Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1993 - Mr Major’s Press Conference in Muscat

Below is the text of Mr Major’s press conference in Muscat, given on Thursday 28th January 1993.


PRIME MINISTER:

I have had the opportunity this morning and over lunch to have very wide ranging discussions with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. I am most grateful to the Sultan for his hospitality and also for the unfailing help that we have had from His Excellency, Kai Sawawe [phon]. I last met the Sultan at Chequers in July. He is, as you know, a very close friend of the United Kingdom, a long standing political, commercial friend of our country.

I met him this morning in rather unusual circumstances. His Majesty is in the middle of his "Meet the People" tour and we met this morning near Ibra in Eastern Oman in a tent in the middle of the desert and I suspect that is the first time that the British Prime Minister and the Sultan of Oman have met in such unusual circumstances. The Sultan is a very senior ruler in the region and I very much value the advice and assistance that we receive from him on so many matters.

We had the opportunity this morning of discussing a very wide range of issues: the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Iran, the Middle East Peace Process and a number of other bilateral matters. I am delighted to say that during our discussions this morning the Sultan told me that the Government of Oman had selected the British Challenger II as the Royal Army of Oman's next main battle tank. This is the first export order for the Challenger II which is manufactured by Vickers Defence Systems Limited. It is an excellent tank and a tank that has already been chosen for the British Army. The order is for an initial quantity of 18 tanks and 4 Challenger armoured report and recovery vehicles. The initial delivery is for 1995. The Government of Oman intend to purchase a further 18 tanks later.

It is already clear that this multi-million pound contract will sustain employment at the company's two facilities in Newcastle and Leeds where some 1,800 people are employed and also of course at the many sub-contractors involved in this programme. I am delighted at this further example of our very close defence cooperation with one of our oldest and most valuable allies in the Gulf,

QUESTION:

Oman has called for opening a new [indistinct] in the Gulf and for signing a new political agreement, including the whole Gulf states, even Iraq, do you agree with this call which clearly opposes your tough stand towards Iraq and did you discuss this with the Sultan when you reviewed the current situation in the Gulf? And is Britain going to support possible sanctions against Israel by the UN Security Council to force the Israeli government to take the Palestinian deportees back?

PRIME MINISTER:

On the latter point, the government supported Security Council Resolution, I think it was 799, and the Israeli government are aware of our position on that matter, we very much hope this matter will be resolved very speedily. On the first matter, the Sultan of Oman has been a leader in seeking cooperation between the Gulf states for some time, he has in the past put forward special proposals in the Gulf Cooperation Council, I believe he is right to put forward those proposals and they have our support.

QUESTION (Oman News Agency):

We have seen the Security Council resolution being implemented on a selective basis, that international body which is responsible for maintaining world peace and security, are we going to see some reforms being introduced to the Security Council with the international crises on their lists?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not sure what reforms you might have in mind about the Security Council, it is certainly the position that the United Kingdom wish to see all UN Security Council resolutions implemented, and implemented in full. That has been our position in the past and I can give you that assurance it will remain our position in the future.

QUESTION:

We have been witnessing the United States and the UK taking international matters into their hand by continuing their air assaults on Iraq while at the same time ignoring what is happening to the Palestinian deportees, including the Security Council resolution on the matter. Today we learn that the Israeli High Court has supported the government's decision. Do you have an idea whether your country is going to support sanctions against Israel

PRIME MINISTER:

I indicated some moments ago that we supported the Security Council resolution concerning the Palestinians. Just the other day it was British helicopters that helped remove some of the Palestinians who needed medical care and attention. We have made it clear to the Israeli government that we believe those Palestinians should be returned from whence they came, that is our continuing position and we will continue to examine that with our friends and allies in the United Nations and of course with the Israeli government.

On the first point, the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions, it is precisely to implement those resolutions within the framework of international law that the United States, Great Britain and France have taken the action that they have done recently against Iraq. It was of course Iraq that were infringing Security Council resolutions supported right across the Gulf and indeed right across the United Nations.

QUESTION:

On a domestic matter, you have decided to take legal action against two publications in the United Kingdom, this is highly unusual for a serving Prime Minister, can we have your thoughts on it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I issued a statement about that earlier today, l issued a statement concerning that I had instructed solicitors to issue Writs for Libel. I have nothing further to add to that now or later.

QUESTION:

On the same matter, when the Chancellor had to consult lawyers about possible libel actions it was decided to pay part of the lawyers' fees out of public funds, why have you decided not to do that in this case?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Chancellor has dealt with that matter before, I have nothing further to add to that and I have nothing further to add to the announcement I made a moment ago. I have instructed solicitors to issue Writs for Libel, that is all I propose to say about the matter at this stage.

QUESTION:

Are you confident that the Middle East countries you are visiting today are behind the UK, the US and France in the action you have been taking against Iraq, does that go for the whole of the Middle East region?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I do think I am content about that, there was very wide support for the Gulf war at the time and for the Security Council resolution subsequently. It is implementing those Security Council resolutions and international law that has actually led to the action to which you refer, so yes I am confident in that.

QUESTION:

What is the British government's policy towards Iraq now?

PRIME MINISTER:

We wish to see Iraq implement the Security Council resolutions, that is our policy, we have no plans for Iraq to dismember Iraq, know there has been concern, we wish to see Iraq remain as an entity but we wish to see it operate under international law and the international community has set out its wishes in a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions, they must be implemented.

QUESTION:

Can you expand on the concerns that may have been expressed to you by the Sultan about the position of Iran?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I do not think I wish to expand upon our private conversations on that matter.

QUESTION:

Do you think that military action should be taken against the Serbs and when will that take place?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we are doing at the moment both in Bosnia in terms of humanitarian assistance and in terms of a political settlement is I think for the time being the way forward. The political settlement that is being sought that was propelled by the London Conference on the Yugoslav crisis that I chaired in the autumn is proceeding and Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance have made very good progress. There is more to be done but I think it is through that political process that we will get a satisfactory settlement to the very sad dispute that exists in Yugoslavia. In the meantime, while the dispute continues we must continue to provide the humanitarian assistance that is necessary and it is for that reason that the United Kingdom have provided not only a large amount of food but other aid as well, most notably medicines and also a large contingent of British troops to ensure that it is delivered where it is most needed.