Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1990 Nov 19 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference at Paris CSCE Summit

Document type:speeches
Document kind:Press Conference
Venue:British Embassy Ballroom, Paris
Source:Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1225-1245. Douglas Hurd accompanied MT on the platform, as well as the British Ambassador and Bernard Ingham. The editor is grateful to Anthony Barnett for his recollection of this event.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:1487
Themes:Autobiographical comments, Civil liberties, Conservative Party (organisation), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (arms control), European Union (general), Foreign policy (Central and Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non - EU), Foreign policy (International organisations), Foreign policy (International organisations), Foreign policy (International organisations), Conservative Party (leadership elections), Conservative Party (leadership elections)

Prime Minister

You are well aware that we have signed the Conventional Forces in Europe Agreement; just a word about it:

It is the biggest international disarmament agreement since the end of the last World War. It not only prevents a surprise attack—which is what we have always feared—it also prevents the tremendous conventional overhang of armaments—the superiority—which the Soviet Union had over NATO forces. Those two things, I think, are the major things dealt with: that the great superiority of conventional weapons has gone as we come down to level weaponry and also we cannot now get the surprise attack across what would have been the Warsaw Pact countries.

It is a very interesting agreement. It provides for extensive verification as well as the reduction in weaponry. It is the kind of agreement which we have worked for for many many years. We have always been staunch to defend freedom and justice; we have always sought to do it at a lower level of weaponry. This agreement brings that about and I think we can claim that we have played a big part in it, first with cooperation with President[fo 1] Reagan and then with President Bush in staunchness on defence and then willingness and skill in negotiation in which our respective Foreign Offices have done a wonderful job together with the Defence Ministries.

The second one—the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe—declares that we are no longer adversaries, sets up provisions for far more regular meetings than we have ever had before, extends the area of dialogue across what used to be the European Divide and sets up extra institutions for regular dialogue and also for resolving conflict and several other matters.

I will not go on any longer because I know you want to ask questions.[fo 2]

Peter Snow (BBC "Newsnight")

Do you feel sore that at this time when you are here to celebrate the end of the Cold War after so long, that you are facing this leadership challenge at home?

Prime Minister

No, I don't feel sore at all. I am just very glad that we have got to a stage when we can actually sign this Agreement among twenty-two countries, that it is very very good evidence of the marvellous work which this Government has done in cooperation with others and that we have been very prominent in securing this result.

John Dickie (Daily Mail)

Are you confident that you will not have a change of address by the end of this week and if so, what makes you confident you won't have a change of address?

Prime Minister

I most earnestly believe that I shall be in No. 10 Downing Street at the end of this week and a little bit longer than that.

John Dickie

What makes you so confident about it?[fo 3]

Prime Minister

What makes me so confident? I think I have a marvellous team working with me and I think that we are all optimistic—very optimistic.

Question

Prime Minister, we all take your word for that but it must be a strain surely trying to carry on this sort of international negotiation and not knowing whether you have got a job to go home to at the end of the week?

Prime Minister

Not in any way! I have been carrying on international negotiations for eleven-and-a-half years. It is not a strain—it is almost an everyday occurrence.

Anthony Barnett (New Statesman)

Prime Minister, why, when you called upon this Summit to entrench rights across Europe, do you not agree with Charter 88 that we should have entrenched rights in the United Kingdom?

Prime Minister

We are in this Summit to get rights way across the European Divide. We were the first, I think, to call for the Community to extend democracy to other countries, into Eastern Europe. I think that is absolutely vital, that if they wish to join us they should and also that they will probably be able to have some of the Eastern[fo 4] European countries joining the Council of Europe before they join the EEC.

Judith Dawson (Sky TV)

I wondered if the CFE Agreement signed this morning and this new stage of the CSCE is the sort of thing you would like to be remembered for having participated so much in?

Prime Minister

I think I will be remembered for a lot more than that but it is not time to write memoirs yet!

Question

Prime Minister, can you see that the CSCE now as it is constituted could provide a security framework for all of Europe as well as a political framework and if so, how do you see it relating to the future of NATO?

Prime Minister

No, I do not see it providing a defence framework. Our defence framework will continue to be NATO and I am sure that it is vital that we extend NATO's work in ways which I indicated in the speech which I made in Scotland in June which turned out to be a little bit prophetic because I did say we would have to be able to meet out-of-area dangers and, of course, that is precisely what separate members of NATO are now doing and we were the first to go, following the United States, to the Gulf.,[fo 5]

The situation in the Gulf remains as it was, that the United Nations Resolutions must be carried out. In other words, Kuwait must be free, Saddam Hussein must withdraw and the legitimate government restored and then a number of other Resolutions which have been passed since then must also be honoured. If Saddam Hussein chooses to withdraw, as we hope, that will be very good and then the other Resolutions will also have to be carried out. If not, the military option will have to be used.

Question

Prime Minister, could you assess why you seem to be warning Saddam Hussein that he faces military action while others in your alliance, notably Chancellor Kohl , seem to be cautioning President Bush not to take action?

Prime Minister

I would not necessarily accept that Chancellor Kohl is doing that in any way. Chancellor Kohl understands the need to make it quite certain that an aggressor must never never gain. There is no peace in Kuwait at the moment. Brutality, oppression, death stalk the streets of Kuwait. That is not peace—that is invasion, occupation by an aggressor—and he must be made to leave.

I might also add that the whole of the European Community has been absolutely firm in insisting that the United Nations Resolutions are upheld.[fo 6]

Nik Gowing (Channel 4 News)

In this morning's "Daily Telegraph", you talked of: "in recent months personal ambitions and private rancour have been all too much in evidence—the electorate does not like it!" What kind of damage do you believe this rancour has done to the Conservative Party?

Prime Minister

I shall be very glad when the election is over and once again we will have to unite in carrying forward our purposes and I believe we shall do that and go on to win the next election.

Nik Gowing

How much damage has been done, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

None that cannot be repaired.

Paul Reynolds (BBC)

After you met President Bush this morning, you said that Saddam Hussein represented a threat to world peace. Are you saying by that, that you seek not only to remove him from Kuwait but to remove him—period?

Prime Minister

No, that is not a matter for us. What happens with regard to Saddam Hussein in Iraq is a matter for the people of Iraq. We[fo 7] will insist on carrying out the Resolutions of the United Nations. It is not United Nations as such that can carry out those Resolutions, it is up to individual countries like us joining together to see that they are implemented. What happens to Saddam Hussein in Iraq is not a matter for us.

Question

Prime Minister, following your discussion with President Bush , what feelings do you have about whether a further United Nations Resolution has international support which would authorise the use of force if Saddam Hussein does not withdraw? Would you think that might happen in the next week or two?

Prime Minister

We already have legal authority for the use of force and the question is whether there is another Resolution from the United Nations. That is a possibility and it is being explored.