Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1986 May 14 We
Margaret Thatcher

Speech at lunch for UN Secretary General (Perez de Cuellar)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Speech
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Lunch (1300 for 1315) followed talks 1215-1300. MT’s next engagement was at 1500.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 841
Themes: Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Terrorism

Mr. Secretary-General, Your Excellencies, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

May I first of all welcome you very warmly to No 10 Downing Street on this your second official visit to the United Kingdom.

When you came four years ago, I said that the future of the United Nations could not be [end p1] in better or safer hands.

You have amply confirmed that and we are all delighted that you have come to London again to give us the benefit of your wisdom and counsel.

We respect your calm authority which has added so greatly to the prestige of your Office.

We know the tremendous problems with which you have had to grapple—both political [end p2] and financial—and we admire enormously the courage and dedication with which you have faced up to them.

You have led the United Nations with energy, integrity and good sense.

If I had to single out one of the many qualities you have shown, it would be perseverance.

The problems which come before the United Nations [end p3] are rarely short-term difficulties.

There are no slick solutions to them.

They are problems of war and peace, of ancient hatreds, of new evils such as state-sponsored terrorism, of old ills such as poverty and deprivation.

It is all too easy to lose heart when faced with them. [end p4]

But you have always persevered, and by your perseverance brought hope to millions of the world's people.

The agenda which confronts you is awesome:

—the Middle East, where one senses a dangerous vacuum in efforts to make progress towards a solution of the Palestinian problem; [end p5]

— Afghanistan, where a brutal occupation is now entering its 7th year with no end in sight;

— the division of Cyprus, which I know from our discussion this morning, is an issue of the highest priority for you and where we wish you well in your efforts to achieve a peaceful solution.

You continue to have our full support. [end p6]

—the continued devastation of Cambodia by a rapacious neighbour;

— the problems of Southern Africa, including Namibia;

— the financial crises of the United Nations which have consumed much of your energy in recent weeks.

They will be solved only when member [end p7] states are ready to show greater realism and avoid increasing expenditure on pointless conferences and superfluous studies.

There is one problem in particular which I want to single out briefly: that of international terrorism.

The problem is not new to the United Nations. [end p8]

We have had a recent resolution of the General Assembly which unequivocally condemned as criminal all acts, methods and practise of terrorism.

It called on all states to refrain from organising, instigating, assisting or participating in terrorist acts.

We have had a statement by the President of the Security Council which condemned terrorism [end p9] in all its forms everywhere.

Terrorism is an utter betrayal of our United Nations' Charter.

But I have to say that the practical results of our efforts have been meagre: bombings, hijackings, kidnappings have gone on.

Within the United Nations sit governments which [end p10] harbour and train terrorists; which themselves practise terrorism as a policy: for whom the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians is a perfectly acceptable weapon.

No action is taken against them.

They are not singled out for condemnation.

No reproof even is directed towards them by name. [end p11]

If this situation is allowed to continue, it can only erode the authority of the United Nations and undermine its standing.

I would hope that the member states—for that is where the responsibility lies—would show the courage to act against state-sponsored terrorism: because if the United nations cannot do that, how can it expect what it says about the great political and moral [end p12] issues to be taken seriously?

I recall a passage from W. H. Auden 's “Time of War” , written in a different context but which applies no less well to what we now face.

He described the message of tyranny in these words:

“Violence shall synchronise your movements like a tune [end p13]

And terror like a frost shall halt the flood of thinking” .

Mr. Secretary-General, reason, common-sense and our knowledge of what is right tells us that terrorism must be dealt with: that the United Nations cannot shirk the task. We cannot allow our credibility to be frozen by the frost of terror. [end p14]

We have a great deal for which to be thankful to the United Nations.

No government can afford to neglect or ignore its views.

It provides a forum where the voice of any country, however small, can be heard.

It has helped manage crises and keep the peace. [end p15]

Our world is safer and more orderly thanks to the United Nations.

All the more important therefore that member states should take up the challenge of terrorism, as they have taken up other challenges in the past.

May I in conclusion say once again,

Mr. Secretary-General, how much we value [end p16] your visit here.

Yours is one of the most demanding Offices in the world.

You have carried your responsibility and we know that you will continue to do so.

You have our total confidence and trust.

May I ask you all to rise and drink a toast to the United Nations and to the Secretary-General.