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1992 - Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with Mr Brian Mulroney and M Jacques Delors

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with Mr Brian Mulroney and M Jacques Delors, held in Ottawa on Thursday 17th December 1992.


MR MULRONEY:

The Prime Minister and President Delors have been travelling and they were sidelined to Montreal and they had to drive up here so they are understandably pretty tired and they have got a full day tomorrow in Washington. So I thank them for coming and I will just say very briefly to offer both a welcome to them and our congratulations to the Prime Minister for the excellent success of Edinburgh and the great progress that was made, the Canadians thought very skilfully handled and so we are always very happy for progress that takes place in the European Community because of its importance for Canada and for the United States.

We just had an opportunity for roughly an hour to review some trade matters and some political matters, especially the evolving situation in Bosnia, and we will have a chance to chat again over dinner and early tomorrow morning before the Prime Minister leaves. So in the interests of time, because we do have guests waiting and you have deadlines, there will not be any individual statements.

QUESTION:

[Indistinct] and I would like to have the same comments from Mr Major, the decisions taken by NATO Foreign Ministers today in Brussels?

MR MULRONEY:

They are examining it, as we are causing it to be examined at the United Nations, and I had a call from Barbara McDougal a few hours ago and the steps taken today were prudent but our hope is that this matter will wind up with the Security Council of the United Nations and at that point in time there will be a decision I suppose that will be endorsed by the international community.

PRIME MINISTER:

I do not think there is a great deal to add to that, it was a prudent and a balanced decision that was taken today. I suspect the matter is heading back in one form or another to the Security Council and at the moment there is a great deal of bilateral discussion taking place to determine exactly what happens there.

QUESTION:

[In French and not interpreted].

MR MULRONEY:

[In French and not interpreted].

QUESTION:

Lady Thatcher today said that the West must bear its share of blame for not stopping Serbian aggression and she called for a military [indistinct] in Bosnia, what do you make of those proposals?

MR MULRONEY:

Well of course I was a partner with Mrs Thatcher when she was Prime Minister in respect of Kuwait and her view was, and that I certainly endorsed, that action of this nature should come about as a result of the Security Council of the United Nations speaking on behalf of the civilised world, and that is what we did. The United Kingdom and Canada and France and the United States and I think 26 or 27 others were partners in the initiative under the aegis of the Security Council that allowed us to take the action in the Gulf. Unilateral action in this circumstance would be dangerous and perhaps self-defeating, it requires absolutely the moral authority and the effectiveness of the resolution of the Security Council before industrialised countries and others can go beyond where we are at the moment. That is why Canada and I think the United Kingdom and others have been pressing for this matter to come forward at the Security Council at an early moment.

QUESTION:

[Indistinct] whether they believe that given the danger of retaliation a No Fly Zone could be enforced in Bosnia without ground troops being available to finish the action?

PRIME MINISTER:

A key question, it is the question that may be unknowable until it is actually put to the test. The United Nations imposed the No Fly Zone and so far as one can tell it has been effective in that it has stopped combat aircraft flying, it has not been effective in that it has not stopped helicopters and other small aircraft flying. So there has clearly been no large-scale movement of troops, there may have been movement of commanders, there may have been movements of very small numbers of troops, that we do not know. The Security Council will clearly have to look at the question of enforcement and it will have to take into account the nature of enforcement, we need to be clear precisely what it means, whether it means that aircraft would be prevented from taking off, whether it means if they had taken off they were forced to land or whether in its most severe form it would mean shooting down aircraft that infringed it.

These are matters that need discussing together with the impact of what that might mean for the humanitarian forces because there are two objectives and they run in parallel that the United Nations and its member states need to bear in mind. The first is the desirability, the necessity of seeking a political solution to stop the carnage in Bosnia and some of the unspeakable activities that have been going on there, that is the first objective. The second objective is one that we must live with day after day after day, and that is to sustain the humanitarian links that are actually taking food into literally hundreds of thousands of people who would otherwise face starvation and have no medical care or medicines whatsoever. And we need to keep those two things running parallel, it is a very fine judgment, it is why there is so much bilateral discussion at the moment before those judgments are taken.

But I repeat what I said a moment ago, I think this matter is going back to the Security Council, there is a mounting impatience in the West over the events in Bosnia and I do not see that rapidly being stilled.

QUESTION:

If the United Nations and the EC are unable to stop the killings, as they seem unable to, is a unilateral role by NATO right out of the question as far as you are concerned?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a matter for NATO, it is not a matter I can answer this afternoon. We have to bear in mind what nature of conflict this is. This is not the same conflict as Kuwait where you had one country forcibly invaded and raped by another country. Here you have what is in essence a civil war, beginning when people of one nationality locked together with others suddenly started to seek a greater share of the land, it grew up, it mushroomed from that beginning. It is a very messy and difficult problem, it is not one capable of easy solution. That does not mean we can stand by and take no action whatsoever, it does mean we need to be very measured and certain in the action we take before we commit ourselves to it and that is why it does need international decisions, it is right I think for it to go back to the United Nations and for NATO and other nations collectively to look at it there and I think that is the way it will be dealt with.

QUESTION:

Are there positions beyond which the UK is not prepared to go?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not going to anticipate what may happen in the future. We have made it clear at the moment that I do not think this is a matter that can be readily resolved with a few ground troops, we have got troops in Bosnia at the moment, the troops are there actually delivering humanitarian aid. We are seeking a political solution, we pursued that in the London Conference that we called during our European Community Presidency, Mr Vance and Lord Owen are still pursuing that settlement, there are a whole series of meetings that have been taking place just this very week. I am not going to anticipate beyond that, I do not think it would be wise from the point of view of the West and I do not think it would be wise in terms of indicating to others what might happen.

QUESTION:

Mr Mulroney are you worried about the threat to humanitarian forces and to troops already protecting them if there is military enforcement of a No Fly Zone?

MR MULRONEY:

Yes we are, we, like the British, have substantial numbers of people in former Yugoslavia and we are very concerned not only for their welfare but for the welfare of other NGOs and United Nations humanitarian personnel who are there because there have been indications strictly given by leaders of the Bosnian Serbs that any indications of action, multilateral or otherwise, would provoke retaliation against people on the ground and we have obviously a primary obligation to our people and the representatives of our allies who are on the ground now trying to deliver humanitarian services. And so that too, as Prime Minister Major has indicated, is one of the reasons why unilateral action, dramatically articulated, has a certain appeal, a certain cachet, but in point of fact the reality is that this matter can only be resolved multilaterally by the Security Council of the United Nations. That does not preclude under that umbrella action by NATO forces, we all happen to be allies together in the pursuit of this objective, but clearly the leadership must come from the Security Council of the United Nations and we are looking for that leadership because we are extremely dissatisfied with what is taking place, as you know, and as Prime Minister Major has just stated.

QUESTION:

Do you think that whatever does come perhaps should not occur before the elections in Serbia, that in fact you might strengthen the hand of Milosevic by taking a tough line at this moment?

PRIME MINISTER:

Elections in Serbia are only a day or so away are they not?

MR MULRONEY:

I think the Prime Minister is right and then you are going to get this kind of unpersuasive response from Belgrade that they have got nothing to do with what is going on in Bosnia and so I hope no-one believes that. And so what is taking place there will be significant and hopefully the United Nations will deal with the situation both as it is in Bosnia and as the reality exists in Belgrade. The solution cannot come from one source alone, there is a bifurcation of responsibility here, it has to be brought together and dealt with strictly under the aegis of the Security Council of the United Nations but with both eyes on both of those areas and I think that to the extent that a solution might emerge it is in that regard.

QUESTION:

[In French and not interpreted].

M. DELORS:

[In French and not interpreted].

MR MULRONEY:

[In French and not interpreted].