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1994 - Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference in Moscow

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with President Yeltsin, held in Moscow on 15th February 1994.


QUESTION:

We were expecting a joint statement on Bosnia?

MR YELTSIN:

No, we were not intending to sign a joint statement on Bosnia today, but of course in the tete a tete meeting and in the plenary we certainly discussed it. I must say that in general our positions come very close, they overlap, especially on the handover of heavy weapons around Sarajevo to the United Nations' forces; and secondly, on the need for negotiations between the Serbs and the Bosnians around the negotiating table to resolve things peacefully and to stop the war in Bosnia. These are our two main concerns, these are the main things on which we agree.

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me respond to the same question which otherwise I was about to be asked I think over here. The President and I did not plan a joint statement, we certainly spent some time discussing the matter this morning, as did the Foreign Secretary and Mr Kozyrev, clearly it is an extremely important matter. I think there are a large range of areas, as the President has just said, where our policy is entirely identical in terms of seeking a solution to the present conflict in Bosnia. We both agree it has to be a negotiated peace, there is no prospect of there being a military victory, that is not remotely the way ahead. We both entirely support the approach of Dr Owen and Mr Stoltenberg, we see that as the way ahead towards a satisfactory political settlement. Clearly it is important that the United States, that Russia and that all the members of the European Union are involved and use their influence on each of the combatants to try and ensure there is a satisfactory settlement. We think the opportunity does exist to accelerate progress. As the President has said, it is necessary to bring the heavy weapons in Sarajevo under UN control. At the moment with General Rose in command on the ground that is increasingly happening, the heavy weapons are coming under control and that we hope is going to continue over the next few days.

There is certainly a need for speedy implementation there, happily it seems to be proceeding.

There is, we think, a real chance of peace starting in Sarajevo, we have seen that develop over the last few days, we need to take that chance, we need to ensure that Russia, the United States and the European Union continue to work together to reach that satisfactory and negotiated settlement.

I think in some areas there has been some misunderstanding about the NATO decision. Britain was part of the NATO decision and supported the NATO decision, it is a decision that is even handed between the combatants, it is limited to the particular problem of Sarajevo and it is initiated at the request of the Secretary General. Clearly we wish to see a settlement there as speedily as possible and upon the fundamentals of the necessity for a negotiated permanent satisfactory settlement there is no dispute between any of the main players as to the way in which we proceed to get this satisfactory settlement in Bosnia as a whole and around Sarajevo and we spent some time agreeing these main points again this morning.

MR YELTSIN:

I would like to add one substantial detail. Some people are trying to resolve the issue on Bosnia without the participation of Russia. That will not succeed, we will not allow that. Russia will take part actively in talks to bring a peaceful solution to the bloody events in Bosnia. I am very glad that Mr Major supports our view on that.

QUESTION:

Could I be clear, are you both agreed that if there were to be the need for air strikes, those could take place without further reference back to the UN Security Council?

PRIME MINISTER:

The position is as I set it out a moment or so ago. NATO agreed some time ago, we hope of course that the heavy weapons will be brought under control, that seems to be the position at the moment, increasingly that is the case, we hope they can be brought fully under control, we will see whether or not they can. But before any air strikes proceed on this very limited front, as agreed by NATO, there would need to be reference back under previous agreed Security Council resolutions to the Secretary General.

MR YELTSIN:

That is being discussed in the UN Security Council at this very moment. The most important thing is to give a mandate to the UN forces so that all heavy weapons around Sarajevo should be handed over. Beyond that, the UN Charter comes into play, if someone attacks UN forces they have to be punished.

QUESTION:

What progress has been achieved on the bilateral relationship?

MR YELTSIN:

We discussed a wide range of questions with the Prime Minister: the situation in the United Kingdom, the situation in Russia, bilateral relations, international questions and hot spots around the world. In discussing our bilateral relations both of us came to the conclusion that these were the best relations our two countries had had for several decades, the best relations are now. All the agreements that were achieved and all that were signed during my visit to the UK are now being implemented. The UK is seriously supporting the process of reform in Russia in practical terms, not just political but economic. We have had talks this morning, the talks will continue, the Prime Minister will talk this afternoon to the Representative of the government, Mr Chernomyrdin. In any case, in some areas progress is visible and it will grow. For example, the Know How Fund which the UK founded and which is now working, it will see further progress as the Prime Minister will no doubt be saying on Russian television this afternoon.

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just add to that answer because I think the question was directed, I believe, at both of us. As the President has just said very clearly the relations that exist bilaterally between the United Kingdom and Russia are better today than at any time either of us can recall, that is true on a trade level, it is true on a political level, it is true in terms of military cooperation. We have discussed a range of things this morning, we have discussed the expansion of trade and economic relations, I will pursue those discussions further with Mr Chernomyrdin this afternoon. I shall be making announcements over the next couple of days on specific projects within the Know How Fund which will be of particular help. We have also agreed this morning that we will de-target nuclear weapons, one upon the other, and we have agreed further on joint military exercises between Britain and Russia to take place in 1995, we have agreed we will start in 1995, details will be agreed between our military advisers but we anticipate joint military exercises both in Russia and in the United Kingdom.

This is a degree of cooperation on a practical level that we have not seen at any stage in the last 50 years. I also took the opportunity this morning of inviting the President to return again to the United Kingdom for a visit and he has agreed to do so and we will be seeking dates in the near future. We have agreed on double taxation agreements, cultural agreements.

So there is across a wide range, economic, social, political, a much closer, much more effective and a better relationship than either of us can ever remember at any stage in the relations between Britain and Russia for very many years.

MR YELTSIN:

I would just like to add two words to that, to compare the dynamics of my visit to the UK and the return visit now, one example, today we have signed a detargeting agreement on the detargeting of strategic nuclear weapons against each other.

When this was mentioned on my visit it was taken as a hypothetical question, for generations, perhaps even centuries ahead. But now it is a reality, today we see the reality and the reality is that two leaders have for the first time signed an agreement detargeting the strategic nuclear weapons aimed against each other.