Venice Economic Summit Conference Exchange With Reporters Following the First Two Sessions.
THE PRESIDENT. We've completed our first full day of work here at the Venice summit conference. We've spent a great deal of time today talking about both the political and diplomatic interrelationships that bind us together, and also talking about the problem that we face in the 1980's with an almost inevitable reduction in the amount of oil that will be available to us by the end of this decade and the need to take strong, united, concerted conservation commitments among ourselves, and also increase the production of alternate forms of energy other than oil.
I was very pleased at the statement issued by the chairman and our host, Prime Minister Cossiga, this afternoon concerning Afghanistan. This was a carefully worded statement that shows the unity among the seven nations assembled here, the condemnation of the Soviets' invasion of and occupation of Afghanistan, the commitment that we've jointly made to maintain our opposition to this invading force and our admiration for those freedom-fighters in Afghanistan who are seeking to liberate their country from the occupying forces.
We observe with interest the announcement by the Soviet Union that some of their military forces were being withdrawn from Afghanistan. If these reports are confirmed and if these withdrawals are permanent and if these withdrawals are just a first step in moving the Soviets toward a permanent and total withdrawal of their forces from Afghanistan, then of course, this will be a significant thing.
All of the nations who have expressed themselves against participation in the Olympics vigorously reaffirmed their positions today, and all of us were very pleased at the outcome of this first day's work.
Q. Mr. President, could you speak about the timing of the Soviet announcement on the pullout, coming as it did at the start of the summit?
THE PRESIDENT. I'll speak personally, not for the entire group.
My belief is that it's much more associated with a desire to get Olympic participation than it is to modify the wording of the communiqué to be issued here in Venice. The Soviets want very much to have athletes come to Moscow. The Olympic boycott has hurt them very badly in world opinion and also within their own country. They are now offering to pay the expenses of individual athletes who might be authorized to come to the Soviet Union. And my belief is that that is more of a factor than this summit conference, but we don't know yet, as I said earlier. The significance of any troop withdrawal would have to be decided only after the withdrawal itself is confirmed and after we are assured that this is just a step in the total withdrawal of troops from the Soviet Union.
Q. Mr. President, did President Giscard amplify in any way on this TASS announcement? He had a personal message from Brezhnev, and did he tell you more?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. What did he tell you?
THE PRESIDENT. I would rather let him make those statements.
Q. [Inaudible]—say anything at all about your long conversation with Giscard d'Estaing? [Inaudible]
THE PRESIDENT. It could not have gone any better. President Giscard d'Estaing and I communicate frequently and regularly, either by telephone or by cable, and we meet together whenever we can. But we discussed a wide range of issues, bilateral issues between ourselves and France, matters concerning the European Community and also matters concerning the East Africa, Persian Gulf, and Southwest Asian region. This is an alliance and a relationship between our country and France that's very valuable to us and to them, and there are no differences, so far as I know, that are any cause for concern between our two countries.
Q. Mr. President, why don't you consider our withdrawal from the boycott of the Olympics if the Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan?
THE PRESIDENT. No. Our decision not to attend the Olympics was made back in February, and it is irrevocable as far as I'm concerned.
This question will be the last one.
Q. After speaking with President Giscard, do you have the feeling that the Soviet report or the Soviet talk about, of a pullback from Afghanistan is sincere or just a ploy to get Olympic participation?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't have any way to know. All of us believe that this Soviet announcement can only be judged as significant if it's accurate, if it's permanent, and if it's a first step toward total withdrawal. A partial withdrawal of Soviet forces, of carefully selected units, would have very little significance.
But we don't know the answer to any of those questions yet. We'll have to learn that as time evolves.
Thank you very much.
REPORTER. Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: The exchange began at approximately 7:30 p.m. outside the Cipriani Hotel.
Jimmy Carter, Venice Economic Summit Conference Exchange With Reporters Following the First Two Sessions. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251275