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

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with President George Bush, held in Washington on Sunday 20th December 1992.


PRESIDENT BUSH:

Let me just say that once again we have had a very good meeting with the Prime Minister up at Camp David, I expect this will be my last such meeting but I will tell you that it was fruitful and I feel as strongly as I ever have about the strength of the UK/US relationship, it is vital to our own interest, I know the Prime Minister feels that way and the talks just could not have gone better. We covered a wide array of subjects, almost every area of the globe, we did it in a relaxed atmosphere, it was a special joy to have Mrs Major with us at this Christmas season, we inundated them with Christmas carols and I think as far as I am concerned it was a very wonderful visit with a distinguished world leader.

We did spend a lot of time talking about the former Yugoslavia and we spelt out some objectives for our policy, nothing particularly new in it, but we agreed that working for a peaceful and just settlement in the former Yugoslavia is essential. We agreed that there is a risk and we must prevent the spread of fighting, in particular in Kosovo and Macedonia.

Then I saluted the British leadership role in the humanitarian side of things, they have forces on the ground in harm's way and those forces are doing the Lord's work in terms of bringing relief, so we talked about maintaining the humanitarian aid effort which includes the British troops and without which clearly many more lives would be lost in the winter.

So we spelt these objectives out and Prime Minister I enjoyed the visit, I do not want to monopolise it, maybe you would care to add something, Sir?

PRIME MINISTER:

Mr President, thank you very much. Can I just echo what the President had to say about the discussions we have had over the weekend. But further than that, as the President said, this may be the last meeting we have of this kind and I have found the last two years especially fruitful in those discussions, there has been a lot happening in the last two years, I think it has been remarkably good not just for the United Kingdom but for Europe to know we have had such a good friend here in the White House and I think there are many people across the world who will have good cause to say thanks for the work that President Bush has done in the last four years. And I believe I speak not just for myself but for many millions when we wish him the best of futures after he leaves the White House in a few days time.

We had not only a very enjoyable weekend, I think we had a very productive weekend. The President has set out the objectives that we discussed as far as Yugoslavia is concerned, we looked at some of the details to underpin those objectives as well, we did agree to cooperate in a resolution at the United Nations to enforce compliance with the No Fly Zone. The aim of the resolution will be to make sure we enforce the resolution previously agreed and to prevent flights taking place other than those that have been specifically authorised to do so.

We looked also at the possible need for measures to prevent the spread of fighting into Kosovo and into Macedonia and that clearly is a matter of immense importance in the future. With that in mind we both agreed that it would be wise to press for an early increase in the number of observers in Kosovo and we also looked at the question of present and future sanctions and the present and future relationship with Serbia, we agreed that our attitude to sanctions would depend on rapid and radical change of policy by Serbia and concern that we would be ready, depending on Serbia's response, to impose new sanctions on Serbia. The sort of things we had in mind of course were initially cutting postal and telecommunication links, but going on of course to the closing of borders if necessary, and if it proves necessary complete and total diplomatic isolation not just in the short term but making it clear to them that that would apply for a very long time indeed.

Both of us wished to see a political settlement, the President was very sensitive to the work done by the British troops and by the UN agencies there and I am most grateful for his kind words about that this morning.

Amongst a number of other issues we also looked at the problems that have arisen in Iraq in the last few days in the delivery of humanitarian aid by the United Nations to the Kurds in Northern Iraq. That has come to a halt temporarily as a result of the Iraqis placing bombs in a number of the trucks that were delivering that aid and we agreed that we were determined to ensure that that aid does get through to Northern Iraq and that is a matter that will have to be developed over the course of the next few days.

So those were some, not an exclusive list, but some of the issues that we discussed this morning and I would just like to end by yet again thanking the President for the nature of these discussions and for the relationship between our two countries.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

Mr. President, would US planes be used to enforce the No Fly Zone?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

This is a little ahead of where we are going and we do not discuss how we are going to do things, especially before we have decided what they are going to be, so I would just have to duck that one right now.

QUESTION:

Is there a 15 day deadline?

PRIME MINISTER:

I saw those stories in the press this morning about a 15 day deadline, certainly that was nothing we discussed this morning, nothing we discussed over the weekend, that is a matter that is not just for the President and for I, not just for the United States and for the United Kingdom, that is something that would have to be agreed in the Security Council resolution so I do not know where these 15 day stories come from but they have no credibility at the moment.

QUESTION:

Would you be prepared to see British involvement if necessary in enforcing the deadline?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have got a lot of discussing to do before we determine how the deadline is going to be enforced. We have agreed that it is necessary to enforce the No Fly Zone, there is more than one way of doing that but we have to discuss that with a lot of other interested parties as well before we can agree the Security Council Resolution.

QUESTION:

What steps would be taken to protect the forces already on the ground protecting the humanitarian effort if there were to be retaliation as a result of the enforcement of the No Fly Zone?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have always made it clear, right from the start, that we were concerned about maintaining the humanitarian assistance that is going to Sarajevo and other centres, that clearly is of critical humanitarian importance and so is the paramount importance of preserving the security of the United Nations agencies and the British and other troops that are assisting in the delivery of that humanitarian aid. So clearly that has to underpin any resolution and any progress we make and these are the matters that will be discussed further over the next few days with our colleagues and allies.

PRESIDENT BUSH:

May I simply add to that that on behalf of the United States we are very sensitive to the fact that the sons and daughters from other countries are serving on the ground in Sarajevo and trying to facilitate the relief in the former Yugoslavia. The United States has done a fair amount, a good amount I would say, in getting relief supplies in but when it comes to taking decisions that affect the lives of troops, I would view British soldiers the same as I would if these were United States soldiers here, we must do that, we owe them prudence in making these decisions and the fact that these are Brits serving there in no way lessens the feeling I have that we must be very careful we do not needlessly put young men and women who are there in harm's way more than they are. And I just want to say that particularly to the parents of the young people that are wearing British uniforms in the former Yugoslavia today, they must know that that is the way the United States views these things.

QUESTION:

Do you anticipate any problems from Russia in terms of getting an enforcement resolution?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

No we do not anticipate any, as a matter of fact they have not raised it, I talked to Boris Yeltsin for 35 minutes this morning on other matters and had that been on his mind I expect he would have raised it, he is a very frank interlocutor, as the Prime Minister knows, and so I do not anticipate difficulty. But the way we avoid that is to do exactly what we are doing, the ultimate in consultations at the United Nations.

PRIME MINISTER:

I have nothing to add on that.

QUESTION:

Are you ready to sign the START treaty?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

We discussed that and I can tell you it is not agreed totally, we have made some real progress.

QUESTION:

Do you have a figure of some sort for these other sanctions that you have mentioned down the line, is there something that the Serbs would do to make these happen or is it just the passage of time?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

The answer to your question is no, we do not have a trigger time.

QUESTION:

Do you want the UN resolution to stipulate that planes which violate the No Fly Zone will be shot down?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I do not think that the UN resolution will stipulate anything of that sort, not in those terms. But the UN resolution is not yet decided, there is a lot of discussion, we need to get the agreement of the Security Council and others, there is some way to go before we get the resolution.

QUESTION:

Do you feel there is pressure to get it through quickly?

PRIME MINISTER:

I do not think I want to put a timescale but I doubt it will be too long.

QUESTION:

If Mr Milosevic is elected how would that affect things?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think commenting on elections is a dangerous hazardous business, especially on the day of the election.

PRESIDENT BUSH:

So do I, that is a good way to end this I think, thank you all very much.