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1996 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with the Greek Prime Minister

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the Greek Prime Minister, Mr Simitis, in London on Tuesday 23rd April 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just say how much I welcome the Prime Minister's visit here to Downing Street today and very much welcome him into his new responsibilities.

We have had the opportunity this afternoon of a fairly wide ranging discussion. The Anglo-Greek relationship is extremely good. We think it could be closer and better, we think we can improve the trade and investment flow between our two countries and we have taken some time in discussing that. We have also looked at developments in the European Union, coming up to the intergovernmental conference and beyond the intergovernmental conference, and we have discussed the Cypriot problem of course and the relationship between Greece and Turkey and a number of other matters. I won't go into the details of all our discussion so we will happily take a few questions in a few moments.

MR SIMITIS:

We had a very good and fruitful discussion with Mr Major. Mr Major mentioned the main problems we discussed - British-Greek relations, trade relations, cultural relations, our politics in the Balkans, the European Union problems, Greece and Turkey relations and the Cyprus problem. There are differences of views but there are also many common points, and I think on the basis of our discussions we can continue to work together and to find solutions to all problems.

PRIME MINISTER:

I agree.

QUESTION:

In which area did you find support from the Greek Prime Minister on [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you had better ask the Prime Minister, our position is pretty well known.

MR SIMITIS:

As far as the European Union is concerned, we have a common view on the question of unanimity of decisions on foreign policy. We think also that matters of the economic and monetary union are not yet clear and must be cleared and discussed in future. And there are certain questions concerning the revision of the Maastricht Treaty that are not yet right for decision and that is why they must be looked at by both countries.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

We think the time is right to have another serious push at trying to reach an agreement on the Cyprus problem. I very much hope before too long that Cyprus will be able to join the European Union, and in order to ensure that that is facilitated, we need to look again to see whether or not we can reach a conclusion to the problem in Cyprus. I think the Prime Minister as well is dedicated to seeking a solution. We know it won't be easy. We have had 29 years to discover that it is not going to be easy, but we agreed that it is well worth trying and I think there will be a concerted push to do so.

QUESTION:

What is the British position on the problem of Imya [phon]?

PRIME MINISTER:

We think it should go to the International Court of Justice, yes.

QUESTION:

Did you manage to find agreement on the beef problem?

PRIME MINISTER:

There aren't enough people to reach agreement on the beef problem. Douglas Hogg has been discussing this in Brussels today. I understand he has made some progress, I haven't got a full report yet so I don't quite know how much progress has been made. But over the last few days I made some progress when I had the meeting in Moscow at the end of last week, the Foreign Secretary pursued the matter further on Monday, the Agricultural Minister today. So I think we are moving to a position that is a good deal better than it was a few days ago, but I had better get further information before I say any more.

MR SIMITIS:

I want to add to what Mr Major has said, that we have discussed the matter and I will ask the Greek scientists to look at the facts that the British government will present and they will decide on the basis of the facts.