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1995 - US Press Briefing of Mr Major’s Meeting with President Clinton

Below is the text of the US press briefing related to the meeting with Mr Major and President Clinton, held in the Briefing Room of the White House on 4th April 1995.


PRESS BRIEFING BY THE U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE COURT OF ST. JAMES, ADMIRAL CROWE AND SENIOR DIRECTOR OF WEST EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, SANDY VERSHBOW

QUESTION:

Can we ask you some questions while we're waiting?

MR. MCCURRY:

Yes, I'm just going to say -- because Admiral Crowe's got to catch a plane, and I doubt very much you guys are going to need a lot of this. Is that okay? Good. Go ahead.

Let me just run through, very quickly, a couple of points on the meeting just concluded. The Prime Minister and the President met for about 45 minutes in the Oval Office, longer than they expected, and they had a very lively, and as the Prime Minister said, good-humoured discussion, but then moved over to the Family Dining Room in the Residence for a working -- what was to have been a short working lunch before they reconvened. But as they got into the discussion, everything seemed to click about their conversation. It went on briskly, and so they spent an hour and a half over in the Residence, worked right through lunch and continued working, so they didn't take the break to come back over here to the Residence.

But the meeting, as it was characterized by both the Prime Minister and the President, as you could tell, was very friendly and warm and enjoyable, and the luncheon was -- I suspect some people need to know this, fingerling potatoes and asparagus, roast monkfish on grilled mushrooms, and I can give you -- for those of you culinary inclined, I can give you more detail.

QUESTION:

What kind of mushrooms?

MR. MCCURRY:

Portobello mushrooms, with lobster essence and Thai basil sauce. I got to eat some extra peanuts that Dick Holbrooke gave me. And they had a romaine and mustard greens salad.

Now, with that, we'll just turn straight over the questions to the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Admiral Crowe; and to Sandy Vershbow from the National Security Council staff, who is the note-taker for both meetings; correct? Correct.

Why don't you both, Mr. Ambassador and Sandy, both come up. You guys can hold forth with questions.

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

Shall I call on them?

QUESTION:

Did the President and the Prime Minister discuss the Cyprus issue and the Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq against the Kurdish people?

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

I wasn't in the meeting.

MR. VERSHBOW:

They did not talk about Cyprus. There was some discussion of the Turkish incursion near Northern Iraq. I think there's agreement between us that, on the one hand, we understand Turkey's concerns about PKK terrorism and the need to deal firmly with terrorist actions; but on the other hand, the importance that the operation be ended as quickly as possible, and that every effort be made to minimize civilian casualties. There was no difference of view on that.

QUESTION:

Was there any discussion of Secretary Christopher's discussions and clear statements over the weekend that he thinks the United States government should move tougher against Iran and commercial trade with Iran and what Britain's moves might be to support toughening of those types of sanctions?

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

Yes, there was quite a bit of discussion. I don't know that any real decisions were made, but they are in lockstep on it, and they both agreed that we should move more vigorously and present a firm front on it.

QUESTION:

A question on the Partnership for Peace, please. When it was first introduced in Brussels in January of '94, it was very carefully presented as a gradualist approach, and it was presented that, by no means, necessarily, would the Partnership for Peace lead to the expansion of NATO. Today, the President sounded as if he were saying exactly that, that inevitably, NATO will expand. Is that the interpretation you intend to leave?

MR. VERSHBOW:

Yes, I wouldn't agree with your characterization of the original decision on the Partnership for Peace. At the NATO summit in January of '94, the Allies specifically said that NATO expects and would welcome the admission of new members. So the process of expansion began in January '94. It was put into higher gear at the December Foreign Ministers' Meeting when a formal process to define the path to NATO membership was begun.

The President has been saying that NATO expansion is inevitable for many months now, indeed going back to last year; his Cleveland speech is the definitive statement on this, and I would refer you to that.

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

But I don't think he meant by that, that the Partnership for Peace would necessarily lead to membership, not everybody who is in that will necessarily become a member of NATO.

QUESTION:

Can you say anything more about the discussions around the reform of the Bretton Woods system, what was the nature of the discussion and possibly anything more on Prime Minister Major's proposal?

MR. VERSHBOW:

I think I would be getting well ahead of the game given that the Prime Minister, as he said in the press conference, was presenting ideas that are still in formation.

I think that for our part, we certainly see the Mexican crisis as underscoring the need to look for ways to strengthen and reform the international financial institutions, to deal with the kind of crises we saw there with newly-developing economies being hit by the shock waves of sudden currency movements. And the international institutions aren't equipped to deal with even one Mexico, much less two, if they occurred at the same time.

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

And it was a free-ranging discussion. I think the Prime Minister's summary was relatively accurate. These are very, very early stages and more or less just examining what each other thinks.

QUESTION:

Admiral Crowe, what kind of discussions, if there were any -- what can be done to stop Russia from moving ahead with the nuclear reactors? Was there any discussion between the two as to what alternatives there are out there to put more pressure on Russia?

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

I don't know if --

MR. VERSHBOW:

That wasn't really a major focus of these meetings here. I believe the Prime Minister may have discussed it in other meetings in town yesterday, but --

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

He may have with the economic -- I wasn't at the economic meeting at lunch yesterday, but I think, as the President said, it's still a continuing drama, and it would hardly be appropriate to talk about that in any specific details.

QUESTION:

On Northern Ireland, both the President and the Prime Minister indicated that they want Sinn Fein to get cracking on talks on decommissioning weapons. But what evidence does the administration have of Gerry Adams' readiness to proceed along these lines? He was given the entree of the White House and the right to raise funds on the understanding he would enter into such talks, but so far, nothing has happened. Did he snooker you guys?

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

It's inaccurate to say nothing has happened. There have been a series of exchanges between the British government and the Sinn Fein. They were talking today. As a matter of fact, there was a meeting today, and they've got a problem which is well known and they put before the public, and that is the difference between decommissioning and demilitarisation, and the British government's reluctance to accept demilitarisation as the Sinn Fein has put it forward.

They are now trying to find ways to go around that, which I think the prospects are fairly good that they will. And that's going to be the test of what Gerry Adams said that he would do; that is, if, in actual fact, comes out of this some serious talks on decommissioning. But that's the way it's structured, and there's no way to short-cut or to abbreviate that. His commitment is honoured when they have those talks, and if they don't, why, then, they fail.

QUESTION:

Do you have a time line, though, for --

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

No, of course not. No.

QUESTION:

Are you going to wait on that?

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

We're going to wait on it until it succeeds.

QUESTION:

Can you explain what is the difference between decommissioning and demilitarisation?

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

In the parlance of the Irish problem, which has been around quite some time, those people that are dealing with it all the time consider demilitarisation shorthand for Brits out, which means that they equate the arms which -- the arms of a government, such as a police force or a military have with their arms. And if they give up their arms, those bodies that have been enforcing discipline and so forth, law and order in Northern Ireland now on behalf of the British government for quite some time, including military, would also either be taken out or given up. This, the British government cannot accept.

QUESTION:

1996 is going to be a very important year for the European Union. And even the Commissioner in Brussels, Mr. Santer, is not overly optimistic that he is seeing, going to see political agreement making it possible that this 20-member or 22- member European Union on the horizon is going to be able to survive. If that is going to happen and the European Union is falling back on the level of the free trade zone, what would be the option for Mr. Major, politically, strengthening of the trans-Atlantic relationship or focusing more on the common -- what do you know about it?

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

Well, I think his options are, of course, just as he has laid them out -- time again, and that is he intends to thrash this out in his own party and then lead the party and the country into the European Union in some fashion. But that's the subject of a debate in Great Britain right now, a rather vigorous and spirited debate, which also has caused some dissension and dissatisfaction within the Conservative Party.

It will be an important year, but I'm not so sure it would be quite as dramatic as you characterized it. I think the EU is probably going to survive --

QUESTION:

This goes on to putting a question about it is possible to hammer out a kind of political agreement on the foreign policy as it -- security -- making this bigger the European Union --

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

There's no particular hurry about doing this. They've got to thrash it out on their own councils first. And they do have some time. One of the interesting things about it is the Conservative Party has started this debate way before they need to. But in any event, they do have that time, and that's the genius of the system. They will thrash it out in some fashion.

MR. MCCURRY:

Last question, back here.

QUESTION:

Mr. Ambassador, did the issue of the British- American, Nick Ingram, who is scheduled to be executed in Georgia on Thursday come up at all?

AMBASSADOR CROWE:

I did not hear it come up.

MR. VERSHBOW:

No, it did not.

THE PRESS:

Thank you.