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1996 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in Moscow

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in Moscow on Friday 19th April 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just say a word or two about the meetings I have had earlier today. A number of meetings: firstly with Prime Minister Chretien, mainly about Commonwealth matters; later on after that meetings with a number of opinion formers in Moscow at the present time; a very useful meeting both Mr Yavlinsky and separately with Mr Zyuganov; and a bilateral in the last hour or so with President Yeltsin; and very shortly I look forward to seeing Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. So it has been an admirable opportunity to run through a whole range of matters that are being discussed in Moscow at the moment.

The bilateral with the President covered a wide range of matters, as you would expect: the summit tomorrow; of course the questions relating to NATO; a number of bilateral issues; I was able to indicate that we will be increasing our assistance in the Know How Fund by another 50 million to assist with various aspects of reform and good government in Russia. I don't think I will seek to detail all the elements of the discussion, perhaps you may care to ask questions to pick out the points of greatest interest.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, do you support Boris Yeltsin's re-election?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is not for anyone outside Russia to determine who should be the President of Russia, that is a matter for the Russian people and it would be impertinent of me to express a preference. We do have a very strong view that the reform programme is very important, we wish to see the reform programme proceed and I think that is a view that is very widely held right across the West.

QUESTION:

What is your impression of Mr Zyuganov?

PRIME MINISTER:

I only had a brief discussion with Mr Zyuganov. We discussed the areas of the campaign that he was most interested in, he set out his views on those. But it was a half hour meeting, too soon I think to reach a firm conclusion.

QUESTION:

Did Mr Zyuganov say that the West should have nothing to fear from a communist victory?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think Mr Zyuganov explained what he was about, what he saw as the priorities in this country, and self-evidently he does not believe that those priorities would concern people elsewhere. I indicated to him the importance that we attach to the reform programme.

QUESTION:

Did the subject of the Middle East come up and what perhaps the G7 here in Moscow this weekend ought to be saying as a way of moving the peace process forward?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I discussed the particular question of Lebanon and the current difficulties with President Yeltsin, and I am sure that will come up later on today. I think there is no doubt that what we need to seek very speedily is an end to the hostilities that are proceeding, perhaps only a temporary pause in the first instance while a more firm conclusion is reached. It may be difficult to reach a positive conclusion that will last for a long time. If we can reach an interim settlement, an interim cessation of the hostilities, I think that at least will be a first step and I think people will try and do that over the next 48 hours.

QUESTION:

Are you confident that you can persuade the other European leaders to recommend a lifting of the ban on British beef?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have no idea about that. I think it would have been quite astonishing if, since we are all gathered here, I were not to discuss the problem with them, and that is what I propose to do. But of course only a part of the European Union is here, the Agricultural Commissioner is not here, so I think this is an occasion to set out British concerns and I will do that very clearly and very crisply. I don't think it is a matter on which there are likely to be conclusions because the right people are not here. But I don't believe the ban on British beef is justified. The fact that it has been indicated not just by British scientists, but by the World Health Organisation and by the Commissioner himself, that British beef is safe, suggests to me that there is no logic in a continuing ban on British beef. But that is not a matter that can be lifted by the people who are meeting here. What I can do is impress upon them the strength of feeling in the United Kingdom and the extent to which we think it is an unreasonable decision that has been reached and that it is highly desirable that that ban is lifted as speedily as it can be.

QUESTION:

Can the G7 do anything to help to resolve the crisis in the Middle East? Are you hoping that there will be a communique at the end of this to say what should be done?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think we are more concerned with action than communiques, to be frank. The G7 members, both separately and collectively of course, are in touch with the relevant parties in the Middle East. The Foreign Secretary is deeply engaged, Mr Charette from France is there at the present moment, so is Warren Christopher. I think there is no doubt that it will be discussed and no doubt that we will be in touch with the parties, but whether that will be done collectively or individually remains to be determined.

QUESTION:

And the common position from France, the United States and Russia?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the common position is perfectly clear. A common final settlement, that remains to be discussed, but a common position that we need to stop what we have seen over the last few days, both the firing from Hezbollah into Israel and the attacks from Israel back into Lebanon, both of those need to cease as speedily as possible. There will be no difficulty about reaching that decision.

QUESTION:

Did you raise the subject of Chechnya with Mr Yeltsin?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have had a brief discussion, yes.