Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1985 Sep 17 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference in Cairo

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: Tahra Palace, Cairo
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: MT briefed the "writing press" after President Mubarak’s banquet. The briefing was on the record but not for broadcast.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4623
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Security services, Terrorism

Very briefly. I think you have been with us most of the day and have attended the things that we have attended.

The major feature today has, of course, been the talk with President Mubarak and the talk with the Secretary of State for Defence and also the Prime Minister, but the talks with President were, of course, by far the longest and were mainly on foreign affairs, and then one took economic affairs with the Prime Minister.

They were, as they always are—now here, you have to choose your words carefully, because almost every word is being used to distraction. They were very easy, because there are no problems at all between Egypt and ourselves. In many respects, we take very similar views on Middle Eastern questions. On one or two details, we are not quite agreed.

I have seen President Mubarak two or three times when he came through London, so I know how he feels about certain things. I know that he knows a good deal more in detail about certain things in the Middle East than we do, and so they are not only very easy, but they are also very interesting talks. I really would like to say they are very frank and friendly, but you know those words have been done to death, but they do very very accurately express the way in which they are conducted. They are very easy. I know that I will get a very realistic account [end p1] from President Mubarak. He knows he will get a very realistic account from me. We both know we can discuss openly and in a very friendly way with each other, so those talks really always go very well indeed.

Then, I had quite long talks with the Secretary of State for Defence, Minister for Defence, and we have a line of credit for defence purposes which I think expires, if it is not taken up, at the end of December this year, and therefore they are naturally anxious to take up that credit and are considering a miscellany of things, which you do not discuss in detail.

I had talks with the Prime Minister about the great economic problems that Egypt faces. She has started to tackle some of them, because as you know, some of the subsidies were getting very considerable and were therefore distorting demand, as always happens when you get a subsidy, but it is not easy. Once you have done a certain amount on subsidies, the next steps have to be taken in a very sensitive way.

This afternoon, as you know, we had lunch with the Prime Minister and a group of Ministers and continued discussions over lunch and then went to the British Council where, as always, they are doing a superb job. I think I have found that wherever I have been in the world, to visit the British Council, they really are doing a super job and they are here. The courses in English are in great demand. They are also running computer courses; they are also running some scientific courses.

Then I went to the Embassy to meet the British community. There is a very considerable British community here now—a lot of them here with offices—on business. Some on projects already [end p2] under way; others trying to get more business, but I was impressed by the size of it, by the amount of work they are doing and then, as you know, we came back and had the dinner this evening, which was a very happy occasion.

I think what impresses itself upon me is that so many people in the streets one sees as we go along are very much aware of the visit. They do actually know all about it, recognise one in the car and the number of people who wave and even clap is obviously very very nice because frequently you will find that visits go almost unnoticed by people, but this one apparently not, and it has been very nice to see that they not only know about it, but they recognise one.

I think you perhaps know most of that.

Denis has been out visiting several projects, including looking at the engineering of the waste water, where we go tomorrow, and he has had a very interesting day as well. We take separate programmes, so that we can get to as wide a group of people as possible.

Now, you want to ask questions, so you go ahead! [end p3]

George ????? ( “Sunday Times” )

I just wonder if we take a report from this morning, what is your position now on a PLO-Jordanian delegation? Are you now ready to see them, the names that were submitted to you?

Prime Minister

If Ambassador Murphy approves the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, I have always said that when that was approved we of course would receive such a delegation in London.

Now, in the absence of approval, the question therefore arises, what now, and that I will discuss with King Hussein. But the main hope is that there will be a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation selected and approved.

The names have been given to the United States. Some apparently give rise to no difficulty; some are intermediate, and it is just that I hope that out of those we can get the delegation.

This is what I call the first step. Some might say and quite with justification, that King Hussein himself had already taken the first step and that, of course, I fully acknowledge. This is what I call the first step to the American involvement in a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation—approving it. I will further discuss the matter with King Hussein, so I cannot help you more than I have said at the moment.

Question

Are you actually going with new names? [end p4]

Prime Minister

No, no, no. No, the names have been given.

Question

When you spoke this morning, you seemed to draw a distinction, Prime Minister, between prominent members of the PLO who would not be acceptable on this delegation and other PLO members—the phrase used was “who had totally and utterly rejected violence” .

What PLO members have totally and utterly rejected violence?

Prime Minister

Well, I can think of one or two names, but I am not going to give them to you at the moment.

Yes, there are people who have been associated with the PLO who have rejected violence, who rejected it publicly.

Question (Same Man)

At a certain stage, you get so low down the list of people in the PLO, they no longer represent anybody. What is the point of having such low-level people on the delegation if they do not represent anybody?

Prime Minister

You know full well that the point of securing this delegation and of course it has to have, I think, some people on it who are associated with the PLO, is really to try to take a step towards enabling the PLO to accept Resolution 242, and that of course would be a tremendous step forward. [end p5]

Question

How do you get round the problem that the Americans, in the '75 agreement, have said they will not talk to the PLO before they have accepted 242?

Prime Minister

How do you get round it? Indeed, we all ask, but if you go on for ever the one saying that we will do nothing unless the other does something … it is really …   . let me think … let me work it out … one side says …   . the Americans said that they will do nothing until …   . or Israelis said they will do nothing until the PLO has recognised 242 and 338 and Israel's right to exist; and the PLO will say they will recognise 242 and Israel's right to exist when Israel and the United States will talk to the PLO; and there you are.

Now, you just cannot go on for ever with that kind of stalemate, without trying to find a way through: the one saying, I will do nothing unless you do something first, and the other saying I will do nothing unless you do something first. And that really, was to try to get a kind of intermediate group which would try to break that deadlock.

Question

Prime Minister, …   . (inaudible)

Prime Minister

I have only gone so far as saying that if there is a joint delegation agreed by Ambassador Murphy then of course we will receive them. Anything else I have first to discuss with King Hussein. I am waiting … I have indicated that we would of [end p6] course meet a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation after Ambassador Murphy had agreed one and seen them, of course we would receive such a delegation. Apart from that, I would have to discuss matters further with King Hussein.

Question

(Inaudible)

Prime Minister

This seemed to me to be a comparatively new requirement and that again has to be discussed because it was not there before. I was very very anxious to get what I call the first step going. You have probably heard me on this many many times. The important thing is to get that first step and then other matters, I think, can be discussed afterwards.

I still think the important thing is to get a delegation agreed and Ambassador Murphy seeing them.

Another condition is one that has arisen comparatively recently and I do not know how firm it is.

Jack Warner

There was an impression after this morning's press conference, Prime Minister, rightly or wrongly, that there had been a little bit of give on your part regarding the PLO, even since the “Al Ahram” interview and in order to get this important first step, are you also prepared to suggest to the Americans, Israelis, that there might be a little bit of blind eye to the people on the …   . [end p7]

Prime Minister

No, I am not going further than I have gone already, no further at all. I am going to discuss things further with King Hussein.

Question

Prime Minister, you have come in order to give an impetus to the …   . is there anything you can say arising from your talks today which leads you to think that you have succeeded in giving that impetus?

Prime Minister

I wish to discuss matters further with King Hussein, on the basis of what I knew before I came, know now, and what one hopes to find out when I go to Amman.

Question

Prime Minister, did you get any sense from President Mubarak about how serious he feels failure would be if King Hussein 's initiative does not make progress very quickly?

There are, for example, Jordanian-Syrian reconciliation talks which are taking place in Saudi Arabia in the last couple of days and this might seem to indicate that the Jordanians are already preparing for the possibility of failure.

Prime Minister

I make no comment about that, but I do not need to say what President Mubarak thinks about. I think a number of us, and I am sure President Mubarak is included, feel that it would be acutely [end p8] difficult for King Hussein if his initiative was abruptly terminated if his initiative got nowhere.

I think he has, as I indicated in my speech tonight, been very courageous in taking the steps that he has taken and I think that it would be extremely difficult for him if that initiative did not meet with some success.

Question

Prime Minister, what have you learned since you have been here?

Prime Minister

I should not bother to go any further! Quite a lot, but I mean, the essence of most of these things if they are to achieve anything is that one does not reveal all—of course not.

Question

Based on what you have heard so far, if you had to act yourself at this point to give this kind of impetus, what kind of impetus would you be prepared to give?

Prime Minister

I have answered that question several times tonight already which I think you know. So you are trying to ask the question in another way. I have indicated and I have steadily, stolidly said this for a long time now to almost every party involved in this: the important thing is to get that first step. One has said to almost everyone with whom we have discussed, and I was very [end p9] concerned that it has not yet succeeded, because it really has taken quite a long time. The names were placed before the United States for some weeks. Unfortunately, of course, Ronald Reaganthe President had to go into hospital and I think that must have held things up, but it is still important to get that first step, and that really is the immediate end to which one's own efforts are directed.

Question

Would you like to see some more flexibility on the American side?

Prime Minister

I would like to see that first step, yes, I should like to see that. This is like a minuet, like a game of poker. I do not know, I do not play poker, but it is a phrase one uses quite often. I must try.

Gordon Martin

Prime Minister, you said that you are not in favour of what you termed a whole international conference, but nonetheless you understand the foreign international framework. Does this mean that some new updated version of the Venice Declaration or something of that sort? [end p10]

Prime Minister

I think one of the things that one is trying to fashion is a kind of international framework, because I understand why King Hussein wants it and why he feels he needs it. He has been very courageous in taking his initiative and I think that before agreeing to direct negotiations he would feel that he ought to have the approval of a considerable number of countries, as I said, some international framework.

Now certainly, the EEC would be, I would think, an important part of such a framework, because I remember the Venice Declaration very well. It took a very long time to negotiate. I took quite a large hand in negotiating some of the phrases. But the whole of Europe has stuck with it, and I agree that that would be an important part of it. If you get Europe and you get the United States and you get the moderate Arab world, the question is whether that is enough. I do not quite know, but I do understand King Hussein 's need for some international backing.

I think that if one went to the full international conference with the Soviet Union, you might find the argument there taking so long that it could delay the negotiations. Some people will use as a precedent what happened previously when with the United States and the Soviet Chairman as co-Chairmen, they did have a similar start and referred the things to committees. But I do not think that the same procedure would necessarily be followed in the future.

Tony Smith

Prime Minister, did you get round to discussing future relations with Libya at all in the talks today? [end p11]

Prime Minister

Of course we discussed Libya, Libya's tactics and Libya's activities. I do not think there is anything more constructive that I can add.

As you know, we do not have diplomatic relations with Libya. As you know, Libya supports and equips terrorists and you will not find that we have anything very helpful therefore to say.

Question

Since the stumbling block seems to be the list of names that has been forwarded to the US, can you tell us if there are new names to be offered on that list?

Prime Minister

As I understand it, the list of names was given by King Hussein with the approval of the Palestinians and as far as I am aware there are no new names to be added to that list.

John Bullock

You spoke tonight in your speech of avoiding a stalemate. Do you not think that possibly that you have an opportunity now to break the stalemate perhaps by personally seeing or agreeing in advance …   . to see a certain list of names. Would that not be possible?

Prime Minister

I wish to discuss the matter further with King Hussein. [end p12]

John Bullock

But you have said that you know of Palestinians who have rejected terrorism.

Prime Minister

I know Palestinians who have and who I believe would still be prepared to reject terrorism. I am not going to give you their names. I may discuss them further elsewhere.

Question

Prime Minister, in your talks with the Defence Minister, …   . (inaudible)

Prime Minister

I indicated that there is a line of credit for defence matters which expires if not used at the end of December. That of course is a modest line of credit. It bears no relation to the negotiations being conducted with Saudi Arabia on Tornado.

Question

(Inaudible)

Prime Minister

If Egypt is interested in other things—and I believe she may be—then of course we should consider any specific matters which she puts to us and consider the line of credit that should go with it. I think perhaps she might be interested in other things, but we are not thinking of the matter which has been reported with Saudi Arabia which is on a scale really rather different from anything else. You do not need me to tell you that, but you are fishing quite well! [end p13]

Question

Prime Minister, this is your first visit here and to Jordan and the Israeli Prime Minister will be going to London in January. Are you subsequently then planning to visit the other major player in this game, Israel?

Prime Minister

If I were invited to do so, after Prime Minister Peres 's visit to London, of course I would consider it. Having been to a number of Arab states, of course I would naturally like, if Mr. Peres asked me after his visit, to consider going to Israel.

Question

While Mr. Peres was still Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

That is quite a time, several months.

Question

Prime Minister, lists of names are very much a matter of process. Did you get on to the question of substance to the shape of an eventual Middle East settlement or did you stick really just to this first step to get the talks …   .

Prime Minister

We did not go into detail about the next steps, because one was very concerned to get the first one completed. We obviously looked at the Arab-Israel problem in the wider context and we obviously discussed other problems in the Middle East, the Iran-Iraq [end p14] war. Obviously, I asked him his views about the Sudan, which also has problems, and we also discussed Libya.

So there is really a great deal in the Middle East at the moment, I need hardly tell you that, of which the Arab-Israel problem is one. So it was really to try to get the first thing off the ground. I think other things will follow from that, because I think we are aware that there are really only a few months in which to try to get the first thing off the ground. Absolutely urgent. It might seem to you strange so much concentration on that, but when you think about it it is not.

Question

Why are you so surprised and upset by Mr. Kinnock 's meeting tomorrow with President Alfonsin? Do you think it is disloyal or what?

Prime Minister

No, I said I was surprised in view of the fact that the Argentine has never indicated a permanent cessation of hostilities. That is point number one.

Secondly, it has not responded in any way to the overtures we have made to restore normal commercial relations. You know, we had talks in Berne some time ago which became public, which did not get anywhere. We had further efforts to try to restore commercial relations. We then said: “All right, we will lift the embargo on imports from the Argentine” hoping that they would reciprocate. They have not done so.

I think, against that background, against the fact that [end p15] the Falklands comes up about this time of the year in the United Nations and we will need a lot of support. I think against the background that I believe that direct talks with Alfonsin will upset the Falkland Islanders, then I am just, as I said, surprised …   .

Question

…   . the Leader of the Labour Party influence the United Nations though?

Prime Minister

I have indicated my answer and I have nothing further to add to it.

Question

Prime Minister, following up that, if Mr. Kinnock was interested in meeting you to discuss with you what had been discussed with Mr. Alfonsin, would you be prepared to meet him?

Prime Minister

I have indicated my viewpoint. I have nothing further to add.

Question

Would you be as equally surprised to know that Mr. Kinnock has described you words at the press conference this morning and attitude as petulant?

Prime Minister

I have nothing further to add to what I said. I usually [end p16] address my comments to the substance, which I did.

Question

You do not really think he is going to get a different answer from what the Government …   .

Prime Minister

I have nothing further to add.

Question

May I take you back to the Middle East. While you had talks today probably most of us talked with Egyptian officials …   . it has been reported from here for quite some time that President Mubarak is quite discouraged about the lack of willingness of the United States to move …   . and also great hope that you would bring your influence to bear on Washington, and as you pointed out, of course, President Mubarak is going and King Hussein following, but what was your sense of his mood at this point? Did you sense that there is discouragement with the …   . process, that there is opportunity now? Would you just sketch out your feel for that?

Prime Minister

He will be going and putting his view very vigorously to President Reagan. I think it is September 23rd he goes and I think he is speaking to the United Nations a couple of days after that and then I think King Hussein will follow on the 30th and I think that their views will probably be very similar. When I have [end p17] spoken to King Hussein or when I have been discussing Middle Eastern problems, let the President know what has transpired.

Question

But would characterise for us your sense of President Mubarak 's mood …   .

Prime Minister

No, I do not find it depressed. I find it direct. That I always understand and prefer.

Question

What is your sense of the peace process and where is it going?

Prime Minister

I think I have indicated, the important thing is get what I call the first step taken.

Question

Are you optimistic that that first step will come about?

Prime Minister

Well we are going to try to do everything we can to bring it about.

Question

How are we to interpret your phrase “to draw the line underneath this episode with the Russians” ? Does that mean that [end p18] you are not going to retaliate further?

Prime Minister

To draw the line means that you hope that that will be an end to the thing, because it is very important for two reasons.

First, because it is very important now to get on with, as I indicated this morning, living in the same world, albeit with very very different ideologies, but conscious that it is in the interest of both the Soviet people and the Western world never to have conflict again and therefore to get arms control talks going.

And secondly, because our main objective has been achieved, namely that those names whom we have expelled from London have totally broken the unacceptable subversion intelligence activities of the Soviet Union in the United Kingdom. That has already been achieved.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

I have indicated first I hope they will not, but I have indicated and I indicated in a statement which I carefully made to you last night, put down in writing so you have it there, that I hope this will be the end, the extra six, because you are looking at numbers against numbers. There is no symmetry at all between what we have done and what they are doing. We had direct evidence on these people of the extent of the unacceptable subversive activities in London. All of those names that have been expelled have been part of that unacceptable activity. It is no answer to say that they are just turning out 25 or even [end p19] more …   . people who are absolutely not engaged in any activities of that kind. That is not symmetry at all, and I think therefore I must get over the point to you that the 25 and the 6 were concerned with unacceptable activities; that that has really broken the heart and core of the Soviet effort in London and the United Kingdom and that certainly has been achieved.

They are just making a retaliation on numbers, but it cannot be retaliation in fact, because those people have not been guilty of unacceptable activity in the Soviet Union.

Question

(Inaudible)

Prime Minister

I very carefully therefore said things very rarely do go to their logical conclusion because politicians usually stop before they reach that. That is exactly why I said what I did last night that I hope when we had expelled the extra six that would draw a line because as far as we were concerned we wished to get on with a constructive relationship with the Soviet Union and hoped …   . a positive, I think, was the word I used … a positive relationship with the Soviet Union, and we hoped we would find a constructive response., on the grounds as I have indicated many times …   . yes, the ideologies are different, totally different, but there is a common interest in not having conflict between the Soviet Union and between the free peoples of the West. And having carefully written it all down, got the positive in the right place and the constructive in the right place, please would you take it that I actually meant what I said! [end p20]

Tony Smith

(inaudible …   . re Mr. Gorbachev) (…   . you can do business with …   .)

Prime Minister

Yes, I believe he is. Men can be difficult sometimes!

Question

Did Gordievsky name any new case in his evidence?

Prime Minister

I am not going beyond that.

Question

…   . it turns …   . are there still others …

Prime Minister

I am not going any further. All of those who have been expelled have been associated with the activities for which they were expelled, which were unacceptable. I am not going any further than that.

Question

(Inaudible)

Prime Minister

The activities of the Soviet Union in their subversion and unacceptable activities were totally unjustified and unacceptable. Everything in fact that they do should not take place and it would be better if it did not.

Question

Were you surprised, Prime Minister, after you seemed to have [end p21] established a reasonable relationship with Mr. Gorbachev, that these activities should continue and some of the people whom you expelled actually were appointed to the United Kingdom subsequently to …   .

Prime Minister

I think I have an accurate assessment of the ultimate intentions of the Soviet Union and an accurate view that their objectives have not changed over the years, nor have some of their methods.

Bernard Ingham

I think my accurate assessment is that some people want another drink. Prime Minister, shall we call it a day?