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1990 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in Washington

Below is the text of Mr Major's doorstep interview, with President Bush, held in Washington on Saturday 22nd December 1990.


PRIME MINISTER:

Mr President, thank you very much indeed. If I could perhaps firstly express thanks to you and Barbara for your hospitality here this weekend, it has been a remarkable occasion, a splendid opportunity to get to know one another in our talks and our community of interests a good deal better. We had some splendid entertainment, if I may say so, last night from the Army chorus, an absolutely magnificent way to spend the evening. I think the only danger there is to the Anglo-American special relationship is your weather here this weekend, other than that it has all been absolutely splendid.

The most heart-warming part of the weekend I think has been the very large areas of policy where we have clearly illustrated yet again there is a very strong community of ideals as well as a community of interests and the President has set those out, we had the opportunity of having a lengthy discussion on those. Clearly there are some problems to be overcome with the GATT; the Gulf, self-evidently is a matter we spent some time on; and also, as the President said, the encouraging activities that are coming out of South Africa with the prospects of more to come.

So I found it a very rewarding and worthwhile occasion and I think it was entirely proper that one of the very first visits I was able to make as Prime Minister was here to the United States where we have had such a long and fruitful and worthwhile relationship and I am grateful that it has gone so well.

QUESTION:

Mr President, have you heard from President Gorbachev in the last day or so?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

No.

QUESTION:

Mr. President, could you care to comment on the resignation of Shevardnadze and what impact you think it will have on U.S. - Soviet relationships, particularly in the Gulf?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

Well again this was a matter that Prime Minister Major and I discussed. I have no additional comment beyond what the Secretary of State said the other day and Marlin Fitzwater put out. I am convinced from what we have received so far from the Soviet Union that the policy on the Gulf will continue. I will let Prime Minister Major comment on that from their vantage point but we, as you know, had a very close relationship with Eduarde Shevardnadze and Jim Baker expressed it very well. but life goes on and we will pursue the policies in the Gulf confident that the Soviet Union will continue on its oath and I will continue to work with this new and very encouraging bilateral relationship, work to enhance that in every way possible.

So what I am saying is that I do not see any radical changes affecting our bilateral relationship. Obviously people are wondering about the concerns raised and expressed by Mr Shevardnadze but we will continue to deal with them in the future here as we have in the past and hope that the changes that are taking place will be done in a very peaceful way. Did you want to add to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I would just add a word if I may. Clearly it is sad that he has gone, he has played a remarkable part in the peace-keeping process over the last year or so. What we now need to do is to make sure that, as Mr Gorbachev has said it will, Soviet foreign policy continues unchanged. We will have to wait and see how that turns out but the early signs are encouraging. President Gorbachev said that is how it would be, the Congress of Deputies voted precisely in that fashion within a matter of hours, so we wait to see who the new Foreign Minister is.

QUESTION:

Mr President, do you have any doubts, given the changes that there are in the Soviet Union and the turmoil there, that if you made a decision to use force in the Gulf that they would be fully behind you?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

Yes, every indication we have had is that there will be no change in their Gulf policy. Do you want to comment on that one?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have seen no indication of a change in the Gulf policy, there was no indication of it in the immediate comments after Mr Shevardnadze’s resignation and we hope there will not be.

QUESTION:

If I could ask you both, Saddam Hussein says he is not about to leave Kuwait, if he does not change his mind is the world ready for war?

PRIME MINISTER:

If there is going to be a conflict in Kuwait that is really a matter for Saddam Hussein, he knows what the Security Council resolutions say, they could not be clearer, they have had an almost unprecedented amount of support internationally. I think one has to bear in mind that what he has done is unforgivable, what he and his colleagues are doing in Kuwait at this very moment is unforgivable, as you will have seen from the Amnesty Report. I hope he takes seriously the fact that the Security Council Resolutions will be enforced. If he moves out there will not be a conflict, if he does not then he knows what the consequences may be.

PRESIDENT BUSH:

That says it all and it is exactly the way we feel, we are totally together on this point and I think we are both still hoping that there will be a peaceful resolution. But I am convinced that Saddam Hussein has not gotten the message yet, for some odd reason, the message as to what he is up against, the message that all of us are determined to fulfil to the letter the United Nations resolution. Let us hope he does get the message.

QUESTION:

Mr. President, we've been getting conflicting signals this past week from General Waller, others in the military, in Congress, and so on as to whether the U.S. and the coalition are actually ready for war by the 15th of January. Is the U.S. ready or is the U.S. not ready?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

I will be discussing this matter here at Camp David on Monday, I believe it is, with Dick Cheney and General Powell. But put it this way, if there is some clear provocation 10 minutes from now, the allied forces are ready to respond.

QUESTION:

There continue to be restrictions by the Saudis on entertainment, do you go along with this position, especially during the Christmas season? And why should the Saudis be allowed to impose such narrow restrictions on those who may very likely give up their lives for mutual interests?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

I have discussed this with the Commanding General, I have discussed this with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and I am satisfied that our young men and women over there will be able to do what every other American family will be doing - thanking God for our many blessings at Christmas. And in terms of manifestations of their patriotism, they love this country, they will be able to do what is proper. So I am not worried by these sporadic reports that we get and I think that the cultural differences are well known but I think the Saudis and our people are working very closely to see that we are able to do what every American family does at Christmas time and that is to worship in their own way. I have seen some reports and then I made an enquiry and I am satisfied that these kids can worship their God in their own way.

QUESTION:

What about the flag patches, the American flag?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

I asked about that, I forget the details of the answer but I was satisfied that what was worked out is acceptable to our general position and to the men as well.

QUESTION:

Have you abandoned any hope that there will be talks before 3 January?

PRIME MINISTER:

Insofar as talks are concerned there is nothing to negotiate about. Insofar as whether there is a meeting between Saddam Hussein and Secretary of State Baker is concerned, Mr Baker has offered a whole series of dates to Saddam Hussein he has had a wide variety to choose from, he has not yet chosen. But insofar as negotiations, there is nothing to negotiate about.

PRESIDENT BUSH:

Exactly the same answer, we are totally together on this, we have offered up dates, we have made clear, as the Prime Minister has just said, that these meetings were designed to explain fully to Saddam Hussein the situation that he faces now but we will continue to hope that he will be reasonable, but I see no evidence of it, if that’s your question.

QUESTION:

A question for both of you. Mr. Kryuchkov, the head of the KGB, has said that bloodshed may be necessary to restore order in the Soviet Union. What are your comments?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

Would you like to go first on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we...

PRESIDENT BUSH:

This is what they call bowling us a googley. [Laughter].

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. [Laughter]. If it's a googley, I dare say it's a curve ball for me. [Laughter].

I think we hear a lot of comment of various sorts from the Soviet Union, some of it rather garish of that sort, we hope very much not, What clearly one wants to see is the reform programme continuing, it has gone a long way in a short period of time but it has a long way still to go. We hope it can travel that long road and do so without bloodshed and peaceably.

QUESTION:

What do you think of the GATT issue?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there is a community of interests there. We are both aware, and so are the other Community heads in the European Community, that the great advantage is to get an agreement on GATT, it may not be an agreement that would have every one of us dancing in the streets on every issue but there will have to be a community of interests for the agreement and I think there is a political will to make sure that it is reached.

QUESTION:

Were you surprised by Mr Shevardnadze’s resignation?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

Yes I was surprised, that is a matter for the internal affairs of the Soviet Union but everybody knows the respect we have and had and have for Eduarde Shevardnadze, the same sort of respect we have and had and have for President Gorbachev.

QUESTION:

I wanted to ask you about your meetings with Congress this week. What do you see the prospects that you will be seeking some sort of resolution similar to the U.N. resolution?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

We had vigorous consultations with Congress, we will continue to have that, Congress appointed a group of 20 at the end of the last session and I will clearly be meeting with them and soliciting their views, we are talking always to members of Congress as they come back. It is not just the President doing the whole question, there are legislative people in the White House and we will continue to consult in every way possible. I want Congress fully on board, I would love to see Congress say this minute that we fully endorse the United Nations resolutions and the President should fully implement them. But because I am determined to do that it would be very nice to send that solid signal out to Saddam Hussein, I think it would help him get the message as to what he is up against.

But they have got to decide, the Congress is a separate body, they are entitled to do it any way they want. But I know the powers of the Presidency and I have had a chance to discuss that with the key members of Congress.

Thank you all very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.