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1991 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview Relating to Terry Waite

Below is Mr Major's doorstep interview on Monday 18th November 1991 in London on the release of Terry Waite.


PRIME MINISTER:

We have now had independent corroboration from two separate sources - the Secretary General's spokesman and the Lebanese Army - that both Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland have been released. We believe at the moment that they are travelling between Beirut and Damascus and that they are heading for the British Embassy in Damascus and we would very much hope they would arrive there soon.

I must emphasise Mr Waite is not yet in British hands but we now have every reason genuinely to believe that he is free and that he will soon be with us. And if that proves to be the case, this is very good news indeed and we are absolutely delighted about it.

We have waited 5 years for this, it must have been a long and agonising period both for Terry Waite and for all those who know him, his family and his friends. I hope very soon we will see the end of that and if the reports are correct he should be with us this evening and I very much hope on his way home here tomorrow.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

QUESTION:

Is he in good health, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

We do not know yet, he is not in our hands yet. The corroboration about his release seems to be substantiated. As soon as he arrives at the British Embassy in Damascus we will have a full medical report, but he is not there yet.

QUESTION:

Is there anything the government could have done to speed things along, it seems such a long wait?

PRIME MINISTER:

It has been a very long wait. We have been working very hard for a long period to get all the hostages released, all the British hostages released, and the other hostages released too. We ought not to forget this evening there are other hostages still to be released. We have been working energetically for months, many months, behind the scenes in order to secure this release and I am immensely grateful to the Secretary General and his staff for the work that they have done.

QUESTION:

Why do you think it has happened now?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there are a vast variety of reasons why it has happened now, I do not want to speculate on all of them, I think it would take a long time. Suffice to say I am delighted it has happened and I hope we will have the rest of the hostages out soon as well.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible.]

PRIME MINISTER:

There have been no back stage deals done if that is the question you are asking, I am just very pleased the hostages are out and that the atmosphere has changed. That is what we have wanted to see, we have worked for it for a long time, as my predecessor did, it has now happened, most of the hostages are home with their families, I hope all of them soon will be and tomorrow perhaps we will see Mr Waite back here.

QUESTION:

Inaudible.

PRIME MINISTER:

Matters are changing with many of the Middle Eastern states, there are many things to consider. I think that is all I have to say for the moment until we have Mr Waite in our hands.