Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at banquet given by Egyptian President (Hosni Mubarak)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Kubba Palace, Cairo
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: The banquet was due to begin at 1930.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 912
Themes: Conservative Party (history), Foreign policy (Middle East)

President Hosni MubarakMr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind words and for the warm welcome which you and the Egyptian people have given to me and my delegation.

as you mentioned, it is over 40 years—much too long—since a British Prime Minister last visited Cairo. That visit was paid by perhaps our greatest Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, at the very end of 1943, when he met here in your city with President Roosevelt.

In his history of the Second World War, Sir Winston tells how he could not bear the thought of President Roosevelt leaving Cairo without seeing the Sphinx. So the two of them drove out there on the last evening of their stay and examined this wonder of the world from every angle. Winston's account then reads:

“Roosevelt and I gazed at her for some minutes in silence as the evening shadows fell. She told us nothing and maintained her inscrutable smile. There was no use waiting longer.” and so they returned to Cairo.

Mr. President, that story reflects the fascination which your country has always held for mine. In no other part of the world is there such a sense of history as here in the land of [end p1] the Nile, the very cradle of civilization, to which we have turned when we wanted to study the origins of our own culture and our own way of life.

Mr President, we have three times had the honour and the pleasure of welcoming you to Britain on visits which have cemented our understanding and I gladly reciprocate the words which you have said about our discussions. I believe we have both always tried to get to grips with the situation and have always been happy that the words we spoke together would be spoken in confidence, but all our discussions have been with one purpose: to progress the cause of peace in the Middle East and to take forward the excellent relationships between Egypt and the united Kingdom.

My own visit now takes place at a time when we can truly say that relations between Egypt and Britain have never been better.

Mr. President, we in Britain are in no doubt of Egypt's stature in world affairs. Your country is the hinge of two continents—Africa and Asia. Egypt's influence permeates the whole Arab world. Egyptians are to be found throughout that world serving and instructing their fellows as the doctors, teachers, lawyers, traders, financiers and engineers. But Egypt's role in international affairs is wider still. As a founder member of the Non-Aligned Movement and a leading influence in the affairs of Africa, as well as at the United Nations, Egypt's contribution is always central.

We admire particularly, Mr. President, the leadership which you personally, as well as your distinguished predecessor [end p2] President Sadat, have shown.

It was a turning point in the history of our times—a great act of vision and courage—when your predecessor moved towards peace with your north eastern neighbour, Israel.

In Britain we have traditionally admired those who have what we call the courage of their convictions, for they are the people who can change history, who can overcome apparently insurmountable problems.

I know, Mr. President, that the first fruits of your peace treaty with Israel did not and still do not fully match your or the Egyptian people's ambitions. It is therefore proof of your own great foresight and courage that, on assuming the Presidency, you at once committed your country so firmly and decisively to build on that peace; and then to move through it towards a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, freely accepted by all the states and peoples in this region. In this aim, Britain is your wholehearted supporter.

Like you we welcomed His Majesty King Hussein 's brave initiative of last February, and we know how invaluable has been your firm commitment to that attempt to get negotiations started. Britain has no direct role in this process. But nor can we accept a situation of permanent stalemate, even though there may be some who would wish just that. We believe therefore that we can and must help to prepare the way for negotiations—negotiations whose irreducible goals must be a stable peace providing security for all states in the area including Israel, and the exercise of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. [end p3] In our talks today you and I have discussed how we can work together towards this end and I shall be taking up the same theme with His Majesty King Hussein in Amman later this week.

Mr President, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote more than two thousands years ago that “Egypt contains more marvellous things than any other country” . During my visit—sadly all too short—I shall be seeing some of those “marvellous things” both ancient and modern.

Among the ancient will be some of the greatest monuments which history has bequeathed us, and I am proud that among the modern is one of the biggest development projects in which Britain is engaged worldwide, the Cairo Waste Water Scheme which I shall be visiting with your Prime Minister tomorrow.

Mr President, it is with a sense of much past and and present achievement, and great confidence in Egypt's future, that I wish to propose a toast to your health, Mr President, and that of Madam Mubarak; and to the peace and prosperity of Egypt, as well as to the vigour and continuity of Anglo-Egyptian relations. We are proud to count ourselves among the friends of Egypt. May I give you a toast.