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1994 - Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with President Yeltsin

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with President Yeltsin, held at Brize Norton on Sunday 25th September 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Let me start first and then I will invite President Yeltsin to say a few words but we are running a little late; I am afraid we will be as speedy as we possibly can be.

We have had this weekend a meeting of an entirely different kind; it is, to be frank, one of a kind that hasn't happened before and I suppose wouldn't have been possible before for many years. I think Boris Yeltsin put his finger on it yesterday when he said that the Queen's state visit to Russia would be an historic event without precedent. That is entirely true, it would have been unthinkable some years ago and so in its own way would the weekend that we have just spent together at Chequers.

We haven't produced a communique as I indicated yesterday when we spoke. We have not talked across a table from prepared positions and prepared notes but we have covered a very great deal of ground sitting together, over walks and over meals. We have looked at the future shape of Europe both in the medium term and the long term. The old divisions have gone for good but Europe is still in In May next year, we will celebrate half a century of peace in Europe. I have invited the Russian Government to take part in the commemorative events we are holding in Britain and President Yeltsin has invited the British Government to the important commemorations that he will be organising a few days later in Russia. We have agreed that both governments will be represented at a very high level on each occasion and we will agree and set out the details at a later time.

We spent some time discussing Bosnia at length, beginning on our walk yesterday afternoon and continuing when the Foreign Ministers joined us later today. We are again entering a very difficult period over Bosnia; it was very fortunate that President Yeltsin and I, Douglas Hurd and Andre Kozyrev have had the opportunity of discussing it this weekend and I say that because it is particularly important for Europe, Russia and the United States to stay closely together at this time. We wish to preserve the gains that have been made over the past few months and the achievements of the United Nations Protection Forces; the Contact Group can play a very important part in this; President Milosevic should be encouraged to ensure that Bosnian Serbs don't receive support from the former Yugoslavia; and everything possible should he done to keep the diplomatic process moving forward to induce the parties to come to a peaceful settlement.

We spoke about arms control questions, including implementation of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe where there are still some very complicated issues to be resolved and about weapons proliferation. Nuclear non-proliferation is vitally important to both of us and we shall continue to give it a very high priority in our joint efforts.

The President briefed me on Russia's relations with the neighbouring countries and approach to the Commonwealth of Independent States. He will be visiting Kiev next month and we both want to support President Kuchma and the new Ukrainian Government in introducing the much-needed programme of economic reform.

President Yeltsin described the encouraging developments in Russia over the course of this year and he may wish to say more about that. He described, with justification, a more stable political atmosphere and a significant improvement in the economic situation; inflation much lower than before, production growing in some sectors and privatisation having moved with a quite remarkable speed over the past twelve months or so; economic and political reform are now firmly embedded and I assured the President of our continuing support.

We needed to spend very little time indeed on the direct bilateral relationship between Russia and the United Kingdom.

On foreign policy questions, there are no significant disagreements.

We both wish to see trade and investment increased and we discussed some ways in which we might achieve this. The President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine, will be looking at these subjects in greater detail at a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Cherkin which takes place tomorrow.

This was the fourth meeting that President Yeltsin and I had had this year and his fourth visit to the United Kingdom. Each of those visits have been different and this one had a very special character; it was useful and it was enjoyable; it was both of these things in equal parts and I believe it justly reflected the very friendly relations that exist at the moment between the United Kingdom and Russia so I was delighted to have the President and Mrs. Yeltsina as our guests this weekend and I hope at some stage in the future we will encourage them to return again for a similar exercise.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

Thank you very much indeed, ladies and gentlemen. In view of the fact that we have very little time because I have to now fly out to New York to the session of the United Nations and have to make a speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations I will not speak in detail in my introductory remarks, I will not touch on all the various aspects of our talks.

I would very much like to thank both Mr. and Mrs. Major for their warm hospitality, for all the warm conditions, the organisation and for the way in which they organised our work and our time which guaranteed the fact that we could combine both great pleasure - a wonderful walk - and a very very full working programme of talks.

We discussed in effect absolutely all the aspects of the questions, both internal questions and bilateral relations and various international questions and that for me was extremely useful just before my visit to the United States of America especially in view of the fact that I will be speaking at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

This was a working meeting which took place at the invitation of Norma and John Major and I have to say that the character of our meeting was precisely that character which enabled us to have an extremely warm and absolutely frank and sincere exchange of views. I don't think that even as little as two, three, four - let alone five - years ago there would have been the possibility for such a meeting and I have to underline the fact that the President of Russia has been to Chequers for the first time. I would very much like to thank you very warmly and I will now finish my remarks and I am ready to answer your questions.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION (BBC WORLD SERVICE):

Prime Minister, I would like to put a question to you and a short question at the end to President Yeltsin.

You mentioned that you discussed the question of Russia and its relations with the other CIS countries and last week the Russian intelligence service produced a report on this which suggested that Russia is not entirely happy with the way we in the West look at Russia's relations with the CIS. Could you say a bit more about that and could President Yeltsin say if there is an actual date for his visit to Kiev next month?

PRIME MINISTER:

We spent some time discussing the relationship with the CIS and clearly it is evolving. We see very considerable progress that has been made during the last 15/18 months in terms of the relationship within the Commonwealth. It is bound in a transitional phase to throw up the occasional difficulty, I think that is absolutely inevitable, but I think the way in which President Yeltsin has approached those difficulties, not least of course with Ukraine, has been with a great deal of restraint and a great deal of political courage at home so I found it a very useful discussion and I believe that the President would have done so as well. As to Kiev, I will invite the President to answer.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

I would like to say not only a few words about the visit to Kiev but the work which we have been conducting in our relations with the CIS particularly in what relates to peacekeeping operations and we tried to douse the flames of inter-ethnic conflicts. We have doused those flames in Moldova, in Ofisha, in the Caucasus and our armed units are now effecting a peacekeeping operation in Apashia [phon] and Georgia and we are tackling the problem of the return of Georgian refugees to Apashia but we are somewhat surprised that there is no participation on the part of Western countries in those operations.

With regard to Kiev, the exact date has not been fixed but we are preparing a full-scale political agreement between Russia and the Ukraine and this will relieve the existing tension in very many aspects. I have spoken to President Kuchma; we have come to an agreement that on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Ukraine Prime Minister Chernomyrdin will be going to Ukraine and I will pay an official visit in the middle of November.

QUESTION (BBC WORLD SERVICE/UKRAINIAN SERVICE):

[In Russian, not translated]

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

The difficulty is simply my very full timetable.

QUESTION:

[In Russian, not translated]

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

I have already said that the very form of our meeting at Chequers has brought us so close together that I consider that we have never had such excellent relations as those which exist between Great Britain and Russia. we tackled about two-and-a-half dozen questions and in more than the majority of those questions we agreed, even concerning international questions, and that is a very rare fact and I hope we continue in exactly the same way.

PRIME MINISTER:

I can't conceive that a few years ago people would have imagined the nature and content of the discussions that we have been able to have this weekend; it is quite unexpected and people would not have imagined that this could have happened just a few years ago.

QUESTION (MIDDLE EAST BROADCASTING CENTRE):

Mainly for Mr. Major and then for Mr. Yeltsin.

You said, Prime Minister, earlier, that it is very important to solve the problem of Bosnia-Herzegovina for you, Russia and the United States and earlier this week the Prime Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina said that to solve the problem of Bosnia-Herzegovina we need the intervention of the United States. Is it important that America intervene in this and was this summit this weekend the preparation of an agenda to talk about Bosnia-Herzegovina in the States for Mr. Yeltsin?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have set out a political way forward and we think that is the way forward. I am not sure by "intervention" whether you meant diplomatically or some other way but we have set out a process. The Contact Group is in very close discussion continually and that of course involves the United States, Russia, ourselves and others.

The point about Bosnia at the moment is that a great deal has been achieved over the last few months. Whereas a much larger part of Bosnia was in conflict some time ago, a great deal of that has diminished but it is fragile. The position in Sarajevo isn't as good as it was a few weeks ago, the present position is both fragile and uncertain. The Contact Group recommendations - the peace plan - have not yet met favour with the Serbs.

What we need to do is to continue to press those points. I don't think it would be productive to go into the details of the discussions that we had and I don't propose to do so except to say that the greater the extent to which we are able to work together, the greater likelihood there is that we will be able to produce a peaceful settlement that will stick in Bosnia and that is what we seek to do.

QUESTION:

What is the importance that you ascribe to the visit of Her Majesty The Queen to Russia?

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

I have already said I consider this visit an absolutely historic and unique visit because such a visit of Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth to Russia means most importantly that Russia has firmly and irrevocably entered on to a democratic way. That is what is so important, that is the meaning of that visit. We have done everything to ensure that that visit should be absolutely top class.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, the President will be joining in the United States other luminaries including Gerry Adams and of course our own Michael Mates. Can I ask you what you would answer to those who would suggest that the semi-official visit by Michael Mates to the United States is the Government pressing the PR panic button?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think that is ludicrous frankly that proposition. We have made a great deal of progress on Northern Ireland, we want to see that progress continued. The Ulster Unionists have just visited North America. We need a balanced picture to be placed there and a balanced picture, I hope, is going to be set out before people.

QUESTION (Russian newspaper "Today"):

Mr. President, in the course of your talks with the Prime Minister, did you touch on the question of future investments in the Russian economy and does the Prime Minister need more guarantees from the Russian powers?

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

The agreements that we reached and signed are being implemented and I have expressed my warmest thanks to John Major but we have also agreed to continue to enlarge the scope of the financing of those general programmes which we are implementing particularly in the cleaning up and the elimination of chemical and nuclear weapons.

PRIME MINISTER:

I will add a word about investments. We did spend some time discussing that. We discussed it at length in February, we discussed it again on this occasion, it will be discussed further by Deputy Prime Minister Cherkin who is here today and Michael Heseltine tomorrow so there is a great deal of continuing work.