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1995 - Mr Major’s Interview in the Middle East

Below is the transcript of Mr Major’s interview on Friday 10th March 1995.


QUESTION:

We are very proud to have you here with us and we hope that this is the beginning of a permanent relationship between our newsroom and 10 Downing Street. I'm sure it will be a much closer relationship and I'm delighted to be here.

Prime Minister, let me first of all start by asking you about the Middle East Peace talks. It seems like in the last few months it has reached an impasse and we believe that probably you will be visiting this area soon. We'd like to know if you are taking with you any new items or suggestions of initiatives to break this deadlock?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm looking forward in the next few days to very extensive discussions both with Chairman Arafat in Gaza and also with Prime Minister Rabin. I think at the end of the day the agreement is going to have to be reached between them, between the Palestinians and between the Israelis. But I think there is a great deal the rest of the world can do to help. One of the problems that has occurred of course, has been much of the difficulty in obtaining investment and obtaining good living standards. We've very real practical problems to discuss and I will be taking with me a large number of the most important and senior businessmen in the United Kingdom and we will be looking at what can be done in practice to improve trade, improve investment and lay the groundwork for a much higher quality of life for people in those areas.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you may be aware of the fact that any peace initiatives or any peace talks may not succeed if they can't get the full sincere, political commitment as well as financial support. The European Union as well as Britain have promised the Palestinians a certain amount of money to implement the Oslo Agreement. So far that commitment hasn't been met. Are you going to take this with you when you go to Chairman Arafat?

PRIME MINISTER:

The European Union meets its commitments and it will meet its commitments on this front. There's a certain amount of bilateral assistance that we've been able to give. That apart from our contribution via the European Union is a significant bilateral contribution that the United Kingdom has been able to make and we may be able to help a little more as well. I shall discuss that with Chairman Arafat.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, I have been noticing the British foreign policy in the last few months, events seem to concentrate on what is going on with your neighbours, I mean the European Union. Are you worried a little bit that it might lead to Britain being isolated from its traditional allies like the Gulf States, the United States and Japan?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I'm determined that isn't going to happen. About half our trade as a whole operates within the European Union, but the other half operates beyond it and the other half is expanding quite dramatically. The world is opening up in a remarkable way. The growth of our trade in recent years with the Middle East, with the Far East, with Latin America, all tremendous scope for improvement and although the European Union is very important to us, we have no intention of devoting so much intention to our concentration within the European Union that we neglect the rest of the world. We have longstanding and very traditional friends in many parts of the world,  least up and down the Gulf and the Middle east and we have no intention of moving away from that.

QUESTION:

So Arab/British relations will improve as far as you are concerned in the light of foreign policy in the next few years?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm determined they will. I've had a very large number of visits to Arab leaders whom we've traditionally known for many years. Ever since I became Prime Minister and they've going to continue. Indeed in my visit next week, not only will I be meeting Chairman Arafat in Gaza but the day after I will be going to see King Hussein in Jordan. So those relationships are traditional, they're valued relationships. They're relationships we've had for very many years and there's no question that they're going to continue and I believe improve.

QUESTION:

From the foreign policy to the domestic policy. Opinion polls suggest that the Conservatives are not as popular as they should be and in the light of the new leadership of the Labour Party, Tony Blair. Will you still after two years be in 10 Downing Street?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I think we will. As far as Tony Blair is concerned, we get on perfectly amiably. We're leaders of different parties. We have our disagreements, but they are political.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, thank you very much for talking to us and we wish you a very successful trip to the Middle East.

PRIME MINISTER:

It's my pleasure and I'm looking forward to it.