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1993 - Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with Bill Clinton

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with Bill Clinton, held in Washington on Wednesday 24th February 1993.


PRESIDENT CLINTON:

I want to formally welcome Prime Minister Major to the White House of the United States, we are delighted to have him here. As I am sure you know, he has already met earlier today with people on the Hill and with members of my Cabinet. We have just finished the first of two meetings, we talked for about an hour and then this evening we will have a working dinner.

About the conversations we have had so far, I would just like to make two points: first we covered a wide range of topics, we talked about Bosnia, as you might imagine we would, we talked about the Middle East. And then the rest of our time was spent virtually exclusively talking about economic matters, about the upcoming meeting of the G7, about the importance of trying to get an agreement under GATT and my commitment to that, about the absolute necessity of the United States, Europe and Japan working together during this difficult time to try and prevent a contraction of the global economy and instead hopefully to promote growth not only here at home but throughout the world. And we talked about that in some considerable detail.

The Prime Minister, as you know, has been in office a lot longer than I have and I asked him for his advice about a number of things and his opinion about others and we had a very very good meeting and I am looking forward to our dinner tonight.

The second point I would like to make is to reaffirm something that some of you asked me during the photo op, and that is whether the United States will continue to have a very special relationship with Great Britain. The answer to that, from my point of view, is an unqualified ‘Yes’. I think that only two Presidents ever lived in England, I think I am one of only two, there may have been more somewhere in past centuries, but it is a very important relationship to me and I think it is off to a very good start. And I would like to say again how much I appreciate the candour with which the Prime Minister has approached the issues on which we discussed our mutual interests.

PRIME MINISTER:

Mr President, firstly thank you for your welcome today and I have found out meeting extremely useful and I look forward to continuing this evening. And I certainly had some very useful meetings this morning on the Hill and with other members of your Cabinet earlier this morning, with Lloyd Bentsen and of course over lunch as well with some of your colleagues. It is nice, having had a number of telephone conversations over the last few months, to actually see a face across the table rather than just hear a voice across the ‘phone and I look forward to continuing that dialogue this evening.

You set out some of the things that we were able to discuss over the last hour or so. I was particularly pleased we were able to reach such a meeting of minds on the importance of reaching an agreement to the Uruguay Round as speedily as possible. I think we share the view that for a raft of reasons it is important to get a satisfactory and fair agreement to the GATT Round, not just because of the impetus that will give to trade growth and hopefully to prosperity and job growth as well, but also because of the very remarkable advantage that will give not just to the industrialised but to the non-industrialised world with the many difficulties that are faced economically at the moment. So I was particularly pleased at our meeting of minds on that particular subject.

We found also a complete agreement about the need for the Security Council resolutions that have been imposed in respect of Iraq to be fully met and to be fully honoured in the future. I had the pleasure of being able to welcome the President’s initiative in humanitarian air drops in Bosnia. The United Kingdom have got a number of thousands of troops actually delivering humanitarian aid in central Bosnia, they have been doing that for some time. I think as a result of their activities many people who otherwise might not have lived through this winter have done and I think this new initiative by the President is thoroughly welcome.

So it has been a very worthwhile and a very enjoyable meeting thus far and I look forward to continuing it this evening.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

Let me answer that first question. If the United States can in some way make a constructive contribution to a political settlement, of course we would be interested in doing that, but that is not a subject we have discussed in any way so far and I think I would rather wait to make further comments until after we have had a chance to discuss it.

As far as the campaign is concerned, the campaign is over, you are a good one to answer that question since you know that compared to previous campaigns I have been in this was just sort of another day at the office and once you achieve the responsibilities of office, this is what you have to do. I told the Prime Minister today that I was just grateful that I got through this whole campaign with most of my time in England still classified.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

Let me deal with the air drops first. General Powell came over here last weekend and we talked for a very extended period of time about this operation and about how we can maximise the safety to United States’ pilots and other personnel on the planes who would be involved in this and to minimise the prospect that any humanitarian relief operation could be drawn into the politics and the military operations of this area. We know that if we are high enough to virtually assure the complete safety of the people who will participate in the airlift that a percentage of the packages we drop will be outside the more or less half mile circle that we will be trying to hit. We also know that if we leaflet the area in advance, if we notify the people about what we are dropping and how to use the medicine and what kind of food will be there, to whatever extent the people need it they will be on the look-out for it and if they have to walk a mile instead of half a mile for it, we think they will. So we believe that (a) there is a need in some of the remote areas and (b) we can do this with quite an effective but safe mission.

Insofar as other actions, I think there are a number of things that we are looking at. I am encouraged by the United Nations’ interest in the war crimes issue, I am encouraged by the conversation the Prime Minister and I had about the importance of trying to make the sanctions that are now in force actively be more effective. But I would remind you that our policy is that we want to try and have a good faith in negotiations with all the parties there, we are committed to doing what we can to encourage the Bosnians to engage in negotiations within the Vance/Owen framework and President Yeltsin has been very forthcoming on his part in trying to help get the negotiations back on track too.

So I think we should look at it just from that point of view. It would be a great mistake to read this humanitarian relief operation as some initial foray towards a wider military role.

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just add something to that, as you requested? We are able at the moment to deliver a substantial amount of aid in central Bosnia by land but the natural terrain of Bosnia as a whole means that is not practicable for a raft of reasons, not least geographical reasons, at the moment in all parts of Bosnia. I think therefore you do have to look at imaginative ways of actually getting food aid and medicine aid through and I think the prospect that the President is exploring is an imaginative one and I hope it will prove successful. On sanctions, one of the things we have been discussing in the last half an hour or so is the prospects of enhanced sanctions and I think there clearly are opportunities there that we will need to examine. I think we can improve the sanctions over the Danube, for example, I do not think they are being enforced very effectively.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

I do not think President Yeltsin is weakened by his present conflict to the extent that he is not going to continue, clearly there are difficulties in the disputes he has had with Congress and in particular the Speaker, but I expect President Yeltsin to be there and to continue, I think he is the best hope for the Russians and I think the policies and the movements towards reform that he has in mind and continues to have in mind are the right ways forward. I think there are two things we can do to help Russia in general and President Yeltsin, one is the economic assistance that has been provided, and there is a great deal of discussion to be had about whether we are directing that in the right way and in the right volume, and secondly I think also there are the political messages of support to the reformers and to the reform policies, personified at the moment in the person of President Yeltsin but the underlying purpose of the assistance is to assist the reformers and to assist the reform policies in Russia. I think we ought to give them political support as well as the practical and economic support that we have been giving them.

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

I believe that President Yeltsin has not been paralysed by what has happened, I support him and his role and he is trying to do. I have not established a definite date for a meeting with him yet but I do hope to meet with him soon, personally. I know he is having some trouble with his Congress but that is part of being in a democratic society with an elected President [indistinct] what it is like in our system. I do not want to minimise that but I think it is a grave error to assume that he cannot continue and do well, I believe he can. And I think that in terms of what we ought to be doing about it, I think the Prime Minister has pretty well laid out the kind of political and economic support we ought to be giving but let me say that as all of you know, I have placed a great priority on this. The State Department will now have an Ambassador at large whose job it is to coordinate a response not only to Russia but to all the republics of the former Soviet Union and we have a very distinguished American, Thomas Pickering, nominated to be our Ambassador. We have put in a lot of effort into trying to support democracy and trying to support economic recovery there.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

We are going to ask for an extension of fast track authority and we are going to put a real effort into a successful conclusion of the Round. I advocated that in 1991 at the beginning of my race for President and I still feel very strongly that it is important.

The press response around the world to the economic plan I presented to Congress has been very positive because our trading partners have been asking us for years to make a real effort to reduce the debt and so we are doing that. I think that sparks hope not only here at home but around the world and I think if we were to successfully conclude the Uruguay Round that would also spark hope that we will be expanding trade on terms that are fair to everyone so I am very hopeful that we can get a trade agreement.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

We haven’t discussed Northern Ireland at all and after we do I’ll be happy to answers your questions.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

All I can tell you is General Powell has been asked to design the mission in such a way that we would minimise risk to our folks and we have obviously engaged in an extensive consultation, which is not over, [inaudible] has been asking me every day when I was going to make this announcement. The consultations aren’t over and one of the things that we want everybody to know is that this is a humanitarian mission and we are prepared to help anybody who needs the food and medicine and we want the broadest possible support for this and we want all the people on the ground and the various factions to know that this is not a political issue with us.

We are very encouraged by the responses we have gotten so far from all the elements with whom we have discussed this plan. That is all I can tell you.

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think there is a great deal to add. As I indicated earlier, there is a twin-track approach. We are providing aid by land, the President has in mind aid delivered by air to areas we can’t reach by land. I have no reason to suppose that that is going to put at risk the lives of the British soldiers in Central Bosnia.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible, but regarding fighter capability].

PRIME MINISTER:

You asked the question. I have given the judgement I make.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

We talked about the importance of adhering to the United Nations Resolution as they apply to Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War and about our general support for the peace process continuing. We didn’t deal with that issue and I think I ought to wait until the Secretary of State returns from his mission before I discuss it further.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible, but regarding consultations on Bosnia and any other countries becoming involved other than the US]

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

Yes, we might have some other countries involved. The Prime Minister has made his statement. I think he has done his part. His troops are on the ground there but I think there is a chance that we will have support from other nations.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

No.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a matter that has to be negotiated between the parties and I don’t think I’m going to express a view on whether that is the right map. I think the process of seeking a negotiated settlement and trying to reach by agreement between the three parties an agreement on the map that will enable a political settlement to be reached is the right way but I don’t think it is for me to judge whether the map is right. Clearly, the view of the participants at the moment is that the map isn’t right but that is the purpose of negotiations; that is why I was delighted to hear this morning that Karadzic and Izetbegovic will be joining talks again with Boban so that they can actually talk to Cy Vance and David Owen and see if they can reach an agreement.

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

The only thing I would say just to add to that is that I agree with what the Prime Minister has said. As you know, the United States feels very strongly that this agreement must be just that - an agreement; it must not be shoved down the throat of the Bosnians or anyone else if it is going to work.

We also feel strongly that all the parties should negotiate in good faith and therefore I agree with what he said about the map but I would make this further point: the United States has made clear in our statement of policy that if an agreement is reached in good faith we would be prepared to be part of a NATO or a United Nations effort to monitor or support the agreement and that map would be difficult to support I think but before we make any final judgements we need to give the parties a chance to reach their accord.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

What I said was that I have invited the members of the Congress to present them to me and instructed our people to continue to look for them and I presume as we define things that we are willing to put on the table we will continue to do it. We don’t have any orchestrated theory about how to do that now but I’d be surprised if there aren’t some more comments.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

This is an agreement over the degree of subsidies for projects like Airbus and that agreement continues until July and I think there is no proposition in what the President said to change that particular agreement.

QUESTION:

Mr. President, you said you may discuss Northern Ireland this evening. Would you expect to discuss both the peace envoy issue and the human rights issue and do you share the view expressed by some members of Congress that Senator [indistinct] suggested that there are abuses of human rights in Northern Ireland that need to be addressed and perhaps the Prime Minister would like to [indistinct].

PRIME MINISTER:

I will address that point first. The real abuse of human rights in Northern Ireland is the abuse of human rights of people who find bombs in shopping malls when they are going about their ordinary everyday business. I think that is the abuse of human rights that is overwhelmingly the concern of everybody in Northern Ireland on both sides of the sectarian divide.

Over the past two or three years, the British Government with the Taoiseach and the political parties in Northern Ireland have been engaged in talks to try and find a political settlement to a problem that has existed in Northern Ireland for generations. We are seeking that agreement. Those talks I believe it is fair to say have made more progress than most people believed was possible. The talks came to a halt with the general election in the Republic of Ireland and the forthcoming local elections in Northern Ireland but it is the policy of my Government to resume those talks with all the parties in Northern Ireland to try and reach a satisfactory political settlement and remove many of the disputes and hatreds that have existed for generations. Those disputes and hatreds are worsened by violence, whether it is the IRA violence or whether it is the response to IRA violence which has also been prevalent over the last year or so. I condemn both unreservedly and without any distinction.

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

I believe that obviously there has to be a political solution there or there will be no solution at all and that the human rights issues will have to be addressed in that context. Whether the United States can play any sort of constructive role is something that we want to discuss later this evening.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

I think you have to expect that there would be some trouble and the Senate Minority Leader can say that but he was here during the last twelve years when other Presidents and the Congress quadrupled the national debt. I am trying to do something about it, turn it around and go in the opposite direction. The survey showed that a big majority of the American people support my initiative. The response from people in governments around the world has been almost uniformly positive that American is trying to change the nature of its economic policy, reduce its debt, increase investment in high-growth items and I never expected this to be easy. This is a fundamental change; I don’t expect it to be easy but I hope that I will be working with Senator Dole and with others to bring it to a successful conclusion.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRESIDENT CLINTON:

Yes, I spoke to the Prime Minister of Canada. We had a very nice conversation which was mostly personal and I thanked him for his kindness to me and he assured me that his country would continue to work with me and that he would personally until his tenure in office was over. I wish him well. He seemed to be a person who had worked through this and was very much at peace with himself today.

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just answer that point as well. I regard Brian as an old friend and a good friend. I shall miss him. He has been a very good friend of the United Kingdom and a very good friend of the Commonwealth so I am sad to hear of his decision today but it must be his decision. I wish him well in the future and I look forward to seeing him in the United Kingdom in a few weeks time.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think from time to time distinguished visitors from the United States in Northern Ireland have come back to the United States and they have actually explained the remarkable changes that have taken place in Belfast. There was a delegation that was there recently and the reality is that anyone who knew the place ten years ago and knows the place today will see there is an absolute and total sea change and I think there is a greater knowledge about the will for peace amongst people in Northern Ireland, especially the ordinary people of Northern Ireland on both sides of the sectarian divide. The more that is understood the better and what is actually needed in Northern Ireland to help speed that is more understanding of the process, more support for the talks, more investment for job creation and less money to fund terrorism and the more people know about that, the nearer we come to a solution.