Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with US Vice-President (George Bush)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Outside No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: Timing uncertain - probably after lunch, which began at 1300. MT left for the Commons at 1515.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1196
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Terrorism, Transport

Prime Minister

Vice-President Bush and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press:

We have had very good talks together today, as you would expect from two old friends of two countries which are very great friends and close allies.

Naturally, the subject of terrorism has been very much in our minds, as in this country we have shared the joy of the United States that the hostages have been returned to their families and the sorrow that a United States marine lost his life during that hijacking.

We have issued a statement about terrorism. Perhaps I might just give you the general flavour and then you will know the details from the rest of the statement, which you have.

“Vice-President Bush and I have considered carefully the subject of terrorism and the threat it poses to civilized and democratic peoples.

The Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America declare their determination to work together with all like-minded states in combatting this evil, in particular terrorism against international civil aviation and those millions of innocent passengers who today travel by air must be stopped.” [end p1]

As you will know, there then follows a number of specific matters as to how we intend to implement that and you know that there will be a meeting in Bonn next week of the countries of the Economic Summit Seven, to decide how we can together take measures to combat this scourge of our times.

We have also naturally discussed great East-West problems which will affect our future so vitally, whether it is talks on arms control in Geneva and with a possible meeting between the President of the United States and Mr. Gorbachev. So much will depend upon their resetting the framework within which we can live together—we in freedom and liberty—on this planet.

Other things, of course, we have also discussed. Trading matters.

But I think perhaps you will be most interested in the terrorism and East-West relations.

I will now ask Vice-President Bush to say few words and then you might wish to address a few questions to us. [end p2]

Vice-President Bush

Thank you, Madam Prime Minister. I simply want to express my appreciation to the Prime Minister, your Government, to the people, for their leadership and determination to help eliminate the scourge of international terrorism.

This document here reflects our common purpose.

The Prime Minister's role was never in doubt. She has long stood up against the outrages of terrorism, but the President of the United States, in appointing me to head a United States task force on this, recognises that no country alone can do the job and the thing I gathered here today at this historic place is the determination of the Prime Minister to lead all across the world, including Europe, including working with the United States, in coming up with new answers to fight this problem that is just terrifying mankind. So we are grateful for that.

I too value the conversations we had on other subjects. It is the end of a very long trip, but I end with great gratitude in my heart to the Prime Minister and to the people here for a wonderful reception and, as I said inside, I think sometimes the problems seem so immense we fail to count our blessings and one of the blessings we on the other side of the Atlantic treasure is this very special, strong relationship that we have with the United Kingdom. Thank you very much. [end p3]

Prime Minister

Well, from the aircraft overhead, you will gather that No. 10 is on the flight path to Heathrow!

Now, if we can hear your questions. Michael!

Michael Brunson

Prime Minister, if you can hear my questions, can I ask why particularly you both decided to go for Beirut Airport when, of course, terrorists can strike from all kinds of airports and some people say they will always find a way?

Prime Minister

Terrorism and hijacking can strike from all kinds of airports. The Beirut hijacking was, I believe, of a different nature. Hitherto, the airport interest has been to stop and prevent the hijacking. In that particular case, the airport and the hijackers' interests seemed to be identical. That was what made this one very different.

Vice-President Bush

I agree.

Prime Minister

Well that is marvellous! Now, other questions?

Dan Orlick (San Francisco Examiner)

Vice-President Bush, everybody in the Administration has claimed that no deal was made to to get these people back, but as we know, no-one gives anything for nothing. To answer it once [end p4] and for all, what made the hijackers give our people back to us? What was the reason?

Vice-President Bush

Well, I think …   . there was not any deal. There was no knuckling under to hijackers' demands; there was no deal behind the scenes, and yesterday at a press conference in Paris, the person asking the deal said: “Well nobody believes the answer you are going to give!” Well I will give it again! There was no deal. There was some astoundingly good diplomacy. We give credit to the Syrians, give credit to the Algerians for trying, to many other countries as well, and so I think the answer is that as time wore on there was a common recognition that this was an outrage against civilised society and those interested may have condoned the hijacking for political reasons, suddenly recognised there was an enormous hot potato out there, and they wanted to help solve the problem. No deal and yet strong diplomatic efforts that resulted in this release without conditions.

Michael Brunson

Prime Minister, could I ask a supplementary? Are flights from Lebanon by Middle East Airways to London going to stop forthwith?

Prime Minister

I will be very pleased to stop them, provided we can get all of the Bonn Summit countries to stop them. If not, we shall have to consider whether we ourselves with the United States stop them. [end p5]

Michael Brunson

Could I ask one further supplementary? Why do you think that this package of measures will work when previous declarations do not seem to have stamped out the problem?

Prime Minister

Each time we have another terrible event like the one we have, then I believe that countries are prepared to take one more step together in combatting terrorism. This was a particularly appalling hijacking and the way in which the pilot and the crew were kept on the tarmac and the treatment which those people had inside the plane was terrible.

Jenny Frazer( “Jewish Chronicle” )

Vice-President, could I ask for a reaction to this morning's release by Israel of the 300 Shi-ite prisoners?

Vice-President Bush

The reaction would simply be that that has taken place. That was their decision. We had earlier on stated our position on that some time ago, and I think we would say that we are very pleased that that took place.

Prime Minister

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Now, I wonder if you would let the Vice-President and other guests get away. Thank you.