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1992 - Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with President Mubarak

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with President Mubarak, held in Cairo on Saturday 24th October 1992.


PRESIDENT MUBARAK:

Today we welcome the Prime Minister, Mr Major, as one of our best friends here, the Prime Minister of a country which we have very good relations with and very close relations and we have their support in any difficulty which we meet and I welcome him again for a couple of hours in Cairo and I wish him to come for a much longer visit to have plenty of time to discuss so many issues and see the country as far as he can.

PRIME MINISTER:

Hosni, thank you very much indeed. We have had the opportunity this morning of meeting entirely privately, entirely a deux, and the opportunity of discussing a wide range of issues.

I should perhaps say at the outset that I do not think there can have been a time for very many years when the relationships between the United Kingdom and Egypt were so close, so frequent or so good and I am grateful to President Mubarak for the way in which he has enabled that to come about.

Egypt is a very important power in this part of the world, a very good friend of the United Kingdom, and we have had the opportunity this morning of discussing a range of matters, both large and small, in absolute privacy and it has been a pleasure to be back in Cairo again, albeit for a very brief period. I am most grateful to you for your hospitality.

QUESTION:

President Mubarak, following the shooting of a British tourist recently, can you say whether firstly you are concerned that this will affect tourism to Egypt, and secondly whether you are going to take any particular special measures to protect tourists?

PRESIDENT MUBARAK:

Of course whenever such a thing occurs we are very sorry for what happened, I think done on an individual basis is not something against tourism and we have no fear about tourism and the problems in this part of the country sometimes [indistinct] even since the 40s, so we are not afraid of what happened to tourism, tourism is going very well and we are taking all measures to make the tourists very safe in our country. And I do not think that this incident is widespread all over the country as some other people might think.

PRIME MINISTER:

May I just add a brief word to that? There are acts of individual wickedness all over the world and this was one such with a terrible tragic consequence for one British citizen. The President and I discussed that this morning. I have to say that after the incident we could not have had greater cooperation from the President and from the Egyptian authorities and both of us would like to send our very deepest sympathy to the families, it was a most appalling incident. What I would say also is that last month in Egypt there were more tourists from the United Kingdom than we have ever seen in Egypt before in any single month. Over the years there have been millions and millions of British tourists who come to Egypt to see the wonders that exist here. I am in no doubt talking to President Mubarak that he and the authorities in Egypt will do all they can to seek to catch the perpetrators of this particular wicked act and ensure that they are suitably punished.

QUESTION:

Is there any new development regarding the Lockerbie crisis, have you reached any agreement on how to resolve this crisis?

PRESIDENT MUBARAK:

We have discussed the resolution from the UN which has been respected and I have discussed it with the Prime Minister, we are going to do our best to fulfil the obligations concerning the UN resolution.

PRIME MINISTER:

Egypt has given very full cooperation on the United Nations resolution. I do not think there is anything fresh that needs to be said about the British position on Lockerbie, it remains as it was. People are perfectly clear that we require the people named to be surrendered for trial over the Lockerbie affair, that remains the position, and until such time as that is determined the sanctions will remain.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, if I could perhaps introduce a slightly lighter note, it is clear that you have enjoyed much cordiality so far in your visit here, perhaps a marked contrast to the reception that you have been receiving at home for the last 7 days, has it been pleasant to get away from it all?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is always pleasant to come to Cairo and to meet President Mubarak, I have had the pleasure of meeting him here before and of course we had the pleasure of President Mubarak and Mrs Mubarak visiting the United Kingdom last year so that is a very great pleasure. But I am British, I enjoy being in Britain, I enjoy the cut and thrust of politics in Britain, that is the case and will remain the case.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, I have two questions: what kind of help has Britain provided Egypt because of the earthquake and has the Birmingham Summit eased opposition towards the Maastricht Treaty and what steps will you take to boost sterling to its previous position?

PRIME MINISTER:

That sounded like 4 questions, not 2, I can see you are an economic forecaster. Let me deal with the first question first. I met Mrs Mubarak this morning and we have made a contribution to assist with the dreadful problems following the earthquake which was a very dramatic and a very appalling event in Egypt's history. We have also made it clear that in terms of manpower and other assistance, where that is required the offer is there for the Egyptian authorities to ask us for assistance should they need it and we would be happy to do that. I have to say that the advice I have had is that the authorities here have coped magnificently with what is an exceedingly difficult problem, there are a huge number of schools to be rebuilt, there are a huge number of people to be rehoused immediately, but it has been dealt with in a most efficient and effective manner, we have made a financial contribution, we have offered also, if it is needed, the British expertise that may be required. And I had the pleasure of discussing that with Mrs Mubarak this morning.

On the Birmingham summit, we did make some progress in the Birmingham summit, as I set out before, and I think it was necessary for us to do so. The Birmingham summit was an interim summit to ensure, amongst other things, that we are able to reach concrete decisions at the Edinburgh summit that will be of assistance to people right the way across the European Community and it was the collective view of the Heads of Government at the Birmingham summit that that was successfully achieved.

QUESTION:

I wonder if I could ask you, Mr President, what your thoughts are fifty years on after the El Alamein battle which took place in your country and Prime Minister similarly what your reflections are at the site of this battle you will be seeing tomorrow?

PRESIDENT MUBARAK:

The Alamein battle was a very famous battle which made a great change over the world. I think the celebration of fifty years of this battle, so many [indistinct], the Prime Minister is here, we have the Prime Minister of Greece and France and several representatives of European countries. We are going to [indistinct] this celebration of the Alamein battle.

PRIME MINISTER:

I was not born when the El Alamein battle took place, but I think one thing is perfectly clear to my generation, if it had not been for the El Alamein battle, neither President Mubarak nor I could be certain that we would be standing here as the leaders of free nations, that is the importance of that battle. I do not believe that there is any shred of doubt that when you look through the litany of great battles of history that there is any doubt that El Alamein has a very honoured place in that litany, has now and always will have.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, can you give me your assessment of the latest Geneva talks on finding a constitutional solution to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the light of the proposal of President Izetbegovic of Bosnia on a decentralised state? Secondly, after months of on-going peaceful efforts by Mr Panic and Cosic, the Prime Minister and President of Yugoslavia, do you believe that sanctions against Belgrade might be lifted soon?

PRIME MINISTER:

I do not think on that last point that that is imminent at the moment, no. On the earlier point, I think the systematic effort that has been made to seek a satisfactory agreement that will end the fighting in Yugoslavia must continue. We made some progress at the summit in London that I chaired not long ago and efforts to that extent are continuing. But agreement can only be reached in Yugoslavia if the participants to the fighting are prepared to reach an agreement themselves and then honour and keep the agreement that they reach, that is the criteria.

The other problem that runs in parallel with those diplomatic efforts is the scale of the potential humanitarian disaster that is building up in Bosnia. This winter there are many people who are going to face the most appalling hardship. Whatever the extent of aid is provided, and the British are providing a great deal of aid and we are sending British troops there to make sure that the aid is delivered, there is going to be the most appalling hardship as winter comes closer and it is a savage winter in Yugoslavia. I believe that puts a special responsibility upon the leaders of each of the warring factions in Yugoslavia to realise the scale of that humanitarian disaster unless they reach a political agreement to stop fighting and honour that political agreement. The whole world will be watching to see how they react and the whole world will know where to put the blame if the humanitarian disaster we can see building up actually comes about.