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1996 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with President Arafat

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with President Arafat, held in London on Monday 3rd June 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just say this afternoon how pleased I have been to welcome President Arafat again to Downing Street. We have had the opportunity of talking both about bilateral relationships, but overwhelmingly about the Middle East peace process. There has been very great progress over the last few years with Mr Rabin, Mr Peres and President Arafat, and I was able once again to congratulate him upon the progress that had been made towards a Middle East settlement. We had the opportunity of reviewing the present situation. We both hope that negotiations will continue towards a peace in the Middle East. We recognised some of the difficulties that existed, but also the opportunities that existed both in the short-term and the long-term. I very much hope that those negotiations will be able to continue as soon as possible and that further progress will be made towards a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. And I assured the President that it is very much Britain’s policy to facilitate that in any way that she can.

I was also able to indicate that of course we will do what we can bilaterally to help the Palestinian state. The Foreign Secretary set out our views some time ago. We will be able to help a little further with aid and President Arafat knows that there are occasions where he may wish to discuss matters with us of importance both to him and I and that the door of Downing Street is open to him to do that on each and on every occasion.

PRESIDENT ARAFAT:

I have to thank His Excellency for giving me this opportunity. We had very fruitful, very constructive talks just now. Especially, as he mentioned, we cannot forget his efforts to strengthen more and more the peace process, not only with the Palestinians and Israelis but in the Middle East, including the Syrian track and the Lebanese track, so that we can have a comprehensive lasting peaceful solution. And I am sure his Excellency will continue this very important role of Britain in this attitude so that we will have this comprehensive lasting solution in the Middle East, in the terracentre [sic] not only between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but in the whole area. Because peace is not only a Palestinian need, not only an Israeli need, not only an Arab need but it is an international need. So we are in need of your help, Your Excellency. And I am sure, as you have mentioned, that I am not alone and I have to thank you from my heart, by my name personally, by the name of my people, for what you are offering for the peace process. And I am sure we will have very soon, with your support, with the support of Europe, with the support of the co-sponsors, America and Russia, and for the support of the international community to have very soon the peace process.

In front of you I have to repeat again that we are committed to the peace process, we are committed to what has been signed, and hope the others to be committed equally like us. And we are respecting the democratic choice of the Israeli people in the last election and we hope that we will continue with them the peace process.

QUESTION:

Chairman Arafat, if you had the opportunity to speak to Benjamin Netanyahu, what message would you give him?

PRESIDENT ARAFAT:

To continue the peace process, the peace of the [indistinct] which we have signed was bi-partisan, Mr Yitzak Rabin and Mr Peres, and we have to continue with Mr Netanyahu.

QUESTION:

[Not interpreted].

ANSWER:

[Not interpreted].

QUESTION:

If you expect the peace process to continue, when would you expect Israel to withdraw from Hebron?

PRESIDENT ARAFAT:

I hope that the withdrawal from Hebron to be exactly according to what has been agreed upon between us and the Israeli government on the 12th of this month.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, have you had any contact with Mr Netanyahu?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have today invited Mr Netanyahu to come to the United Kingdom and I look forward to meeting him again. I met him when he was opposition leader and had the opportunity of fairly lengthy discussions with him. I look forward to discussing the matter with him again. And we are committed to playing whatever role we can as a facilitator of a peace within the Middle East, and to that effect we will continue our close relationship with President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu. I look forward to meeting him.