THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 24, 1995
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
Warwick Hotel New York, New York
2:40 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: I wanted to stop by briefly on my way to the Lincoln Center to give you a readout on the half-hour long trilateral meeting that the President had with President Izetbegovic and President Tudjman. They met half an hour in a trilateral format. The President then had a brief word privately with both Presidents before their departure.
In the President's discussion with his two colleagues he stated once again that the United States was committed to an honorable peace in Bosnia that will preserve the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He spoke in a very impassioned way about the opportunity that now exists in the Dayton proximity talks for real progress towards a settlement of this conflict.
He noted that he had seen amazing things happen in the last several years that he, frankly, thought would never be possible -- real genuine discussions of peace between Arabs and Jews, genuine discussions in Northern Ireland that could bring an end to the Troubles, progress towards peace and reconciliation in South Africa. And he made the point to them that at this moment the entire world longs for a settlement of this conflict that has been so tragic.
He pledged on behalf of the United States that we will do everything we can to see that there is a strong coordinated force that will be in a position that will enforce any peace that they can agree to in the talks in Dayton. And he said, of course, that the United States will be willing to play a major leadership role in such a force.
The other subject that the President attached great importance to in his discussions with the Bosnian leader and the Croatian leader is the federation that exists between Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims, and then also the confederation that exists between that federation and the government of Croatia. He said it is very, very important for both leaders to do anything they can to deepen and nurture the peace that is represented by this federation; that they take practical steps on the ground so that citizens who are both Croat and Muslim begin to see that this federation can pay a real dividend. And he suggested to them that -- the strength of that federation would be a very important underpinning of any peace settlement that is reached with the Serbs that would bring and end to the conflict.
They explored that subject then as each individual -- as President Izetbegovic first, and the President Tudjman responded. Both of them said that they were encouraged by the prospects for progress in Dayton. Quoting President Izetbegovic, he said that "we have great expectations."
They reviewed some of the issues related to both the federation and to the proximity talks. There was no attempt in this meeting to negotiate because President Clinton made it very clear that that was the very hard work that lies ahead in Dayton. But he did encourage them to be flexible, to seek formulas that will work and to be very determined as they begin a process that, of course, the United States hopes will lead to peace.
In the -- in concluding the trilateral meeting, the President said, "I hope you will be able to achieve unity between the two of you because I hope that will be an important part of an agreement." He said, "We don't want just any old agreement, we want one that is decent, honorable, good, and one that will work."
The President then turned over briefly the program to Secretary Christopher and to Assistant Secretary Holbrooke who briefed on the process itself. They outlined a little bit to the two Presidents about how they see the process in Dayton unfolding and they reviewed just some issues related to the logistics of the talks themselves. President Tudjman again indicated as he has publicly that because of commitments in Croatia he will, after some period of time, return to Croatia and then return back to Dayton if the talks are still going. Assistant Secretary Holbrooke made the point that we have no way of knowing at this point how long the talks will last.
But, in sum, the President was very encouraged by these discussions today. He believes that on behalf of the government of Croatia and the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina there's a real willingness to seek peace in these talks, that the parties are going to arrive at the table in a mood disposed towards finding agreements, and certainly he did everything he could today to encourage both of those parties to see that that mood prevails as the talks begin in Dayton.
Q Did Tudjman repeat his remarks that were in the paper this morning about beginning an offensive if the talks do not conclude --
MR. MCCURRY: No. To the contrary. He said after 44 months of war he felt that the citizens of his country are ready for peace.
Q Mike, Milosevic is not here. What's the U.S. understanding of his absence?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he was not -- Milosevic was not expected here in New York, he is expected in Dayton as the talks begin next week.
Q Does this related in any way to -- you know, to the Dole campaign or any other objections to the Serb leader because of the atrocities?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not aware of any plans for him to have attended any of these U.N. meetings here in New York.
Q Is that because of sanctions?
MR. MCCURRY: It's more to do with scheduling and the location of the proximity talks in Dayton and not New York.
Q No, no, I mean his absence here in New York from the U.N. anniversary celebration. Why is he not here?
MR. MCCURRY: Why is he not here in New York? I don't know. You should direct that to the government of the former Yugoslav Republic.
Q Is this the first time they've all sat down together, or the second?
MR. MCCURRY: Nick -- Nick Burns? I don't believe the time that we established the federation agreement -- I can't remember whether they met directly, or not. Do you remember, Barry?
Q No. I wondered if Budapest was a --
MR. MCCURRY: We'll check. Maybe Nick Burns can help.
Q Mike, do you have anything you want to add to what the President said about a Republican candidate for president interrupting and possibly wrecking -- trying to wreck the peace talks --
MR. MCCURRY: Which -- you mean the Middle East peace process, or the Bosnian peace process? (Laughter.) We could discuss either one today, apparently.
Nick, do you recall, have Clinton, Izetbegovic, and Tudjman ever met together before? Is this their first meeting? Did we do one when we did the Washington agreement, did they -- they were not here for that. We'll double-check. I believe that may have been the first time those three -- no, I think the President was very clear; he said that, obviously, we need to do everything we can to encourage this peace process at a moment where at least on behalf of two of the parties we had a very public declaration today that they want to make progress. And as the President suggested, without the third party present there's not going to be any progress towards peace. And it just would seem folly at this point to prevent these parties from working towards a settlement of this tragic conflict. And it's incomprehensible why any member of Congress would want to take that position.
Q What about the Middle East peace talks, since you're on the subject?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the United States Congress is considering a measure today that the President believes is a very unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion into the Middle East peace process by taking a position on an issue that the parties themselves have identified for their own talks face to face as a final status issue. The President -- the only welcome news that the President sees in this development is that there's a waiver provision in the legislation that the President will use to make sure that this unwarranted intrusion into the peace process does not interfere with the ability of the parties to reach their own judgments and conclusions about peace. They have been making progress just -- quite well without unnecessary interference by outside parties.
Q Mike, is that to say that the President won't veto that bill in the Senate?
MR. MCCURRY: The President -- you all know what the size of the support is for the measure in both Houses, so a veto would not result in the position that the President would like. He's very much against the legislation, but it's not clear that his veto would be sustained. In any event, the importance of the waiver provision is what we would point to because that gives the President a way, if necessary, to prevent this measure from interfering with the peace process itself.
Q Why do you think, or why does he think they did it, since they gutted it with a waiver anyhow?
MR. MCCURRY: You'd have to ask individual members and they are quite anxious to rise on their feet to speak to the measure.
Q Well, you're quite willing to speak of political motives on blocking Milosevic. Was this a politically inspired piece of legislation?
MR. MCCURRY: You'd have to ask the sponsors.
Q Has Mr. Milosevic been granted a visa and will it be limited to Dayton?
MR. MCCURRY: He has been granted a visa and the State Department spokesman -- since the State Department grants visas -- can tell you more about it. He has been. It is a limited visa.
MR. BURNS: We're now considering his application. He's going to be granted a visa.
MR. MCCURRY: He will be granted a visa, and his visa application is under consideration by the U.S. State Department.
Q Are you going to limit it to Dayton, Ohio?
MR. BURNS: Limited or not, he's coming here to visit Dayton, Ohio.
MR. MCCURRY: He's coming here for the proximity talks in Dayton.
Q What are your expectations for the China meeting? Do you expect any breakthrough in this meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: The question was about the President's expectations for his meeting with Jiang Zemin. This comes at a point in which, obviously, the President hopes that we can return some measure of normalcy and stability to, arguably, one of the most important bilateral relationships that the United States maintains in the world. This meeting will be an opportunity to review in a more comprehensive way the status of our bilateral relationships and really to discuss a strategy by which both the United States and China can remain engaged on issues that are fundamentally important to both sides as we exchange views on issues that sometimes are difficult and sometimes, frankly, result in progress that encourages economic growth, encourages interests that both nations share.
Q Mike, was the President at all disturbed by the comments made at the U.N. today by the Chinese President about nations citing democracy and human rights to interfere in sovereign --
MR. MCCURRY: The President's strong feelings on the universality of fundamental human rights as they are expressed in the U.N. Charter and as they have been codified by the United Nations itself is very well-known. It is a subject that we press upon the Chinese when we have an opportunity to exchange views.
Q Will he press him today on human rights?
MR. MCCURRY: He very likely will, and very likely will raise one or two specific cases.
MR. MCCURRY: We'll do a readout after the meeting.
Q Mike, if every time the Republicans in Congress do something like this the President only says this is unfortunate, isn't he just encouraging them to continue to do this and meddle with his foreign policy?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have said things much stronger than that, Jack. That's not an accurate characterization. The President at Freedom House said there is a very disturbing trend towards isolationism and an erosion in what has been a bedrock of American policy in the last half of this century which is a bipartisan approach to foreign policy. And increasingly, in a variety of ways, we see driven by politics sometimes, I think also driven by ideology and by a tendency towards isolationism, an effort to challenge some of the President's foreign policy objectives.
But that is part of the current political culture in America. It's also something that the President has been addressing forcefully and will continue to address because he is adamant about making the case for the need for U.S. leadership and adamant about our responsibilities to fulfill our obligations as we seek to lead the peace process in places like Bosnia and the Middle East. And those who would attempt to disrupt that process, for whatever reason, need to be challenged. And the President did so today and will do so in the future.
Q Can I go back to Mike's question briefly on Tudjman? Did his comments to -- come up specifically and did he retreat specifically from those comments?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again.
Q Tudjman's remarks about renewing aggression after 45 days, did those come up specifically and did he retreat specifically --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think the question earlier was about President Izetbegovic. Now, President Tudjman's --
Q No --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry. In fact, let's go back to that question then. I misinterpreted the question because I thought you were asking about President Izetbegovic.
President Tudjman did say that there are concerns that the government of Croatia has in sector east, but he did reaffirm today something he said publicly that the peace process itself is important, and while it is underway, the government of Croatia would refrain from military steps that would disrupt the peace process, and, clearly, that was of interest to the President, the President having urged him to exercise maximum restraint when it comes to Eastern Slovonia.
Q Mike, by any chance did the Bosnia President say they wanted help drafting a constitution? Their Foreign Minister made that point. I don't know if it carried up to the presidential level.
MR. MCCURRY: It was not stated that specifically, Barry. President Izetbegovic did indicate very real concern about constitutional arrangements and said that would be a major issue for the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina as they go to Dayton. And we understood that to be the case and are prepared to be as helpful as we can be.
Q Mike, on Tudjman again, did he say at all to the President, though, that there was a finite period during which he would negotiate, and if there wasn't a settlement in that period he would go to war?
MR. MCCURRY: He was not that specific. He said that he understood that the peace process was important and he understood that military actions during the period the peace process is fully engaged would be problematic. It's not a direct quote; I'm paraphrasing. And that was certainly our understanding and certainly similar to what President Tudjman has said in the past.
Q Did Holbrooke offer any comment on that meeting and on Bosnia today? And I have a follow-up.
MR. MCCURRY: No plans for that, no.
Q Mike, could you assess the degree -- the increase in the degree of difficulty that this whole process takes on when you look at the future relationship between the United States and Russia with Bosnia sort of becoming the linchpin, moving into the whole issue of NATO expansion and so forth?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, one thing that President Clinton did tell President Izetbegovic and President Tudjman is that, based on his discussions yesterday with President Yeltsin, the Russian Federation is a very full participant in the Contact Group process and will be very actively engaged as we search for peace. I think one result of our meeting yesterday is, as President Clinton suggested yesterday, we have a common purpose when it comes to these talks in Dayton.
And the agreement by President Yeltsin and President Clinton to work together to try to encourage the parties to make progress in these talks reflects I think, the importance they attach to the issue and it also says something about our ability to work on difficult regional issues at a time in which there are some disagreements on aspects of solving those problems.
But, clearly, their determination yesterday to say we're going to try to make peace, that we, in a spirit of friendship, that we can use our offices to encourage these parties to make peace is an encouraging comment on the status of U.S.-Russian relations.
Q To repeat a question yesterday that wasn't fully answered -- what is it that gives the administration optimism that military officials can get together and find agreement on what appears to be irreconcilable political differences in the command structure of the --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, President Yeltsin, if I heard him correctly, suggested to you yesterday that those differences are not necessarily irreconcilable. On the other hand, there were not resolutions of those issues yesterday. But, clearly, both Presidents looked for ways that they could explore resolution of the issue, focusing on things that their military experts can now discuss as they will soon discuss.
Q In the past the White House has always stressed that the President didn't like to disturb New Yorkers when he visits New York. Both last night and this morning problems we had problems. The police department says it's because they weren't told until very shortly before. Can you tell us, one, what went wrong; and, two, does the President feel he owes New Yorkers an apology?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I know a little bit about -- just what we've been able to find about the incident last night. The President clearly regrets the inconvenience that all Americans face when he travels. At the same time, I think he feels Americans understand what security concerns exist and that they are sympathetic about the need to protect the leaders of this country. Most Americans and most New Yorkers understand that.
There was apparently some action taken by the New York Police Department last night that the Secret Service was either unaware of or did not encourage, it is not clear which. And I would direct you to the New York Police Department to find out about cars that were towed and things like that.
On the President's ability to move around New York and to get his work done, as are all the other leaders who are here, it's clearly been a disruption to New Yorkers and the city, but the city has responded magnificently and the President had an opportunity in a private meeting last night with Mayor Giuliani to say, thank you, on his behalf and on behalf of the White House for an extraordinary job that's been done by the city of New York and for the very gracious way in which the citizens of New York have welcomed all of the leaders who are here for this very historic gathering.
Q Mike, on today's change of venue from the Library to Lincoln Center, do you officially find this a bit of an overreaction, hypersensitivity, given the arguably benign nature of the exhibit?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that I have any direct comment on that other than to say that the change of venue for the bilateral meeting has certainly made that exhibit 1,000 percent more interesting to the public than it otherwise would have been.
Q Mike, there's a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Dick Morris talked to Gordon Black, a consultant to the Ross Perot effort, and offered his help to the Perot California effort, although Morris denies it. A, are you aware of the report, and, B, has the President talked to Morris about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I heard about the report, and I think you ought to check in with Ann Lewis down at the Clinton-Gore Committee to see if they'd know anything about it.
Q Would the White House discourage anyone advising the President from helping Ross Perot?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a political matter that I'd refer you to our campaign committee. They'd know more about that kind of thing.
Q Is there really a Dick Morris?
Q And you don't know anything about that kind of thing. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't had an opportunity to talk to anyone about that today.
Q -- Gingrich and Dole were in the Senate gallery today offering the President if he wants to give a seven-year budget, they'd welcome it, give him a couple of days to come up with it -- any reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that the President would prefer that the Majority Leader and the Speaker get to work on the budget rather than hold constant press conferences. (Laughter.) The President, in June, gave the leadership of the Congress a balanced budget proposal that gets to the goal of a balanced budget the right way, and there hasn't been one single effort by the United States Congress to seriously consider that proposal. It's there, it represents the best way to balance the budget. And the Congress, knowing now that they are working o na budget proposal that Americans find wrong, and knowing that that budget proposal is dead on arrival when it hits the White House, are scrambling to try to change the subject.
And what they should do is to immediately take up the President's budget proposal. Then they might make some real progress on a goal that the President and the Congress share which is balancing the budget.
Q Last week the President sounded much more conciliatory than you sound today. Are you backing off from his remarks that he finds areas in which can compromise on a seven-year budget?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he -- his door is open. He's holding the door open. He has found ways to hold that door open. He's suggested ways to the Congress in which they might engage in a practical dialogue. And what we get are responses that are nothing more than gimmicks.
Q What about Rubin -- on the debt limit? Does Rubin have a specific proposal involved, or what's --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. We may say some more about that tomorrow.
Q When are you giving a readout on China?
MR. MCCURRY: We're not -- I'll have Bob Suettinger, who is the notetaker and the -- is he Senior Director for East Asia? Say again, Mary Ellen.
MS. GLYNN: Senior Director for East Asia.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he's Senior Director for East Asia and the notetaker for the meeting. He'll be here with Ambassador Lord. And we'll try to make them available as soon after 5:15 p.m. or so as we can.
Q On camera?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll check with them. Ambassador Lord has a preference to do things on background without describing to you what senior official we might make available later. (Laughter.)
Q Okay, thanks, Mike. (Laughter.)
Q Are you coming back to State?
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q Are you coming back to State? You're talking like State.
MR. MCCURRY: I know, I'll tell you -- I've got to get out of New York and get away from this foreign policy stuff. I'm growing a propeller on my head.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:00 P.M. EDT