News

24 September 1997

TRANSCRIPT: GORE, CHERNOMYRDIN PRESS CONFERENCE SEPTEMBER 23

(On results of 9th session of Gore-Chernymyrdin Commission) (4970)



Moscow -- Speaking at a joint press conference with Russian Prime
Minister Victor Chernomyrdin September 23, Vice President Al Gore
characterized the ninth meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission as
"some of the most productive work we have ever been able to do."


He added that "we believe that our efforts are making a real
difference in building free markets and nurturing freedom, opening new
possibilities for a partnership, consolidating reform, and making real
progress around the world."


The two held a press conference following their meeting with Russian
President Boris Yeltsin and the culmination of the ninth session of
the Commission, which is formally known as the U.S.-Russian Joint
Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation.


Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin noted, "spoke in positive terms about the
efforts of the Commission in organizing Russian-American cooperation
in the sphere of the economy, investments, technology, environmental
protection, and health."


Citing the joint statement on the future of the Commission that he and
Gore had just signed, Chernomyrdin said he was "convinced that the
program we have just signed, the program that outlines our work until
the year 2000 ...envisages many concrete actions for the foreseeable
future and this is one of our most important challenges."


Gore said the highlights of the Commission meeting included "our
continuing efforts to build mutual investments and trade and open
Russian markets to new opportunities from the United States and,
incidentally, to pay careful attention as well to some of the problems
identified for us by our Russian colleagues, and make sure that we do
our homework and solve those problems."


A major breakthrough of the Commission meeting, Gore said, was that
"after much hard work we took an important, perhaps even historic step
this week when we reached agreement to halt the production of
weapons-grade plutonium both in the United States and Russia."


He noted U.S. concerns over a draft law to restrict religion in
Russia, saying "we have set in motion a process that will convey to
Russian officials the concern about certain aspects of this pending
measure which may abridge basic citizens' freedoms as we read the
language."


Regarding possible Russian transfer of missile technology to Iran,
Gore said "there is no doubt in my mind that the goals of Russia and
the United States are the same. We share the same concern about
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and proliferation of
technologies that can assist in the delivery of weapons of mass
destruction, such as ballistic missile technologies."


Asked about the safety of Mir and whether U.S. astronaut David Wolf
would join the Mir crew, Gore said "the NASA review is still underway
on this latest Shuttle mission and I think the decision is due to be
made in the next few days."
 

He noted that NASA Administrator Dan Goldin "made the point in our
Commission meeting that during the course of this work he has been
extremely impressed with the attention to safety on the part of the
Russian Space Agency."


Following is a transcript of the joint press conference:



(Begin text)



TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1997, 15:30

RUSSIAN FEDERATION GOVERNMENT HOUSE

U.S. VICE-PRESIDENT ALBERT GORE 

AND RUSSIAN FEDERATION PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR CHERNOMYRDIN

JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE ON GCC PLENARY RESULTS



MODERATOR: Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Viktor
Stepanovich Chernomyrdin and Vice-President of the United States of
America Albert Gore are signing the Joint Statement of the Russian
Federation and the United States on the Future Work of the
Russian-American Commission for Economic and Technological
Cooperation.


SHABDURASULOV: Ladies and gentlemen, we begin the press conference. I
will give the floor to the Chairman of the Government of the Russian
Federation Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin.


PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN: Esteemed Mr. Vice-President, ladies and
gentlemen. Today was an eventful day, a day full of events and good
results. We have come here straight from a meeting in the Kremlin and
we have just signed a joint program of our actions. We visited the
President, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, and we discussed the issues on
which we worked in the course of the 9th session of the
Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. The talk with Boris Nikolayevich, as
usual, was extremely full of substance. We discussed all the main
issues of Russian-American relations and of course we discussed the
issues on our agenda.


We used as a reference point the Russian-American summits in Helsinki,
Paris and Denver, which set the tasks in all the main areas of our
joint work for the near-term perspective. The President spoke in
positive terms about the efforts of the Commission in organizing
Russian-American cooperation in the sphere of the economy,
investments, technology, environmental protection, and health.


I must say that we touched upon many other questions on which we
currently work in the political sphere, questions between our two
states.


A few words about the work of our Commission. 



In the morning we had the third, final, meeting of the Moscow part of
the 9th session. But our work does not end here. It will be followed
by the Samara stage. But some of the results can be summed up already
now.


I have to say that we managed to make considerable progress in each of
the areas of our cooperation. We had a detailed discussion of access
to the markets, investment cooperation, ways to accelerate Russia's
integration into international economic structures.


The Russian side informed the American delegation about the details of
its plans to create modern market institutes, including proper legal
basis.


You know that the work on a new tax code has entered its final stage.
The government intends to make all the necessary effort so that we
would enter a new economic year to begin on January 1 with a new tax
legislation.


Both at the plenary session and in the committee for development of
business cooperation a good deal of attention was paid to other issues
as well, issues connected with how to improve bilateral trade and
investment climate.


It was stated that a speedy development of a production sharing
agreement can ensure not just considerable, but substantial expansion
of our cooperation.


A lot of attention was paid to specific projects in the fuel and
energy sector and agriculture, aircraft industry, environment,
science, health care.


I would like to talk specifically about cooperation in the field of
conversion. We came to the conclusion that this requires a broader
approach in order to make a breakthrough in cooperation based on high
technologies most of which -- and I don't think I will be telling you
a secret -- have double uses.


I would like to say once again that our work doesn't end here.
Tomorrow the Vice President, Mr. Gore, and I will go to Samara. We
will be accompanied by members of our commission. There we will
continue the dialogue with representatives of Russian regions and U.S.
business people, which we began in February, 1997 in Chicago.


This is a new element of our joint work on which we agreed with Al
Gore during our previous meeting in Lisbon in December 1997, that is,
to hold traveling sessions in various regions of Russia and the U.S.


We are confident that U.S.-Russian cooperation will reach a new level
only when it fully engages business circles and regions with their
huge potential and great opportunities.


That is why in Samara we will have a substantive discussion with the
authorities of the subjects of the Federation of the Volga area and
with business people on putting in place the Regional Investment
Initiative which we proposed together with the U.S. President in
February 1997. Its aim is to establish direct cooperation at the level
of regions while the federal bodies will provide all the necessary
conditions for that.


I can repeat what I said at the closing of our session today, and I
believe that I am speaking for both sides, that we are satisfied with
the work of the ninth session of the Commission, we are satisfied with
our current relations. I am convinced that the program we have just
signed, the program that outlines our work until the year 2000 -- but
this is only part of our program -- it envisages many concrete actions
for the foreseeable future and this is one of our most important
challenges, I mean the government of the Russian Federation and the
government of the United States.


Allow me once again in the presence of mass media to thank the members
of the Commission, our colleagues from the United States, our Russian
colleagues who are so committed to our important cause. This will
benefit our relations and our countries. Thank you. And I would like
to thank my friend Al Gore for his serious work and his serious
attitude to all the problems that we are discussing these days. He is
the engine, he puts in a lot of effort to ensure that long-term issues
are not just considered, but acted on. I am grateful to him and I am
grateful for the work that we have been doing together for several
years. I am grateful to those sitting here who have been involved in
the work of the Commission from the very beginning, since 1993.


MODERATOR: The Vice-President will now make remarks. 



VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Spasibo bolshoye. Thank you very much, Viktor
Stepanovich and my colleagues on the Commission. It is a great
privilege and honor to be able to work with you. I want to acknowledge
the members of the Russian delegation and the American delegation
include the members of the cabinet in both nations and especially the
co-chairs and all of the Commission members, Ambassador Collins and
others.


To the members of the press corps and to our colleagues here, I would
like to first apologize for starting this a little bit later than we
had intended, but the discussions with President Yeltsin took
significantly longer than was allocated for us; but it was a very
productive discussion and, as always, a very interesting and enjoyable
one.


Before I review that meeting and review the work of our Commission I
would like to begin by saying on a personal note how grateful my wife
Tipper and I are to you, Viktor Stepanovich and Valentina Petrovna,
and to all our friends on the Russian side for hosting us in such a
warm and magnificent manner.


We have really enjoyed the extraordinary hospitality here on this
visit. I have come to greatly value your friendship, Viktor
Stepanovich, your constant and unfailing commitment to our Commission
and to its work. You had some kind words about my role in the
Commission a moment ago, but it is no secret that I have been learning
from you as we have gone through nine rounds now. And it is good
chemistry, we work together well. And the same is true of our
colleagues in the Commission.


I know I can speak for all of my American colleagues in saying that we
feel that the engagement we have with our Russian friends in this
Commission is some of the most productive work we have ever been able
to do. And it is very satisfying to see things happen that have such a
big impact on the reform process, on people's life, on the prospects
for prosperity in both of our countries. So we are very grateful for
the opportunity to do this work. And we believe that our efforts are
making a real difference in building free markets and nurturing
freedom, opening new possibilities for a partnership, consolidating
reform, and making real progress around the world.


Some of the highlights of this ninth round of our Commission include
our continuing efforts to build mutual investments and trade and open
Russian markets to new opportunities from the United States and,
incidentally, to pay careful attention as well to some of the problems
identified for us by our Russian colleagues, and make sure that we do
our homework and solve those problems.


We have taken major steps in this direction since the work of our
Commission began several years ago. U.S. investment in Russia now
accounts for fully one-third of all the total foreign investments in
the Russian marketplace. Is there more to do? Of course, there is.
Much more investment is possible and as the visions that will
stimulate it are put into place I expect in the months and years ahead
to see a surge of investment in Russia.


One of the things that will make the most difference in creating this
surge of investment is passage of a new commercial tax law, a new tax
code, also the protection of intellectual property and success in
fighting against corruption and crime.


We also reviewed an important new effort that has already been
referred to by Viktor Stepanovich as the U.S.-Russian regional
investment initiative. Our goal is to work together in a systematic
and focused way to encourage new U.S. trade and investment in Russia's
regions. As Viktor Stepanovich said, he and I will travel to Samara in
the Volga region tomorrow to meet with and learn from regional
business leaders and local officials about the best ways to open
markets and minds to new engagement, new commerce and exchanges. I am
looking forward to this trip and I am very optimistic about it.


In another area I am very pleased to announce that after much hard
work we took an important, perhaps even historic step this week when
we reached agreement to halt the production of weapons-grade plutonium
both in the United States and Russia.


Because of this agreement three currently operating Russian reactors
will be converted to civilian uses by the end of the decade. By ending
the production of plutonium at these sites the agreement makes a major
contribution to the advancement of our non-proliferation interests.
This is a very positive new step and I commend our friends in Russia
to join us in making it a reality.


Before closing and taking your questions, I would like to speak
briefly on another issue of considerable importance to myself and to
President Clinton and to our fellow citizens in the United States. I
refer to the draft law on religion just passed by the State Duma.


I have conveyed my concerns about this issue both to Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin and to President Yeltsin. We have set in motion a process
that will convey to Russian officials the concern about certain
aspects of this pending measure which may abridge basic citizens'
freedoms as we read the language.


Let me say I look forward to working in this process in our customary
straightforward and open way. I was very pleased with the fact that we
now have experts on both sides reviewing the new language that was
brought to our meetings today. We are attempting to make it very clear
what the basis for our concerns is and how some of the changes that
were intended to address those concerns may or may not do so. But we
are going to continue this discussion intensively.


And, finally, on the subject of possible transfers of missile
technologies to Iran. I can say after my discussions both with the
Prime Minister on many occasions during this trip and after the
discussion with President Yeltsin that there is no doubt in my mind
that the goals of Russia and the United States are the same. We share
the same concern about proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
and proliferation of technologies that can assist in the delivery of
weapons of mass destruction, such as ballistic missile technologies.


Ambassador Frank Wisner and Russian Space Agency Director Yuri Koptev,
one of our colleagues on the Commission, have briefed the Prime
Minister and me on this issue in detail. The process they have
underway is a very intensive one. They will meet again within six
weeks. I can tell you it is a very productive process. It is making a
great deal of headway. This is a partnership and it is a productive
partnership. It made an excellent beginning on a difficult job of
trying to get to the bottom of this issue and as the meetings
continue, our involvement in discussing this will also continue.


I am very impressed by the efforts to dig into this question by our
Russian colleagues, and President Clinton and I will remain vigilant
and engaged on this issue in the days and weeks ahead. With that, I
will conclude by saying this was an enormously productive and
effective session, one of our very best, and I look forward to
convening our Commission's tenth round some time in the winter months
in Washington. Thank you very much.


SHABDURASULOV: We pass on to questions from the press. The first
question is awarded to the Russian press.


QUESTION: A question for Mr. Chernomyrdin and for the U.S.
Vice-President. You said that during the course of your meetings you
discussed Russian supplies of missile technology to Iran. I would ask
you to comment on Russian cooperation with India in the light of
Pakistan's recent statements that it has developed a nuclear bomb.


PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN: We have discussed the questions of our
relations with Iran in the military and technical field. I must tell
you, as I said during our discussions, that we have our commitments
and we are meeting those commitments. We are not diverging from our
commitments and even if somebody wishes to diverge from these
commitments, they will not have their way. There is no question of any
missile deliveries. It was not touched upon and it is just not
possible. Once again, we have obligations and we are not dodging them.
As to relations with other states, the more so relations with India,
we did not discuss these questions because there was no object for
discussion.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I agree with everything that was said. I would
only add that from time to time in the past we have discussed the
problem of proliferation and the concerns of both of our countries in
other regions of the world, and in the past Commission meetings there
have been discussions of the Indian subcontinent, India and Pakistan,
but that did not come up during this round.


QUESTION: AP. I have a question for both participants, if possible. As
a result of your meetings, what can you say to reassure foreign
investors in the energy sector, specifically, such as Exxon, about
Russia's commitments to foreign investment in that sector, given the
recent problems with deals? Is Moscow in a position to push through
support for such deals, given that many decisions are made on the
regional level?


PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN: Yes, we will continue this work. We are
not just continuing this work. As I have had already occasion to say,
we, the government -- the President signed this executive order. We
specially formed a commission on the protection of the rights of
investors. All investors, both domestic and foreign. I have been
instructed to head this commission in my capacity as Chairman of
Government. Special importance and significance is being attached to
this issue.


What is the importance and what is the complexity? The complexity is
that our legislation not always allows the solution of those questions
that are connected with those projects that are now being worked out
or discussed.


You know that in accordance with the existing law on production
sharing agreements the government has submitted more than 130 projects
to be carried out in accordance with the terms of this law. But so far
the Duma has adopted seven projects. We have now determined
priorities. We have allocated money for them. The projects I mentioned
include oil projects as well. But, as I said, there are difficulties.
They are connected with legislation.


That is why the Commission headed by the government chairman, and the
government will do everything to address these problems. Once again,
we are not talking about defense, but about creating conditions for
work on these projects. This is not a simple question. It will take
some time for the acts passed now to start working, and for new acts
to appear which would contribute to the work of investors and not
impede that work. Once again, we attach great importance to this
matter. It is necessary for Russia. It applies to domestic and foreign
investors alike. For the next two years we will work along these
lines.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: If I could add a comment. We spent a considerable
amount of time on this subject. Two evenings ago -- we spent time
yesterday morning during the Commission session. Secretary Daley, who
is the vice-chair on the U.S. side, and Secretary of Energy Federico
Pena, Jan Kalicki, and others participated in a very vigorous
discussion as our Russian colleagues did. At lunch yesterday we
continued this discussion and we have established a two-month study
period during which the two vice-chairs are going to be looking at
this along with the Secretary of Energy and the Minister of Energy and
we are going to attempt to resolve the differences that have arisen. I
am more optimistic after our discussions than I was upon arriving
here.


MODERATOR: The final question from the Russian side. 



QUESTION: A question to the two co-chairs of the Commission. How much
did you succeed in the course of this Commission session in overcoming
restrictions in mutual trade? And also, how prepared is the U.S.
Administration to take more effective steps to grant Russia the status
of a transitional market-oriented economy?


PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN: It would be fair to say that we did not
consider some specific questions which are in the works. But on the
whole we did have a large-scale discussion on the status of Russia as
a market economy and on Russia's accession to the WTO. We paid much
attention to the amendments that are still in force on the American
side, decisions surviving from times long gone by. But this, of
course, is far from simple work. Yes, this, of course, restrains us.
This is not convenient for us. But we have conducted an extensive
discussion. I think we have what to talk about, what to discuss.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Prime Minister Chernomyrdin was very forceful on
this question and I think was very effective in conveying the Russian
point of view. And we have agreed to work on an agenda designed to
address these concerns.


I might say in response to your specific question, that anti-dumping
measures are applied in our law without regard to whether a nation is
classified as having a market economy or not. It is separate from the
definition in the law of market economy. But obviously Russia has a
market economy and we talked about the steps that have to be followed
in terms of our law to be so classified in the U.S. law, and we are
moving forward on that.


I might also say that even though we have not discussed it here, we
had major accomplishments in the field of health care, major advances
in both countries, and very optimistic developments in Russia, a great
deal of progress was reported as a result of the work of our
Commission. We had a lot of progress reported on the environment and
the environmental working group, in agriculture we talked about a
pilot credit facility, and allocated money to that from the Commission
-- part of that will be in Samara, where we will be tomorrow.


We talked about a number of other subjects as well, of course, and we
will have a written summary of all the agreements and all of the
results of the Commission, so that the things we did not have a chance
to cover in speaking to you, will at least be presented to you in
writing.


QUESTION: CNN. Mr. Vice President, a decision was supposed to be made
today on whether the Shuttle mission would go forward this week. Has a
decision been made, what is it, if it has been made, and is the Mir
safe enough for David Wolf to join the Mir crew this weekend?


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: That decision has not yet been made. The review
by NASA is still underway on an intensive basis. We discussed that
with our Russian colleagues (inaudible) gave a report to us on the Mir
and said it is back fully operational at this point. But the NASA
review is still underway on this latest Shuttle mission and I think
the decision is due to be made in the next few days.


Q: (Off Mike).



VICE PRESIDENT GORE: That's the subject under intensive review.
Incidentally, (NASA Administrator) Dan Goldin made the point in our
Commission meeting that during the course of this work he has been
extremely impressed with the attention to safety on the part of the
Russian Space Agency, and there has been an impression on the part of
some that perhaps the Russian Space Agency hasn't had the same
philosophy about safety that we have, and Mr. Goldin said in his
experience that's just not -- by the fact that he has seen them in
this review.


But as for the Mir itself, that's still the subject of intensive
investigation by NASA. And the results will be known in a few days.


We've learned a great deal, incidentally, from this whole experience
and a lot of the lessons have been invaluable, some of the experiments
that have been conducted in growing tissue in space, growing
cartilage, have enormous positive implications for the future. Some of
the lessons about engineering and design of the safety systems might
not have been learnt in any other way.


So, regardless of what happens in the future we've already benefited
tremendously from our experiments with the Russians on the Mir.


MODERATOR: Viktor Stepanovich, do you want to add anything?



PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN: We will fly. No problem. Very often we
create problems ourselves. Of course, problems and questions do exist.
Of course, the station requires a certain attitude. It has been in
operation not for a year or two. But that's why we are working
together.


I think that the shuttle mission which is being prepared now will
answer many of the questions. It will deliver spare parts. It will
bring people and specialists. I know that our journalists are
preparing -- I think that U.S. journalists should probably go up
there, too. Just to look from up there. Perhaps, all mistakes and
flaws will be better seen from there.


Yuri Nikolayevich, let's step up work. I know that Yuri Mikhailovich
Baturin is preparing himself -- he, too, has some relation to the
press. Let's do it together. Let them fly.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Is it safe for Jill Dougherty? I bet you would.


QUESTION: Dear co-chairmen, Viktor Stepanovich and Mr. Vice President,
did you discuss the lifting of restrictions on the commercial
launches? When the commission began its work it was expected that it
would discuss it.


PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN: No, we did not discuss it. I am telling
you honestly. But I think commercial launches will of course be
increased. Life demands that it be so.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: We discussed this issue on many occasions in the
past. But it was not a part of the fabric of this discussion. It will
certainly come up again in the future and it is part of the on-going
dialogue between the two sides in the Space Committee.


MODERATOR (American): The last question will go to David Hoffman of
the Washington Post.


QUESTION: The Vice President said that some new information came to
hand in the work of the Wisner-Koptev working group. Could you say
what specific new information was obtained?


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: We agreed not to divulge the details of the study
because it involves intelligence information in both countries and for
obvious reasons it cannot be made public. But I would say in a general
way that one of the new lessons of this report is that it is obvious
that there is a vigorous effort by Iran to obtain the technologies
that it needs to build a ballistic missile and to build nuclear
weapons. In a sense that is not new. But the kinds of details that we
were able to share with one another I think flesh it out in a new way.
But we are obligated to one another not to go into those details and I
hope you can understand why. But perhaps, Viktor Stepanovich would
want to respond to this.


PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN: I won't tell you anything at all. 



QUESTION: (off mike) ... the problem of non-governmental, non-state
efforts to proliferate this material as compared to the Russian state?


PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN: Will you repeat, they don't hear you. You
speak so fast that they don't hear you. And speak into the mike.


TRANSLATOR: The question was basically, did the study reveal any facts
of non-governmental participation in such transfers?


PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN: The report that was prepared by Mr.
Koptev and his colleague is a very thorough one, a very good one. He
satisfied us as regards all questions. We believe that in terms of
this report there is what to work on. And we will work. We are
grateful to them for preparing such a document. Thank you.


MODERATOR: I thank everybody. The press conference is over.



(End transcript)