Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference in Cairo

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Kubba Palace, Cairo
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1200-1220 (local time).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2956
Themes: Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Security services & intelligence, Terrorism

Prime Minister

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, I have just completed nearly two hours of talks with President Mubarak on this, the first visit of a British Prime Minister to Egypt since Sir Winston Churchill came in 1942. We are very pleased to be here and to have had such long and good talks.

Bilateral relations with Egypt and the United Kingdom are very good and any detailed matters will be dealt with with the Prime Minister. The President and I concentrated on the great international issues of our time.

Naturally, we gave a considerable amount of time to discussing the Arab-Israeli situation, where we are both very anxious to give a fresh impetus to the negotiations, in particular to see the first step with the meeting with Ambassador Murphy and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation get off the ground.

We also, of course, discussed the Iran-Iraq war, which everyone would so very much like to come to an end, but which none of us have found a way of bringing that about.

Naturally, we are concerned with Sudan and so is President Mubarak. We are also concerned to see the future of Sudan secured and her economy to go ahead faster than at present. We understand [end p1] that she had quite good rains in the south, and therefore the harvest is expected to be improved this year, and we shall of course continue to watch events there very carefully.

The really big issue other than the Middle East is, of course, the talks between … the coming talks between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev. We naturally hope that those talks will result in progress forward on the main issues of our time and we are all considering those talks very carefully and we most certainly are letting President Reagan know anything helpful that we have about what should be included in those talks and what we feel may come out of them.

I think it will be better if, having introduced matters in that way, I would ask you for your questions. I wonder if the British press would very kindly and courteously let the Egyptian Press come forward with their questions first, and then we will have a time for the home team. [end p2]


Prime Minister, would we understand, from what you have just mentioned now, that the Middle East problem would be on the agenda between Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Reagan?

Prime Minister

I should be very surprised if it were not!

Question (Same Lady)

If not! Then it is expected to be on the agenda?

Prime Minister

I would be very surprised if it were not!

Question (Radio, Cairo European Service)

One of the stumbling blocks to the Middle East negotiations is PLO participation in a Jordanian-Palestinian negotiating team with Israel and the United States refusing to negotiate with members of the PLO.

What is the British stand on this issue and could Britain help soften the position of the USA?

Prime Minister

We hope that there will be chosen some names which will be acceptable both to King Hussein and also to United States. I think the important thing is that those names do not include people who have been extremely prominent in the PLO, but it is possible that they will include some who have been associated [end p3] with the PLO, but names of people who reject terrorism as a way forward in diplomatic affairs. I think that is the important thing.

Neither the United States nor the United Kingdom accept terrorism as a way of doing … a way of taking forward diplomatic matters …   . and I think that is the important thing in the names that are chosen.

Same Questioner

But the fact that some PLO members are willing to negotiate indicates that they have softened their approach.

Prime Minister

There are a number of PLO members who totally and utterly reject terrorism as a way forward, and all of us know quite a number of names to that effect.

Question (Newspaper)

You have spoken about during your talks with President Mubarak that you discussed the possibility of a fresh impetus to the Middle East situation. So what is Britain's point of view of a new movement in the Middle East and how could you help in bringing about a just and lasting peace in the area?

Prime Minister

I have for a very long time said that I thought it absolutely vital to get the first step going. That was the [end p4] Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and the names chosen, which could be welcome both to the United States and to King Hussein. I think some names are very acceptable to both sides and I think the final step now is to choose more names so that that delegation could get under way.

At the moment, that is the point which is causing just a little difficulty. I hope that that will only be a temporary difficulty and then the first step could go ahead. That first step is very important.


I would like very much to know your …   . on an issue like the National Resistance Movement in principle and in connection of what is going on now on the West Bank and also bearing in mind the abstention of the United Kingdom in the Security Council on a resolution condemning the atrocities carried on by the Israeli military authorities against the natives of the land.

Shall I repeat again?

On national resistance movements in principle or in general. (VOICE IN ENGLISH: … “occupied territories” ).

Same Questioner

No, there are always resistance movements against occupation, all over the world, all over history. [end p5]

Prime Minister

I think the people in the West Bank are obviously hoping, as we hope, that the proposed negotiations will get underway, and I think they are hoping, as we hope, that the names will be chosen which would enable that first stage to get underway. If that were so, then I think that it would bring new hope to the people of the occupied territories.

As you know, I have never never and will never support atrocities or terrorism as a way of bringing about diplomatic negotiations—never. We never have. It is totally unacceptable to us.

Same Questioner


Prime Minister

… it is totally unacceptable to us to pursue atrocities against innocent people or to pursue murder or maiming as a way forward in diplomatic affairs—totally unacceptable to Britain to do that.

Judith Miller ( “New York Times” , Based in Cairo)

We understand that there are some American reservations about meeting with the joint Palestinian Jordanian delegation, but as a permanent member of the Security Council, are you prepared at this time to meet with ouch a delegation that would be composed of the names that King Hussein has already sent to Washington?

Prime Minister

Well, I shall discuss this matter with King Hussein. After a delegation has of course been formed, a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and met Mr. Murphy, of course we will be prepared to receive it. [end p6]

Judith Miller

But not before?

Prime Minister

I shall discuss these matters further with King Hussein when I get there.


I would like to know why Great Britain opposes the international peace conference to solve the Middle East question please?

Prime Minister

Because we do not believe that an international conference would necessarily solve the Middle Eastern question. We are very anxious to get negotiations underway. The first thing is the first step.

We do not at the moment, as at present advised, feel that a whole international conference would necessarily be conducive to getting negotiations going.

We do understand and accept that King Hussein feels that he must have international support—some framework of international support—for those negotiations. That we understand. We would not necessarily accept that that meant going to a whole international conference which in the end could hold things up rather than help towards a solution. It is the solution that we are anxious to see. But we understand the need for an international framework and we are considering how best to achieve that. [end p7]

Same Questioner

But in future, you can accept it? If it is necessary in future?

Prime Minister

I do not necessarily accept the premise which you put in your first question that an international conference would help to solve it. It might, in fact, merely increase the argument and delay the starting of the relevant negotiations.

Paul Reynolds (BBC)

Since you discussed East-West relations with President Mubarak, can you tell us a little about your feelings following the Soviet retaliation and the expulsion of the 25 Britons from Moscow, the further expulsion of 6 Russians from London, and what the British policy now is on this issue?

Prime Minister

As you know, I did issue a statement from here last evening. May I make this main point again: the 25 which we expelled from London first were all names of people who we knew by virtue of the defector had told us were actively engaged in totally unacceptable intelligence and subversive activities. We therefore, in doing that, have certainly broken the heart of the Soviet Union's unacceptable intelligence activities in London, and that, of course, is a great achievement from the viewpoint of the security of Britain.

They again, in retaliation, totally unjustifiably, said: “All right! We will expel a similar number!” You know, and I [end p8] know, that that number were not involved in such activities and therefore there was no similarity at all!

But the first point is that we have, by expelling those 25 known names, broken the main intelligence operation of the Soviet Union in London, and they retaliated totally unjustifiably just with 25 of our names who had not been engaged in such activities. Then we felt we could not leave it there and so we expelled a further 6 who have also been involved in those activities, although not in such a prominent way.

At the time we made this second declaration to the Soviet Charge d'Affaires we said that hoped that this would be an end of the matter, because we still wish—in the context of East-West relations, recognising that although we are totally different in our political views, we operate a democracy and a free society, that nevertheless, we both have to live in the same world and we do not wish to have conflict between the Soviet peoples and our peoples and we therefore hope that that last expulsion by Britain, a justifiable expulsion as I have indicated, will be an end of the matter and that now we can get on with the business of trying to ensure that there will never be conflict between the Soviet Union and our peoples and therefore that we can get on with trying to secure that we have fewer armaments; they are such things in which we are negotiating. We are very prominent in trying to get down the number of chemical weapons; we are prominent in mutual and balanced force reductions going on in Vienna. So we hope that this will draw a line under that matter. [end p9]

Moncrieff (Press Association, London)

A prominent Cairo newspaper said today that Britain was not exercising all the authority which it could muster to attain Middle East peace. I wonder how the Prime Minister would react to that observation?

Prime Minister

Well naturally, I do not agree with that. We have always been doing everything we feel we possibly can to attain Middle Eastern peace. We have always been prominent in the communiques which the European Community has issued and have played a very active part in the final drafting of those. We have always been very active in seeing King Hussein, President Mubarak, when they come through London, and we have always been very active in talks with the United States, in pressing them on the importance of making further moves at this time on the main Middle Eastern peace process and we would like it to have a fresh impetus and we believe that that fresh impetus consists in getting this first step of the Murphy-Palestinian-Jordanian delegation going.

???? ( “The Sun” )

Prime Minister, would you like to comment on the decision of Mr. Kinnock to meet Prime Minister Alfonsin of the Argentine in Paris today? [end p10]

Prime Minister

I am somewhat surprised at the decision. After all, the Argentine has not formally declared an end to hostilities; although we have urged her to do so, she has not done so. Nevertheless, in spite of that, we have done all we can to restore ordinary commercial relations between the Argentine and Great Britain and we now agree to imports from the Argentine.

In spite of the strenuous efforts we have made, there has been absolutely no response from the Argentine. They do not wish to restore commercial relations. They only wish to discuss the sovereignty of the Falklands.

I therefore am very surprised at this time at Mr. Kinnock 's visit, just when we are needing more support in the United Nations over our stand on the Falklands—very surprised indeed—and I feel that it will deeply upset the people of the Falkland Islands.

Question ( “Time Magazine” )

Prime Minister, you mentioned in your opening remarks that you would certainly let President Reagan know some of the comments that President Mubarak made during your talks and I am wondering if you could tell us with any more specificity what he asked you to pass on in regard to the Middle East peace process? Are there any specific points that he asked you to make? [end p11] President Reagan himself very shortly, I think round about the 20th or 23rd of September, and then King Hussein will be following, I think on September 30th, so they will make their views very much known to the President.

I let the President know my views as a result of the talks which we have had.

So it is not that President Mubarak asks me to pass on specific messages. He will do it directly himself. It is that over the years, I have developed a habit of when I have had talks with President Mubarak and particularly also with King Hussein, to let President Reagan know how I see things and the deep concerns of the people with whom I have been discussing these matters.


Prime Minister, first I would like to ask you, after your talks with President Mubarak, could you comment on the status of economic and political cooperation between Egypt and Great Britain and secondly, we are coming soon to the 40th anniversary of the United Nations, many Heads of State will be there, so what would be the contribution in your view for the Palestinian people in their struggle and for the Africans in South Africa—and Namibia—to come up with something from these celebrations? [end p12]

Prime Minister

Bilateral relations between Britain and Egypt are good and I have always been very happy when President Mubarak has come into London on his way from the United States, so we can have further talks, but bilateral relations are good. As you know, I am going to the waste water project tomorrow which we have helped, through aid, to build. There are quite good trading relations between Egypt and United Kingdom, so bilateral relations are good.

Now, on the United Nations, the 40th anniversary, it is not my present intention to go to those anniversary celebrations. The Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, will be going. I have to go to a Commonwealth Conference and then the United Nations anniversary comes when our Parliament is sitting and I have rather a lot to do at that particular time, so I shall not be going to the United Nations on this occasion.

I do not think I have anything further to add on the Palestinian problem to that which I have already indicated. We all, of course, want an acceptance of Resolution 242 and 338 by all parties concerned in the negotiations, and that would be very helpful.


Could you just clarify your point, Prime Minister, on the joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation? Do you intend to ask King Hussein to give you or to bring out further names who might take part, or do you have a list of names that you are going to suggest? [end p13]

Prime Minister

No, no. King Hussein and the Palestinians have put forward a list of names. The only thing to clarify is that I shall be discussing these matters further with King Hussein.

Question (Lady from ???? Magazine)

When you are speaking to President Reagan, Mrs. Thatcher, what will your assessment be of the Middle East peace process now? What will you tell him the way you see things?

Prime Minister

When I see King Hussein?


No, when you talk to President Reagan after having spoken to President Mubarak today, what is your assessment now of the peace process?

Prime Minister

I do not think I can add anything to that which I have already said. It is very important to get this first step. It has unfortunately been held up longer than we had hoped at the beginning and all my comments will be directed to ensuring that that first step is achieved comparatively soon.