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1992 - Press Release - Prime Minister’s Comments on the Middle East

Below is the text of the Conservative Party Press Release on Mr Major’s comments on the Middle East. It was issued on Tuesday 30th June 1992, reference 884/92.


PRIME MINISTER SPEAKS ON THE MIDDLE EAST

As great friends of Israel, Robert [Rhodes James] and Michael [Latham] - like everyone here tonight - will have watched last week's General Election result [in Israel] with interest,” said the Rt Hon John Major MP, Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, in remarks to a Conservative Friends of Israel dinner in London in honour of Robert Rhodes James and Michael Latham, who retired from the House of Commons at the General Election.

“Perhaps I could say just a few words about what I think the result means.

First of all, I think it offers an opportunity to all concerned - Israel, the Arabs, and other interested parties including the Europeans - to renew their efforts to pursue peace.

For my part I can say this: helping to achieve peace in the Middle East will be a very high priority during the British Presidency of the European Community.

It is most definitely not for outsiders to try to dictate to Israel the terms of a peace settlement. These must be freely negotiated and agreed. But we ought to give our views on the solution of a problem which carries such dangers for Europe and the rest of the world.

It would be unwise to exaggerate the EC's influence over negotiations. It should not puff itself up beyond its influence. But we, during our Presidency, will do all we can to assist the bilateral negotiations. We stand four-square behind the American-led peace process. We shall do everything we can to help.

We shall also be fully involved in the work of the multilateral groups. During our Presidency, we shall be chairing the regional economic development group meeting in Paris. We will be active in the other groups - refugees, arms control, water, environment. But much depends on progress in resolving the central political issues which are addressed in the bilateral negotiations.

If we are to have a lasting settlement, I believe that there will have to be agreement on three key principles.

First, we must ensure the security of the state of Israel. This must be the key to any agreement. We are 100% committed to it.

No-one living through the Iraq conflict can doubt it. I believe the Gulf War was a turning point in many ways. For Israel it demonstrated the West's commitment to the state of Israel. For us in Europe and the wider world, Israel's mature response in what was undoubtedly a very frightening and difficult situation increased understanding and improved Israel's standing considerably. So let there be no doubt, the state of Israel came of age politically during the Gulf War.

And public opinion in the West is united on the overriding need to ensure the security of Israel.

But that security means that there must be a settlement to the problems of the Middle East. And that means there must be self-determination for the Palestinian people. There is no solution to the overall problem, no peaceful future for the states of the region until the Palestinian problem is solved.

It has to be a solution that is acceptable and will endure.  Not a solution that is imposed and will not endure. Not a solution that is imposed and will give rise to future conflict.

We have every reason to believe that the new government in Israel will be determined to make very early progress in the negotiations on the five year interim autonomy arrangements and elections in the Occupied Territories. This will be a great fillip to the prospects for peace.

We have always taken the view that there will have to be some kind of territorial compromise. More and more people accept this. Here too, we look to the parties in the negotiation for flexibility and imagination.

There is no doubt that settlement activity has been a major impediment to the peace process. So we also hope that a new Israeli government will move to curb settlement activity in the Occupied Territories. There is no doubt that nothing would do more to help build confidence than curbing new settlements. And in response, I would expect the Arab states to lift the iniquitous boycott on trade with Israel.

I believe that we now have the chance further to strengthen links with Israel. To build on the traditional friendship between our countries and to increase opportunities for trade. I also very much hope to visit Israel and meet the new Prime Minister."