Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Aug 2 Th
Margaret Thatcher & George Bush

Joint Press Conference with President Bush (Iraqi invasion of Kuwait)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: Aspen, Colorado
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Around 1410? Film of the press conference also features on the site.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 2315
Themes: Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (International organizations), Defence (general)

President Bush

Let me first welcome Prime Minister Thatcher back to the United States. It is a very timely visit and as you can well imagine we have been exchanging views on the Iraq/Kuwait situation. Not surprisingly I find myself very much in accord with the views of the Prime Minister.

I reported to her on contacts that I have had since I left Washington, personal contacts with King Hussein, President Mubarak of Egypt, President Sallah of Yemen, a long conversation just now. I can tell you that Jim Baker has been in close touch with the Soviet leadership and indeed the last plan was for him to stop in Moscow on his way back here.

We are concerned about the situation but I find that Prime Minister Thatcher and I are looking at it on exactly the same wavelength: concern about this naked aggression, condemning it and hoping that a peaceful solution will be found that will result in the restoration of the Kuwaiti leaders to their rightful place and prior to that a withdrawal of Iraqi forces.

Prime Minister, welcome to Colorado and the United States and if you would care to say a word on that we can take the questions. [end p1]

Prime Minister

Thank you, George BushMr President, and thank you for the welcome.

We have of course been discussing the main question, as the President indicated. Iraq has violated and taken over the territory of a country which is a full member of the United Nations. That is totally unacceptable and if it were allowed to endure then there would be many other small countries that could never feel safe.

The Security Council acted swiftly last night under United States leadership, well supported by the votes of fourteen members of the Security Council, and rightly demanded the withdrawal of Iraqi troops.

If that withdrawal is not swiftly forthcoming we have to consider the next step. The next step would be further consideration by the Security Council of possible measures under Chapter 7.

The fundamental question is this: whether the nations of the world have the collective will effectively to see that Security Council Resolution is upheld, whether they have the collective will effectively to do anything which the Security Council further agrees to see that Iraq withdraws and that the government of Kuwait is restored to Kuwait.

None of us can do it separately, we need a collective and effective will of the nations belonging to the United Nations, first the Security Council and then the support of all the others to make it effective. [end p2]

Question

Mr President, when Kuwaiti shipping was in danger in the Gulf war you put those ships under American flag. Now Kuwait itself has been invaded the Kuwaiti Ambassador says that they are desperate for help and that American intervention is of paramount importance. Will you answer that call and how will you?

President Bush

I answer that we are considering what the next steps by the United States should be, just as we strongly support what Prime Minister said about collective action in the United Nations.

Question

Are you still not contemplating military intervention?

President Bush

No, I mentioned at the time we were going to discuss different options which I did after that first press conference this morning and we are not ruling any options in but we are not ruling any options out. And so that is about where we are right now. We had thorough briefings, you know who was at the meeting today, by General Powell, General Schwarzkopf and others. But I think it would be inappropriate to discuss options.

Question

What are the chances of US/Soviet cooperation in restoring peace to the Gulf? [end p3]

President Bush

I would say they are very good, I reported to Prime Minister Thatcher on a conversation that I had with Jim Baker on the plane flying out here and I think you could say that he would not be stopping in Moscow unless there would be a good degree of cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States. But again, the Soviet Union is a member of the United Nations, they voted with the United Kingdom and with the United States, and so I think there is a good level of cooperation with the Soviets and hopefully with other Permanent Members and hopefully with the rest of the members of the Security Council.

Question

We understand that the Soviets have announced that they are cutting off arms shipments to the Iraqis. Are the French, which is the other big arms supplier to Baghdad, also planning to cut off arms shipments?

President Bush

I have not talked today. I believe you had contact, Prime Minister, at some level with the French government but I cannot answer that question.

Prime Minister

We had contact, Douglas Hurd I believe, had contact with Mr Dumas, this was about the Security Council Resolution which France of course fully supported. [end p4]

Question

Is not Saddam Hussein at the root of this problem, has he not replaced Gaddafi as the bad boy of the region, would you like to see him removed and what can you do about it?

President Bush

I would like to see him withdraw his troops and the restoration of the legal government in Kuwait to their rightful place and that is the step that should be taken. I might say that I am somewhat heartened by the conversations I had with Mubarak and with King Hussein, Mr Sallah, all of whom I consider friends of the United States, and all of them who are trying to engage in what they call an Arab answer to the question, working diligently behind the scenes to come to an agreement that would satisfy the United Nations and the rest of the world. So there are collective efforts beginning to be undertaken by these worthy countries and let us hope that they result in a satisfactory resolution of this international crisis.

Question

But Saddam Hussein has been the source of the most recent mischief in the region, nuclear triggers, missiles, the big gun, as Prime Minister Thatcher knows about, is he going to be a constant source of problems in that region?

President Bush

Should he behave in this way he is going to be a constant source. We find his behaviour intolerable in this instance and so do the rest of the United Nations countries that met last night and [end p5] reaction around the world is unanimous in being condemnatory so that speaks for itself.

Question

Prime Minister, is there any action short of military intervention that Britain or the other United Nations states could take that would be effective against Iraq?

Prime Minister

Yes of course, yes of course there is. You know the whole Chapter 7 measures and that of course obviously we are in consultation now as to which measures we could all agree on so that the Security Council would vote them and then they would become mandatory. The question then is whether you can make them effective over the rest of the nations and obviously the fourteen could not do it on their own and so there will be a good deal of negotiation as to what to put in for the next Security Council Resolution if Iraq does not withdraw.

Question

But are you confident that you would be able to mobilise that kind of international support?

Prime Minister

I believe that further Chapter 7 measures would have a good chance of getting through, we certainly would support them.

President Bush

May I add to that the United States has demonstrated its [end p6] interest in that by the action that I took this morning by Executive Order, you know cutting off imports from Iraq to this country.

Question

Can I ask both of you to answer this, how does the fact that they apparently now have chemical weapons affect your decision-making and narrow your options?

Prime Minister

I do not think it affects it at all. What has happened is a total violation of international law. You cannot have a situation where one country marches in and takes over another country which is a member of the United Nations. I do not think the particular weapons they have affects that fundamental position.

Question

But does it not affect what action we can take?

Prime Minister

No, I do not think it necessarily affects what actions we can take.

President Bush

I would agree with that assessment.

Question

Mr President, what do the Arab leaders that you talked to ask the United States to do, did they ask you to restrain yourself or to become militarily involved and have you contacted Israel? [end p7]

President Bush

We have had contact with Israel, yes, I have not personally but we have. And they ask for restraint, they ask for a short period of time in which to have this Arab solution evolve and be placed into effect and they are concerned obviously with this naked aggression. But it was more along that line—let us try now as neighbours and Arabs to resolve this. And I made clear to them that it had gone beyond simply a regional dispute because of the naked aggression that violates the United Nations Charter.

Question

And what did Israel say it would do at this point?

President Bush

I would have to think back to the details of it but offering cooperation I think was about where I would leave it.

Question

We are hearing reports now that some of the Americans, particularly in the oil-fields, may have been rounded up by Iraqi troops, do you have anything to add to that, how does that affect your reaction?

President Bush

I do not have anything on that right now and secondly it would affect the United States in a very dramatic way because I view a fundamental responsibility of my Presidency as protecting American citizens and if they are threatened or harmed or put into harms way, [end p8] I have certain responsibilities. But I had not heard that, Charles, and I hope that is not correct.

Question

May I also ask about British citizens, any word, are they safe?

Prime Minister

We have some British citizens in Kuwait. You probably know that there was a British Airways flight there on its way to Africa and the passengers there are now in a hotel in Kuwait. So we have some there and of course we have a number of other British citizens in Kuwait and we too are concerned for their safety.

Question

Mr President, some of the smaller nations in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain, the Emirates and the others, obviously have reason to worry about what has happened here, what can the United States and Great Britain say to those countries and those people who are feeling very concerned today?

President Bush

The United States can say that we are very much concerned for your safety and this naked aggression would understandably shake them to the core. And so what we are trying to do is have collective action that will reverse this action out and to make very clear that we are totally in accord with their desire to see the Iraqis withdraw, ceasefire, withdraw and restitution of the Kuwaiti government. And that would be the most reassuring thing of all for [end p9] these countries who, whether it is true or not, feel threatened by this action.

Question

At the risk of being hypothetical, if Iraq does not move out quickly and has gained a foothold among the smaller Gulf nations, what can the United States and other nations do militarily?

President Bush

We have many options and it is too hypothetical indeed for me to comment on them and I refer that also to the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister

That is precisely why you are looking at the next stage in the Security Council and what other measures can be put into action mandatorily and why the very nations to whom you refer, we should also need their cooperation in putting other actions into effect.

Question

Mr President, have you despatched the USS Independent to the region and have you heard from Saudi Arabia?

President Bush

I would not discuss the movement of any US forces and no I have not yet heard from Saudi Arabia but I have a call to King Fahd and I was supposed to have taken that call before now but it has been delayed by a few minutes and so I hope before I leave here I will talk to him, I think it is very important I do talk to him, and I leave it there. [end p10]

Question

What do you expect him to say?

President Bush

That is too hypothetical too, I know he will be expressing the same kind of concern that we feel.

Question

Prime Minister, the President and the Executive ordered this morning, established a US embargo on trade with Iraq. When you mention Chapter 7 measures would you support in the Security Council the call for an international embargo on Iraqi oil?

Prime Minister

We are prepared to support in the Security Council those measures which collectively we can agree to and which collectively we can make effective—those are the two tests. We have already frozen all Kuwaiti assets, the Kuwaitis have very considerable assets and it is important that those do not fall into Iraqi hands. Iraq, we believe, has only very small assets and rather a lot of debts so the position is rather different with her.