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

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with President Yeltsin, held in London on Monday 9th November 1992.


PRIME MINISTER:

I would like firstly to express the warmest possible welcome to President Yeltsin and his colleagues on his visit here today. think it is an important visit. The visit is about our joint commitment to democratic values and economic reform and fittingly President Yeltsin will mark it tomorrow by addressing Members of both Houses of Parliament.

The meeting is about the success of the partnership which we founded here in London when last we met in January and at that particular meeting we pledged ourselves to work together on a range of different issues, on international problems, on economic cooperation, on Russia's membership of the International Monetary Fund, on the debt of the former Soviet Union and for a new agreement between the European Community and Russia and on closer defence contracts and on the control and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

I would like to say to you today that we have delivered upon those proposals. Our governments, together with our international partners, have made important progress on all of those vital issues and on many more besides. We have signed today the first general treaty between Britain and Russia in over 200 years, together with five other agreements.

So that is my first message today. The path ahead is undoubtedly very difficult, the transition to a post-Soviet, post-communist world will take years to complete. But as we look ahead to those difficulties I do not believe we should overlook the positive achievements that have been made in under a year.

My second message is that the President and I have spent today looking ahead, we have mapped out an agenda for the next stage. First, the President has underlined the importance he attaches to his objectives in the field of controlling inflation, developing markets and privatising industry. We fully support these efforts through our bilateral programmes, through the European Community, the IMF, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Second, following from that, we both seek conditions which will boost trade and investment in Russia and we are giving this special emphasis. Mr Shokhin and Mr Heseltine, the President of the Board of Trade, have today signed an economic cooperation agreement, they have set up a new United Kingdom/Russia steering committee on trade and investment which has already met once and which brings together Ministers and businessmen. Our 280 million pounds sterling export credit cover for the former Soviet Union is now ready for allocation. Several major projects involving British companies are looking promising and are strongly supported by the President of the Board of Trade.

Indeed, the President and I can announce, following the discussions between the President of the Board of Trade and the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, initial arrangements for the allocation of export credit guarantees for Russia. We agreed that subject to agreement between the parties concerned, the following projects should proceed: the John Brown Gasprom Polyethelene complex at Noviurengoy is to go ahead with some urgency with ECGD credit support. Gasprom will place orders with Rolls Royce for replacement gas turbines and parts for main transition lines and that will be done on a cash basis. Following further clarification of the details, a new terminal building at Domidanova Airport and the extension of the Comstar telephone project will also go ahead with ECGD support. All of these projects must depend on final contract terms.

I am pleased also that the President has informed the Russian Federation that they intend to begin to repay the outstanding debts of the former Soviet Union to British firms shortly. They intend to make first payments to smaller British companies.

Thirdly, President Yeltsin and I have agreed that we want to strengthen links between the European Community and Russia. Britain is pressing for the freest possible trade. We want to see negotiations for a partnership and cooperation agreement completed as soon as possible and this will start the process of trade liberalisation and build up dialogue on international questions.

Fourthly, we look forward to the benefits technical assistance will bring in such areas as developing financial and private sector activity. Britain has a triple commitment, we shall play a full part in the new consultative group convened by the World Bank at Russia's request. We are major contributors to the Community's technical assistance programme, the largest of its kind, worth 450 million Ecu this year alone. And the British Know-How Fund for this region has made an excellent start and I am announcing today that we shall extend it beyond the existing three years and are committed to doubling its size.

Fifthly, the problem of nuclear power stations needs more urgent treatment. The European Community has earmarked substantial funds, we are urging faster delivery of practical help. I have also offered British help in waste management regulations. A bilateral nuclear energy agreement is close to completion.

Sixthly, we shall extend our close foreign policy cooperation, based on UN Security Council membership. Conflict and instability in regions neighbouring Russia is a particular concern and we shall work together to enhance the efforts of the United Nations and the CSCE. Both can assist, for example, in the Baltic States where I believe that Britain and her partners can help very actively in the search for solutions.

Seventh, we are consigning the Cold War to history, our citizens can now travel freely in each other's country. We are making joint arrangements to investigate allegations concerning British prisoners of war and our military staffs are working ever more closely together. We have signed today two important defence agreements on the transport of nuclear weapons and the expansion of contacts.

Eighth, the Defence Secretary has offered Defence Minister Grachev help on the resettlement of Russian military officers. This new initiative brings together the MOD's experience in resettling UK personnel, Know-How Fund money for business oriented retraining and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's readiness to consider providing capital to help new enterprises established by Russian ex-servicemen.

This visit has not yet reached its half-way point and President Yeltsin has a series of very important meetings still to come. But I think I have said enough already to show that our talks have, as always, produced very significant results. And I conclude what I began by saying at the outset, that the President and his colleagues are very welcome guests indeed in the United Kingdom and to say, in conclusion, that I have been very happy to accept the President's invitation to visit Russia at a date to be agreed in the future.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

I thank you, Mr Prime Minister, for your statement. I must say that today is really an historic occasion for relations between Russia and the United Kingdom. We have just signed the treaty on the principles governing relations between the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and it is difficult to over-estimate the significance of that document. It provides a legal framework for the firm resolve of our two countries to make full use of the huge potential of mutually beneficial and fruitful cooperation to the benefit of our two peoples.

In the field of international security and control over weapons our two countries intend to work together to effectively reduce arms and promote disarmament to strengthen trust and confidence in the military field. In the sphere of economics it is our goal to create favourable conditions for closer cooperation of the businessmen of the two countries in various industries for the benefit of our two peoples.

We believe that we shall build our relations on the basis of friendship, peace, close cooperation, extensive and reliable partnership. The era of confrontation has been committed to the past and the strategy of whipping up military hysteria, the policy of ideological intolerance, has also been committed to the heap of history. The new and democratic Russia will build its relations with the outside world on the basis of the universally recognised norms of international law and human morality. In the field of international security we shall regard this treaty as an extensive programme for joint actions between Russia and Great Britain because I believe that this document will be a document to guide this and the coming generations of the Russians and the people of Britain because the noble aims of that document is to promote and strengthen relations of peace and friendship between our two countries and peoples.

We shall actively work to promote contacts and exchanges in the field of culture and education and in the human [indistinct] sphere in general. In its significance, its scope and the prospects it is opening, this is a document of extraordinary importance, not only for bilateral relations between our two countries but also for the European and international environment in general. Our cooperation does not damage any other country. I am convinced that the closer working together of such powers as Russia and Great Britain will promote international stability and peace and is in the best interests of the international community. We are firmly committed to the goals and principles of the United Nations Charter and on the papers of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Back in 1766, on the eve of the signing of the first Russo/British treaty, the head of the Russian diplomacy, Earl Panin [phon] referred to Britain as an old and natural ally of Russia and he also said that Russia cherishes friendship and mutual trust and confidence with Britain. He stressed this is our way of thinking and this is the guiding thread of our behaviour towards this country.

Today, relations between Russia and Great Britain are taking a new stride. But, as 226 years ago, Russia reiterates that its strategic purpose in relations with Britain is achieving real allied relationship and sincere friendship. Our joint history is not rich in documents of that sort, we [indistinct] value we attach to the treaty we have signed today. What is most important today is to give it specific and real content and make it work. In order to make it work, in order to get benefits from it, our people should feel its real fruits and for that we require the efforts by all of us, politicians and businessmen, people of culture and science and of ordinary citizens, we bear the huge responsibility for the destinies of the Russian and British peoples for their life today and for the life of generations to come. I express my firm confidence that we shall be as good as the tasks that we have been instructed to deal with.

And in conclusion may I also say that I have invited the Prime Minister, Mr Major, to pay a return official visit to Russia. As you have just heard, he has said that he is accepting the invitation and he added the usual proviso that the time of the visit will be confirmed through diplomatic channels.

Today we have signed in fact not one but six most important documents: the treaty on the principle of relations; the agreement on economic cooperation; the agreement on the establishment of a direct communications link between the Kremlin and No 10 Downing Street; the memorandum on the programme of bilateral Russo/British military contacts for the years 1993 and 1994; the memorandum of understanding on the assistance to Russia in safe transportation of the nuclear weapons reduced in order to speed up its dismantling and destruction; and the last is the memorandum of understanding in the field of air aviation safety.

All in all during today's discussion the Prime Minister and I have covered both in our private discussions and in the plenary session with the attendance of the delegations twenty items of various nature and I must say that the discussions which we have held and the agreements that we have reached today will provide a strong impetus and impulse for the further development of close cooperation between the two great powers - the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Russian Federation.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION (Russian TV):

Mr. Prime Minister, when holding talks today with the Russian delegation and signing the documents with the Russian President, were you setting ground for a relationship of partnership or alliance between the two great nations?

PRIME MINISTER:

We were setting out to create a new and improved relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia. Over many generations, the relationship has been fractured with mistrust and with difficulties. We believe Russia has begun a new future, a democratic future, and President Yeltsin and I agreed in January that we would set the framework for a range of international agreements. The treaty we signed today and the other bilateral agreements are the fruits of that agreement that we made in January and I believe that it does set the groundwork for a better relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia than we have known for many generations. It is by no means the end of the relationship. It is setting the ground-rules for an ever closer and improving relationship between our two countries and I have no doubt that that is what we will be able to achieve.

QUESTION (Adam Boulton - Sky TV):

I imagine both your peoples are most concerned about the state of the economy, I wonder if I could ask you both to talk about the prospects as you see them in your countries over the next year and whether the Prime Minister stands by his promises during the election not to increase taxes? [Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you know very well, Adam, for I have expressed it often enough, the prospects I see for the United Kingdom economy but the Chancellor will set out all that in the Autumn Statement and other matters too towards the end of this week and I think you had better wait for that.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

For the Russian economy the year of 1992 is a difficult year indeed. On January 2, 1992 the economic reform was launched and I must say today that the greatest difficulties are behind us. Of course, the problems remain and things are yet difficult in Russia but I want to repeat that the greatest difficulties are already behind us.

In February, March, April and May and in October, we had prophecies that the economy of Russia would collapse; it is still there and it is going strong. Our output, true, is falling but we have instituted stringent budgetary controls; we have raised our taxes; and we are taking every measure in order to improve the functioning of our economy.

We are going to lower taxes; for instance, as of January 1, 1993 our Value Added Tax, which today stands at 28%, will go down to 20% and our tax on profits will also be reduced; the number of percentage points by which it will be reduced is still a matter of discussion.

QUESTION: [originally in Russian, but also rephrased by the questioner in English]

My question was the assessment by Mr  President of the grade of understanding concerning the domestic problems of Russia including economic and financial problems.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

I have visited many countries on official visits and without casting a shadow over any of the visits paid by me so far, I would like you to know that today we have covered a wide field of questions and we raised many points with the Prime Minister but there was not one single point on which we differed. Indeed, this is a very remarkable occasion because for the two countries which until very recently were regarding each other as potential enemies, one of the countries being a communist totalitarian regime and the other a truly democratic country, it is really a unique thing to witness that today they have no differences over which to disagree.

We discussed a whole gamut of subjects - political, financial, environmental, organisational, military - and we have found that after proper discussion and debate we could agree. We went from general political matters to specific matters of economic cooperation and speeding up the economic progress of our two countries and we agreed every time. What is remaining now is to translate into life the understandings that the two governments have reached.

I would like to take this occasion to thank personally the Prime Minister, Mr. Major, for his profound understanding of Russia, of its reforms because the reforms in Russia are unique and I would also like to thank him for the understanding that he displayed towards the President of Russia.