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1996 - Mr Major’s Opening Statement on the Middle East Summit

Below is the text of Mr Major’s opening statement on the Middle East Summit, held on the 13th March 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

Egypt is a senior member of the club of Middle East peacemakers. It is right that we should be meeting here in Sinai, whose peace and prosperity are one of the significant practical achievements of the Middle East peace process so far.

We are here today for a simple reason: to support peace through political negotiation, and to make clear our implacable opposition to the wickedness of terrorism, and agree on practical measures to combat that terrorism.

All those present share an absolute abhorrence of terrorist violence and a revulsion at those who murder innocent people. Most, like us, have known the effect of terrorism at first hand.

But we are also here because of our full-hearted support for the peace process. We are not willing to see recent hopes die.

The Middle East has seen remarkable progress in recent years. It has been led by exceptional and courageous men, some of whom are, sadly, not with us today.

We owe it to them not to give in to those who have the evil purpose of destroying what has been created and preventing a peace settlement. If they win, peace loses.

The people of the United Kingdom know something of the emotions and political difficulties involved in sustaining a process towards peace. We have only too much bitter experience of our own.

Recently terrorist violence has also returned to the streets of London. Unjustified. Unacceptable. Leading nowhere but to more violence. We reject it with contempt. And we will continue to work for a lasting settlement with all those committed to peaceful, democratic methods.

So I warmly welcome the co-operation between President Arafat and Prime Minister Peres to this end. I welcome the action President Arafat has taken. I urge him to persevere in this course, whatever the difficulties. Israel alone cannot police the Palestinian areas. The only solution is full collaboration between the Palestinian and Israeli security forces.

They already do co-operate. As they do more, the way will I hope soon be clear for present measures affecting the people of the West Bank and Gaza to be eased. The parties need circumstances to be created which enable them to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible, on the Syrian as well as the Palestinian tracks.

Britain has applauded the major steps forward between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians. We welcome recent progress in talks between Israel and Syria.

That support remains complete today.

We already co-operate with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the field of counter terrorism. We are looking urgently with them at the moment at what further practical help we might offer.

We will consult President Arafat about how we can help train further the Palestinian Police Force and meet the needs of the Palestinian population. If by doing this we can erode the support Hamas gains: so much the better.

If we deprive them of new breeding grounds in which to work, something worthwhile will have been achieved.

We all know that terrorism is an international phenomenon. It thrives on international support. It often operates as Shimon Peres said, out of pariah states. We need collectively to try to stop this.

I believe the time has come for us to look together, as part of the follow-up to this meeting, at the activities not just of those who actively conspire to commit terrorist acts but also at those who abuse the hospitality and protection available in some of our countries to create a climate in which terrorism can flourish. We need the right tools to tackle the terrorist fund-raisers and planners. This is something we must examine together, as those concerned will move from one safe haven to another.

We have already started such as examination in Britain. I encourage others to do so, and to look at this collectively.

But let us not forget where the core of the problem lies: with the bombers who have so savagely shattered the peaceful lives of Israelis in recent weeks and with those countries which encourage, condone and actively sponsor this terrorism. Let a clear call go out from this Conference to these countries to abandon such vicious policies. We have already spelt this out to Iran and Libya. I urge all concerned to commit themselves fully to the fight for the peace process and against terrorism.

We are at a critical and difficult moment in the Process. But such moments have been met and overcome in the past. We must all be there to help ensure that they are met and overcome once more, in the future. If we are able to move in that direction, this meeting will have achieved something. But we must also move to practical action in the areas I have outlined.