Press Briefing by Secretary of State Warren Christopher
The Briefing Room
6:21 P.M. EDT
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm going to give you brief comments on today's meetings. This is only halfway through, and so you'll be not surprised if many of the things are tentative, and in many instances, I can only give you subject matter without any agreements or particular indications as to how things went. In short, this is an intermediate report.
My own sense of it is that this was a good example of a day of a partnership that is working very effectively and a partnership between the two men is very effective. They began by a one-on-one discussion, which immediately they determined would last through the morning, rather than going into a delegations meeting, and the two Presidents went until 12:45 p.m.
My own impression, from seeing them together this afternoon bears out what I heard about this morning. These are two men who like each other. They speak quickly in an animated way. They've learned to communicate very effectively and they get right down to business.
This will, I think, eventuate in more than $1 billion of commercial agreements being signed before this summit is finished in the Ex-Im area, in the OPIC area, and in the trade development area. They began this morning by reviewing the economic situations in both countries. In different ways there has been unusual progress since the last time the two of them were together; progress toward stability and effective operation in Russia and the progress toward economic recovery here in the United States.
President Yeltsin expressed appreciation for the President's decision on Jackson-Vanik to find Russia in compliance and make it no longer necessary for them to have annual reviews. President Yeltsin expressed the hope that they would be able to go the next step; that is, to graduate them completely from the JacksonVanik requirements. That will require a congressional action, and President Yeltsin, in expressing appreciation for what was done this year, indicated that they hoped they could take that next step in the future.
There was both in the one-on-one meeting, as well as in the delegations meeting, which took place in parallel, discussions about the situation in Bosnia. I think there is appreciation that there is a new circumstance there in that the Bosnian government does not wish to have the arms embargo lifted and implemented -- I'm sorry -- the lifting of the arms embargo implemented at the present time, and has indicated that they feel that a six-month deferral of the lifting would be in their own interest. Both sides indicated that this six-month period ought to be used to try to bring the Bosnian Serbs into agreement. There was common ground that we should continue with the unity of the Contact Group, carrying out the incentives and disincentives, and making maximum use of the Serbian government's willingness to cooperate in putting pressure on the Bosnian Serbs.
A very interesting suggestion was made and President Clinton suggested that it would be very desirable if there was mutual recognition between Serbia and Bosnia of their borders and of their right to exist. And President Yeltsin recognized the importance of that idea and indicated that that was something that was desirable and they would try to pursue it.
I would say the discussion of Bosnia will probably continue into tomorrow, but this was an example of the need to maintain unity between the Contact Group and an indication here between the United States and Russia that they would be able to do so, aided by the deferrable with respect to the lifting of the arms embargo.
There was a discussion of COCOM and Russia's participation in COCOM. As you know, there's been an issue there about Russian arms sales to Iran. Without being able to be more explicit, I would say that I believe there's a resolution in sight on this very difficult issue. That will be discussed again tomorrow and perhaps we can have more details on that at the end of these meetings.
There was a discussion also of CFE, the Conventional Forces in Europe Agreement. It was interesting that the parties seemed to be on common ground, that ways would be found to resolve that issue within the current limits. There was no sense of a determination to break out by any means.
In the delegation meeting -- and perhaps I should step back and explain that while the Presidents were having their one-onone, the remainder of the delegations discussed the issues that they had before them. Foreign Minister Kozyrev, the Deputy Prime Minister Soskovets and, I believe, Defense Minister Grachev; and on our side, Secretary of Defense Perry from the United States side, and on the delegation the Vice President and myself and others.
We began the discussion in the delegation meeting by discussing the many ways in which we worked effectively together in the course of the last year. We discussed at some length the Baltics and how the removal of the Russian troops on accordance with the timetable was a major step forward. And I pointed out that one of the positive benefits from the Russians handling this in the way they did was that the Baltic countries now seem to be very anxious to have maintained a good relationship with Russia, and they've come to us indicating a desire to make sure that their new relationships with Russia are sound ones.
We talked about the trilateral agreement between Russia, the United States and Ukraine that was regarded by all hands as a positive development. We discussed the withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova. And we discussed the progress in the Middle East where we're cosponsors, and we received some compliments from the Russian delegation about progress we had made there and the fact that we kept them fully informed.
This afternoon, President Yeltsin and President Clinton joined us after that very moving ceremony with respect to the World War II veterans. They summarized what they had done in their one-onone conversations, and then we went through a number of additional topics. There was a good discussion of crime and corruption in both countries. Both Presidents indicated that their people had a high degree of interest in the resolution of these problems and it was agreed that there would be mutual efforts to cooperate on these matters.
There was the same kind of a discussion on nuclear smuggling, and it's hoped that perhaps even before this summit is concluded that there will be more details and more specificity on approaches to nuclear smuggling. But the parties clearly want to be forthcoming on this issue, to exchange vast amounts of information so that both parties are up to date or understand what the nuclear conditions are in each other's country.
North Korea -- there was a very preliminary discussion of North Korea in which views were exchanged and there was an agreement to stay in close touch on that.
Toward the end of the day there was a discussion of security issues, and I think that since that was preliminary and not conclusive that I will not try to brief on those issues, but simply for completeness sake, I wanted you to know that there was -- perhaps for the last half hour -- a discussion of security issues, which I think will be briefed to you tomorrow.
That's basically the outlines of the day. As you can see, a great many subjects were discussed. Discussions were very intense, despite the fact that time was taken out for a luncheon at the State Department in which President Yeltsin was the guest of Vice President Gore and the moving ceremony with respect to the veterans. Nevertheless, all these subjects were covered, and I think we're anticipating a very full day again tomorrow.
Q: Were you hinting that Russia will halt its arms sales to Iran?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm hinting the resolution of this matter is within view. And since that was the core of the problem, obviously it would involve some approach of that kind.
Q: Sir, do you have similar hopes for China's missile technology sales to Pakistan? You know the Chinese delegation is coming here next week and it is on the agenda. Is this going to be a good week for ending proliferation to unstable regimes?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Barry, it didn't take you very long to get beyond the summit today. I really would rather not characterize the prospects there. It is true that the Foreign Minister Qian Qichen is coming here to Washington next Monday to meet with me and also to meet with the President and that will be a topic of high importance on the issue. But I don't want to try to characterize the likely outcome.
Q: Mr. Secretary, did President Clinton comment in any way on President Yeltsin's speech at the United Nations yesterday; particularly the part where he talked about -- not using this term -- sphere of influence in the form of the Soviet Union?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, they exchanged compliments on each other's speeches. An unusual thing that they spoke on the same day and in the prior years, there had been quite a studied effort to separate their speeches. And I think it's a reflection of the new partnership at work that they spoke on the same day. On the sphere of influence issue, there was certainly no reference to that, and I think neither party, neither of the sides recognized spheres of influence.
As you know, our efforts in Haiti were pursuant to United Nations resolutions. We expect that the efforts of Russia and the new independent states will be pursuant to international law and such international organizations as CSCE or the United Nations. So, no, I didn't hear any discussion on spheres of influence, and the reason is that the parties don't recognize such.
Q: Can I just follow on that? Does the lack of a comment on that mean that the President endorses what Mr. Yeltsin said on that subject yesterday?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You know, you have to tell me exactly what that was, but I'm sure if there was -- if that was implication of spheres of influence, the President does not endorse that.
Q: He said, for one thing, basically that Russia is the chief guarantor of basically freedom in the old Soviet Union, sort of "our backyard" argument. Do you subscribe to that?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, we recognize that Russia naturally has a particular interest in countries on its borders just as we do, but I wouldn't agree with the characterization of a principal guarantor, because I think that's a matter for the international community as a whole, working through such organizations as United Nations and such regional organizations as CSCE.
Q: He also said that there should be no double standard when it comes to securing human rights and for major countries to be the guarantor of human rights. It was no double standard that -- you know, it was sort of a clear implication with regard to Haiti, but you reject that, obviously?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, yes I do, and I think we're active in Haiti for the reasons the President has stated, and one of the important ones is because of the many atrocities there in Haiti, and that's one of the obviously American interests that bring those to an end.
Q: To what extent does the United States encourage the Bosnian Muslims to accept the six-month postponement of the embargo? Did the Russians give you any indication today that they might be willing to accept a U.N. resolution stating that clearly?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, as you know, Doug, we've been hearing for some time that the Bosnian government might be taking a somewhat different position with respect to the timing of the lifting of the embargo. When Prime Minister Silajdzic came to see me last Friday and when President Izetbegovic met with the President on Sunday, they put forward in a formal way the idea of a postponement or a deferral of the lifting of the embargo.
That was spelled out in President Izetbegovic's speech at the U.N. today. When we heard that from the Bosnian government, it was an idea that seemed to us, since they came to us and explained the reasons for it, seemed to us to make good sense, and I think we're anxious to try to explore the modalities of carrying it out through a U.N. resolution.
What was said today in the meeting by the Russians that they welcome that thought because it would give us that much additional time to try to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to accept the plan put forward by the Contact Group. The Russians place great store by the pressure being put on the Bosnian Serbs by the Serbian government, and so I think, giving that additional time for that to happen that they've regarded as a positive matter.
Q: Mr. Secretary, is there going to be a new agreement designed to curb smuggling of nuclear material that you're going to announce tomorrow? Is that what you're hinting at?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No, I'm not hinting that. I'm hinting we might have something more to say about it.
Barry, did you want to follow up?
Q: I just wanted to follow up, please. The way you phrased the Bosnian situation opens to my head the possibility of going ahead with the resolution on the 15th but with a delayed effectiveness, a six month -- so you're not foreclosing, are you so you're not foreclosing, are you, the President keeping his commitment to Congress by presenting a resolution on the 15th, but its implementation being delayed for months, is that correct?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: On the contrary. I am saying the President will carry out his commitment to Congress, and will go forward with the presentation of a resolution with some kind of a delay in the implementation of it. Just how that's worked out will be, I think, negotiated fairly heavily over the course of the next month because there are some delicate issues to be worked through there. But the President will keep his commitment to Congress in going forward with such a resolution by about the first of November.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you be a little bit more specific on the kinds of things that the Contact Group can do to convince the Serbs to that which they haven't done for the past several months? And further, is there any more serious thought than in the past that we've given to the idea of a sort of multinational summit on this problem?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, with respect to the kinds of things -- as you know, the United States has long thought there ought to be a stricter enforcement of the exclusion zones, and perhaps an expansion of exclusion zones. And the six-month period would give us an opportunity to pursue that. I think that the United States intends to talk to the other members of the Contact Group about ways to do that.
As you also know, the United Nations has recently approved a resolution, or will be approving soon a resolution putting stricter sanctions on the Bosnian Serbs. And I think the enforcement of those stricter sanctions, especially the economic form of those, can put some additional pressure on.
There was a reference today by the Russians of the possibility of an international conference. Our feeling about that -- the United States' feeling about that is that such a conference may serve a purpose at some point, but it would be some distance in the future after we worked through the possibilities we have now to try to put additional pressure on the Bosnian Serbs.
Q: Mr. Secretary, with the suggestion by President Clinton about the mutual recognition between Serbia and Bosnia of the borders -- would that be complicated at all by the map that is being discussed at this point? How would that work, exactly?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No, because Bosnia-Hercegovina remains an entity, and Serbia would simply be recognizing the entity of Bosnia-Hercegovina and thus recognizing the borders. Part of that discussion was that that might be accompanied by an additional relaxation of sanctions. I think our position would be that there should be no recognition -- there should be no talk about any additional suspension or relaxation until that kind of a commitment was forthcoming; that is, the Serbian government recognizing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia.
Thank you very much.
END 6:39 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Secretary of State Warren Christopher Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269761