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1992 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in New York

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview on Thursday 30th January 1992, on his arrival at his New York hotel


PRIME MINISTER:

Good evening! Thank you for being here this evening.

We have tomorrow an extremely unusual event. I think tomorrow will be the first time in well over forty years that the Security Council has met for an Extraordinary Meeting at Heads of Government level. I believe it is justified for a number of reasons:

It has been an extraordinarily turbulent time in the world over the last year or so; there are a vast number of matters we need to discuss: disarmament, non-proliferation; it is an excellent opportunity to introduce President Yeltsin as a member of the Permanent Five and, of course, for the new Secretary-General, Boutros Ghali, to attend his first meeting of the Security Council but above all at our meeting tomorrow, apart from the exchanges of views that we will have on a vast range of matters, I hope we will be able to remit from the Security Council to the Secretary-General a remit for him to examine the role of the United Nations and in particular its special role of peace-keeping and peace-making. There does seem to me to be an opportunity for the United Nations to play a much higher profile, pro-active role in the future than it has done in recent years and I very much hope that will be one of the outcomes of tomorrow's meeting.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, will the meeting be able to offer Mr. Yeltsin anything more than just kind words?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think the meeting tomorrow is about Mr. Yeltsin's immediate difficulties; I think that is more a matter for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank rather than the Security Council tomorrow which will be more concerned with peace and disarmament matters.

The British believe that it will be necessary, as soon as the Russians become members of the International Monetary Fund, to offer quite significant help but I don't think that is a particular matter for discussion at the meeting tomorrow.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, how firm will the United Nations be able to be on the issue of human rights and democracy not only in the Soviet but in China, for example?

PRIME MINISTER:

That, again, is not the purpose of the meeting tomorrow. I am sure it is a matter that will be raised in some of the speeches tomorrow; it will also be a matter that will be raised in the substantial amount of bilateral contact there will be; it is certainly a matter that I intend to raise in some of my bilateral discussions but I do not think, again, that that is the primary matter that we have in front of us tomorrow.

The primary matter we have in front of us tomorrow is effectively the role of the United Nations, how it can become more pro-active, what it can actually as a peace-maker, as a broker between dissentient nations; that is the matter that I think principally colleagues on the Security Council will wish to discuss tomorrow.

QUESTION:

The Germans feel left out - rightfully so?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Germans are not at this moment a member of the Security Council but they are a very important nation. I had the opportunity before coming here today to have a couple of conversations with Chancellor Kohl; I am aware of his views; I have no doubt that Chancellor Kohl has spoken to other people.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, on Security Council matters, we are waiting for a follow-up Resolution on Libya to show the international community's response to terrorism at Lockerbie. Can you tell us when we can expect some sanctions proposed by Britain, France and America?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the follow-up Resolution is a little way away yet; it certainly won't come tomorrow. My guess - and it can only be a guess - is that it is likely to come towards the end of February but there is a great deal of work to be done before it is ready but I do believe there will be a follow-up Resolution and that it is necessary.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, I know you have mentioned it briefly, but some people are saying tomorrow is really a large photo-opportunity. What do you think will essentially make it more than that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't believe that that is the case. As I said a moment ago, this is the first occasion in fact for 47 years that the Heads of Government of the Security Council have been tempted here to an Extraordinary Meeting of this sort. They have come here because there are matters of real substance that it is necessary for us to discuss. There has been a revolution in the attitude and possibilities of what the United Nations can do over recent years and I will give you several reasons for that:

 - the status of the United Nations improved dramatically because of the key role it played during the Gulf dispute;

 - the activities of Mr. Picot, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, in terms of dealing with the hostages was another reason to build up the status of the United Nations;

 - in many parts of the world they are acting in one form or another in a peace-making role.

It is not all that long ago that the United Nations role was largely confined to sending along observers. Now that is no longer the case; there is a great deal more they can do. We have a new Secretary-General, we have a Permanent Five that are working in harmony in a way we haven't previously seen in the past. For many years, the Permanent Five was a forum in which dissentient views were expressed; now, views of assent are increasingly expressed and that opens an opportunity that simply has not been there before to look at the United Nations and see how rapidly we can move towards the instincts and aspirations its founders had so many years ago. Tomorrow is another small step in that direction.

QUESTION:

Do you think it might turn out to be a celebration of a new world order which could yet turn out to be fragile?

PRIME MINISTER:

Everyone, I think, is pleased at the way in which matters developed over the past year in the former Soviet Union, the collapse of communism in a regime that has been discredited in most of the outside world for generations but it survived in strength and was a threat to us in the West - that has gone. That, I think, is a cause for quiet satisfaction.

I think President Bush was entirely right to say the Cold War is over and the Cold War has been won by the West but it isn't an occasion tomorrow for drinking glasses of champagne and patting ourselves on the back. We have to look forward. We have a different situation now; no longer that grisly stability of confrontation between East and West - it isn't the same now. We do have a series of different problems arising, different problems in the Middle East, different problems in Europe - one only has to look at Yugoslavia - and other potential problems and trouble-spots in different parts of the world. We have to come to grips with that and decide how we deal with it. There is no other forum other than the United Nations than can pick up these problems and act as an international broker in times of difficulties. I believe, therefore, that anything we can do to improve cooperation within the United Nations and the status and authority of the United Nations is something well worth doing and I believe that will be the view of everyone who attends tomorrow.