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1991 - Mr Major’s Statement on President Gorbachev

Below is the text of Mr Major's statement on President Gorbachev, made outside Downing Street on Thursday 22nd August 1991.


PRIME MINISTER:

I had a telephone conversation at lunchtime with President Gorbachev for about fifteen minutes or so. He sounded very fit, very well, very buoyant and very pleased with the way things had turned out. He went out of his way to express his very warm gratitude to the British people for the support that they had given him and for the support that he had received elsewhere in the world; he was very pleased indeed about that.

He is today considering some of the changes he will need to make in his government and he did tell me that he also expects to meet leaders of the Republics tomorrow to discuss the Union Treaty; he very much hopes it will be possible for that meeting to be held tomorrow.

We also discussed the possibility of my visiting Moscow at an early date; we agreed that that would be desirable and our two offices are now looking at a suitable date.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

QUESTION:

Did he tell you much about the conditions in which he was being held?

PRIME MINISTER:

We discussed that very briefly. He did say that there had been attempts to persuade him to resign and to seek to break his spirit but that they had been unsuccessful. We will no doubt discuss that more when we meet face-to-face.

QUESTION:

What do you feel about future talks, Prime Minister, the future relationship between G7 and the Soviet Union?

PRIME MINISTER:

We agreed that it would be desirable for he and I to meet in the fairly near future and our offices are looking for dates now; we will discuss those matters then.

QUESTION:

That is presumably when you are on your way back from China, is it?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a matter of when we can find a mutually agreeable date for both of us but no decisions have been made about that; that is under discussion at the moment.

QUESTION:

Did you talk at the level that there was a different relationship now that the Old Guard had been swept away?

PRIME MINISTER:

We did discuss the fact that the reform programme is now on a different level. The opponents of reform have been swept away very substantially and that does open great possibilities for the reform programme. We did touch very generally on that, yes.

QUESTION:

Did he welcome that change in attitude from you?

PRIME MINISTER:

He thought there were great prospects in increasing reform, yes he did.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, did you discuss the question of aid and the way in which that might now change?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, we didn't discuss that specifically; those weren't matters to be discussed in the midst of what for him is going to be a very crowded day indeed today. It is highly probably later on he will go down and address the Parliament so he has a very crowded and busy day so we didn't specifically discuss that.

QUESTION:

Can you characterise how he sounded? Did he sound down or buoyant?

PRIME MINISTER:

Not in the slightest bit down, no. He sounded very fit, very well, very buoyant and very anxious to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.

QUESTION:

But won't Mr. Gorbachev never be the same man again? He is weakened at his power base and perhaps weakened in himself.

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't know why you are so keen to write him off. He sounded pretty buoyant to me, pretty powerful to me, pretty confident to me.

He is reshaping his government, he has great plans for the future; he sees how he can carry reform forward. He sounded to me like a man very fit, very confident and raring to get on with the job.