, that extravagant language in a communique, while it might make a good one-day story, was not helpful in the long run and would only -- would not contribute to a final resolution.
At the same time in their discussion last night. There were a number of ideas that were put on the table by the heads of state, and they agreed that those ideas ought to be reflected in the final communique today. So what they were seeking was a balance, to be more specific, but also to avoid raising false expectations. That's where they think they'll come out.
Q: Did anybody suggest that last year's language was too much hot hockey, or anything like that?
MR. GERGEN: Why don't I leave that to the background briefing. That's a very pertinent question.
Two more questions and we'll stop.
Q: What expectations are you trying to raise?
MR. GERGEN: We're not trying to raise expectations. We're trying to be -- the heads of state are trying to be very realistic about what they think policies of the industrialized nation should be toward that part of the world.
Q: When you say stronger measures, what kind of measures are you talking about? And stronger measures to do what? To end the war? To protect the people? What are the stronger measures for?
MR. GERGEN: Clearly, they are intended to encourage the parties there to resolve their differences and to see if they can't come to a peaceful resolution. That's what this is all about at this point, and I think the language, on its face, is self-explanatory in that regard.
Q: Are you talking about diplomatic measures, then?
MR. GERGEN: I would refer you to the language of the communique, which I think is quite explicit on that point.
Q: On the language, what does it means when it says we will not accept territorial claims that have been taken --
MR. GERGEN: Why don't we leave that to the background briefing? We have two people who are eminently qualified to answer these questions.
We're going to move this to ON BACKGROUND with two senior administration officials, and I'll be available to answer further questions if that's appropriate.
Q: Was the President the main guiding force on this change of language?
MR. GERGEN: I want to emphasize with regard to the change in the language that it was a collegial effort, it was a collaborate effort by the heads of government. There were several different heads who wanted the change, and I think that in the background briefing we'll be a little bit clearer about that point.
END2:10 P.M. (L)
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Counselor to the President David Gergen Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269219