Press Conference Given by the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Douglas Hurd,
at the Economic Summit in London
London, 16 July 1991
Foreign Secretary: We have had a good first day of the summit under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, John Major, and we have this morning issued two declarations of which I think you all have the texts. Perhaps I could just run through them rather briefly before answering your questions.
The first is the political declaration which emphasises the commitment we all have to strengthening the international order and reinforcing the multilateral approach. There are ideas in it, you will see them, for making the United Nations more efficient, for example in the field of emergency disaster relief where there is an Anglo-German proposal which has been endorsed by the Group of Seven for a new executive.
Could I draw your attention particularly to the passage on the Middle East which contains language on territory for peace, on the suspension of the Arab boycott and of the Israeli policy of settlement in the occupied territories. We also welcomed the recent reply by President Assad of Syria to President Bush which we hope will open the way for progress towards a conference leading to direct negotiations and we wish every success to Jim Baker as he returns to the region.
We tackle in the document the democratic recovery of Central and Eastern Europe as well as the constitutional crisis in Yugoslavia on which the Foreign Ministers spent a good deal of time at our working dinner last night. You will see what is said in the document there on Yugoslavia in support of the efforts which the European Community are making and of the Brioni agreement.
We flagged the prospect of a transformed Soviet Union wholeheartedly rejoining the international community and of course we are looking forward to hearing President Gorbachev's exposition of that tomorrow.
You will see that we have a rather full passage on South Africa in which we underline the political need to restore economic growth to South Africa after apartheid if reform there is to endure and succeed. We highlight in the same document the need for progress in getting hostages out and for perseverance against terrorism. I think practitioners will recognise that there is rather more meat in the political declaration than is perhaps usual on these occasions.
The second declaration also agreed this morning addresses arms, it addresses the question of conventional arms transfers and the proliferation of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons. Here there have been a whole series of individual initiatives and discussions in different places. What we have tried to do is bring together these thoughts in a comprehensive way and charter a way forward without claiming an exclusive role for any group or institution. The urgency for tackling this has been brought home for us all by the Gulf war.
On conventional arms we propose that the international community apply three principles: transparency, consultation and action, and you will see what is intended under all three of those headings. As regards transparency the Group of Seven strongly support our proposal for an arms register at the United Nations and you will see that the passage on that subject deals not only with the transfer of arms but also with the overall holding of arms.
Then the same document goes on from conventional transfers to talk about the weapons of mass destruction, the nuclear, the biological, the chemical and indeed missiles. In all these fields there are controls, in all these fields the controls are in one way or another in need of strengthening and you will see how we propose sector by sector to tackle this. You will also see the important paragraph -- which is 14 of the declaration -- in which it speaks about severe measures in the UN Security Council and elsewhere against any state which uses either chemical or biological weapons. That is clearly intended as a warning of action in case there should be any such use of weapons before the necessary international agreements are fully in place.
We also discussed a number of other subjects which do not find a place in the declaration, not because they are not important but because one cannot cover everything, and I will just run through some of those very quickly. We had a discussion about Asia and we shall be resuming that at lunch today, the Foreign Ministers, the full normalisation of relations between Japan and the Soviet Union is something highly desirable, and that includes a resolution of the issue of the northern territories.
We talked about China, we welcome China's cooperation with the international coalition in opposing Iraqi aggression and we hope to see further economic and political reform there. We still have serious concerns about human rights in China but we are in favour of continuing to rebuild the contacts with China and also in favour of the unconditional extension by the United States of Most Favoured Nation Status to China.
We discussed Korea and the prospect there, which is a hopeful one, of admission of both Koreas, North and South, to the UN and the resumption of a high-level dialogue between the two countries. We think it is very important that North Korea should sign and implement a nuclear safeguards agreement.
I have mentioned South Africa already; we are naturally immensely concerned with the threat of famine in several countries of Africa and there will be a reference to that in the economic communiqué tomorrow.
I am circulating a note of these remarks, together with your other documents, and you will see there a list of five or six other subjects, international subjects, which we also discussed and on which I will be glad to answer your questions, but since you will be getting the text I do not think we need run through those in detail now.
I believe the two documents which have been agreed this morning are substantial documents, they flow from a review of the international scene and they concentrate, as I have said, on trying to find multilateral, trying to find international approaches and solutions to the main problems which we have singled out.
Question (Paul Reynolds, BBC Radio): Can you clarify the document on the Israeli settlements and the Arab boycott; is that phrase intended to mean that those two tings should go hand in hand, there is a slight ambiguity in the text there, it seems to me?
Foreign Secretary: I do not think there is an ambiguity, we listened carefully to what James Baker had to tell us about the Syrian reply to President Bush, about his own plans for visiting the region again immediately, and how he saw the chances of bringing the parties together in these two-track negotiations which as you know are being discussed. And we identified two things which could perhaps be discussed together which might help things forward, one the suspending of the boycott of Israel by Arab states and secondly the Israeli policy of building settlements in the occupied territories. We believe that the suspension of both those things would certainly be an advance.
Question (David Langstone, Bureau of International Affairs: I am most interested in the declaration on conventional arms, I know that Britain has said previously it would like to see a reduction in conventional arms and I was wondering if you could explain how the G7 viewed that and in particular in relation to the amount of export income that the sale of arms particularly by France, Germany, the US and the UK causes them concern in hard times?
Foreign Secretary: I think we all accept that countries have the right to defend themselves and that includes the right to buy the arms to defend themselves. So we do not believe there is anything intrinsically wrong, illegal or wicked in the process of equipping yourself to defend yourself or indeed of supplying weapons for that purpose. But the experience of Iraq and the Gulf war leads us to think that is not in itself enough, that we do need to provide against the kind of pile-up of armaments in the hands of somebody like Saddam Hussein which cause so much harm. It is not a good idea that someone like Saddam Hussein should be able to accumulate twice as many tanks as France and Britain combined, it is simply not a good idea and we intend to prevent that in the future.
How? Transparency first of all, that is the universal register of arms transfers, that is the British proposal, and also openness about overall holdings of conventional weapons. And then consultation leading to a common approach on the guidelines. There has already been work on that in the European Community, among the Permanent Five members of the Security Council. We all have guidelines, we all have tests which we apply before we supply weapons, we do not know clearly, or we are only beginning now to know clearly what each other's tests are, and it would be sensible to bring those tests together and paragraph 4 of the declaration shows how we think that might be done and then action which follows from that to prevent the building up of disproportionate arsenals.
So that is the approach, it recognises the importance of defence and the entitlement of member countries of the UN, or indeed all countries, to defend themselves and to equip themselves accordingly, but it does set out an approach, quite a detailed approach, as to how that right should not spill over into creating the kind of dangers which we have seen in the Gulf war.
Question (Ralph Beglighter, CNN): You spoke of listening carefully to the US plan for moving ahead on the Middle East and you have spoken encouragingly about the Syrian response and so on; did the Summit 7 consider a temporary arms embargo to all of the countries of the Middle East pending some fruition of this Middle East peace process and if not what is the rationale for continuing to supply weapons at a moment when peace negotiations appear to be on the doorstep?
Foreign Secretary: No we did not discuss that, I think that would be far too sweeping and not particularly helpful, there are countries who are perfectly entitled, think of Kuwait for example, perfectly entitled to rebuild armed forces which were dispersed or shattered during the war. I do not think you could have an approach of that kind, it was not discussed.
Question (Mark Brayne, BBC World Service): The statement on Iraq seems to be fairly strongly worded, saying that the sanctions should be maintained not only until there is full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions but until the people of Iraq and their neighbours can live in peace without fear of repression. That leaves the impression that sanctions may be in place for a very long time, is the G7 committed to a very long term maintenance of these sanctions against Iraq?
Foreign Secretary: I do not think on behalf of the G7 I would want to add to that paragraph except of course to say that I think we all understand that sanctions are not intended to starve the people of Iraq or expose them to disease and the sanctions have never applied to medicines and they do not apply to food supplied for humanitarian purposes through the machinery set up in the Sanctions Committee. But subject to that, which is important in view of Prince Sadruddin's report yesterday, we do take as you say a pretty robust line on maintaining sanctions.
Question: Marlin Fitzwater referred yesterday to President Bush as being aware that for Central and Eastern European countries trade is more important than aid, similar declarations were made recently by Norman Lamont and the British Prime Minister, however this phrase is not reflected in the paragraph on Central and Eastern Europe; does it mean that there were countries which were opposed to access for Central and East European exports to wider world markets?
Foreign Secretary: No, I do not think it means that. as far as the European Community is concerned of course we are negotiating at the moment association agreements with three of the countries concerned and negotiations are going on and they will certainly include market access, the extent of that market access is being discussed and negotiated at the moment. Speaking as British Foreign Secretary, we are in favour of substantial market access.
Question (Financial Times): Foreign Secretary, we understand the French had some objections to the G7 having some permanent role in monitoring arms transfers and the proliferation of weapons. How was that particular disagreement between the French and others, including the UK, solved in the end?
Foreign Secretary: You put it with reasonable accuracy. There was no dissent from any delegation on the substance of this substantial Declaration on conventional arms and on proliferation. The substance was discussed, worked over over a considerable time and endorsed in discussion yesterday by the Foreign Ministers, today by the Heads of State and Government without difficulty. There was a concern by one delegation, the French delegation, on a question of procedure -- to what extent the Group of 7 should itself become involved in reviewing and keeping an eye on theses matters -- and there was a discussion of that this morning, a perfectly amicable discussion and the phrase I used in my Declaration about not setting up any exclusive right to discuss these matters was designed to meet that point and the phrase at the end of paragraph 5 of the Declaration which says "We intend to give these issues our continuing close attention" was a reflection of the discussion this morning but on the substance of the matter, which is the importance of it, on the way in which these seven countries see international action which needs to be taken to make the necessary progress both on conventional arms and on non-proliferation, on all that, on the substance of the matter, there was a lot of detailed discussion but no substantial disagreement.
Question (Gerry Lewis, Israel Radio): Mr. Hurd, what are the other stumbling blocks to getting a Resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict that the G7 recognise? What advice are you likely to give to the Israeli Foreign Minister when you meet him and can you explain the discrepancy between the arms control policies which you have advocated today and Mr. Holt last week suggesting to the European Community that Britain would like to see the arms embargo against Syria now lifted?
Foreign Secretary: There is certainly no discrepancy between what I have said about conventional arms transfers and the discussion last week on arms for Syria; there is no discrepancy at all in that. As regards the first point, I am speaking really here on behalf of the G7 and I don't really want to go further than we do in paragraph 8 of the Declaration, which is actually a pretty detailed analysis. James Baker is about to go to the Middle East again; he will have discussions no doubt with all the main players and he will seek to identify what remaining stumbling blocks there may be to the starting of negotiations on the double-track. Israel has for a long time set herself as an objective discussion with Arab states who are still in a state of belligerency with her; it looks as if that objective is in reach and we all hope, I think, that any remaining stumbling block can be put out of the way in order that that objective is realised alongside also the objective of discussions between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
You are quite right, I hope to have a good talk with David Levy when he is here, probably on Thursday, and I will carry this discussion forward with him then.
Question (Hella Pik, the Guardian): Could I again return to the apparent discrepancy between the Declaration on conventional arms sales and the kind of replies you have given to every question about limiting sales in the Middle East?
How is the definition going to be found for an "adequate level of defence purchases" from over-extension?
Foreign Secretary: The first thing is to have more information about what is supplied and about overall holdings -- that is transparency. The second thing is to work out among the main suppliers a common approach to the guidelines. That is quite different from saying that you are going to impose or continue to impose bans because that is a completely separate point. There is nothing in here which suggests that you are about to impose bans where they don't exist either in the Middle East or elsewhere but obviously you do need to work out what levels amount to over-arming and go beyond the needs of self-defence and threaten the neighbours of the state concerned and it is precisely that kind of discussion, which started in Paris with the representatives of the Permanent Five and will now be carried forward.
Question (Edwin Roth, Radio CD International): Foreign Secretary, about nuclear arms for Iraq or nuclear arms which may be owned by Iraq; in 1981, the Israeli Government felt threatened by Iraqi nuclear arms and bombed the Iraqi nuclear factory. This was very strongly condemned by the Foreign Office at the time, by your predecessor. Do you still think that condemnation was right and if it was not, does the Israeli Government deserve some sort of a decoration for the number of lives it saved by that particular bombing raid? They may also have saved Kuwait.
Foreign Secretary: I don't think it solved the problem. If it had solved the problem, we would not discussing it today, so I don't want to hark back ten years to that particular episode. We are now in a completely different situation where there are UN teams in Iraq on the basis of a Security Council resolution, where Iraqi missiles are being destroyed by the United Nations and under pressure, Iraq is supplying a great deal of information including admissions that previous information was, to put it mildly, inadequate.
We are not satisfied with that yet, which is why this discussion is still going on at the UN and why the President of the United States with the support of Britain and France and I daresay others has made it clear that we will use whatever means are needed to prevent Iraq becoming a nuclear power but that of course is in full accord under the auspices of a Security Council resolution, namely 687, so it is the international community which is in action to prevent and deal with this particular danger.
Edwin Roth: Couldn't it have been stopped if the war had gone on two days longer?
Foreign Secretary: How would that have stopped it? No! I think there is a fault in that reasoning.
Question (Brian Hanrahan, BBC TV): Foreign Secretary ... on a revitalised United Nations with phrases like preventive diplomacy being the top priority, the world cannot stand idly by in the face of widespread human suffering. Does that mean that you think the old ideas of not interfering in the internal affairs of another country have got to be put aside and if so, how much support do you think you will get from the rest of the international community for that idea?
Foreign Secretary: There is provision, of course, in the Charter for preventive diplomacy. The Security Council is empowered by article 34 to investigate any dispute to determine whether it is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security. The Secretary-General has very wide powers, for example under article 99.
It is perfectly true that in the past these powers have been fairly restrictively interpreted and sparingly used but you see the UN doing now things which would have been thought very strange when I worked in New York thirty years ago. You see the UN actually destroying weapons in Iraq; you see the UN building up a force of security guards inside Iraq for purposes which we all know; you see the UN making peace over a long period in Namibia successfully; you see the UN with propositions about Cambodia, i.e., you see the UN exerting itself, stirring itself, on all kinds of matters where it has been blocked by the Cold War for many years. This process, I think, is only at its beginning and what we want to do is to find ways for reinforcing it, enabling it to proceed and if the Five Permanent Members of the Security Council can work together as we have during the Gulf War, then that is clearly an important first step in doing that.
Then there is the separate question of the economic side, the relief side of the UN, where I think we have all been struck by the need for stronger executive action to bring together the resources, to bring together the activities of the UN more quickly and more effectively than was possible during the Gulf War. It is happening now. I am impressed personally by the way in which Prince Sadruddin has reported and acted and visited the marsh territories, has dealt with the problems which have perplexed and worried the international community. It is that kind of pre-emptive, active UN diplomacy in action which we are favouring.
Question (World Affairs): Would you give platform in future to the G7 summit to 171 Third World leaders with no nuclear weapons or is the message simply: "Saddam, if you would like to be invited to the G7 summit, get a move on quick before we destroy your invitation card!"?
Foreign Secretary: I don't think he is very likely to receive an invitation to the summit in Munich whether or not ... he won't possess nuclear weapons, that is for sure ... but I don't think he is very high on the list of possible guests! (laughter)
Question (Dick Longworth, Chicago Tribune): Foreign Secretary, the Declaration commits the Seven to full support for economic reforms in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe while offering only to work together with the Soviet Union on similar reforms. It seems to be much more warm and forthcoming towards the countries of Eastern Europe than towards the Soviet Union. Can you explain why that is so?
Foreign Secretary: Because they are already democracies, they have thrown off Communist rule, they have in varying degrees started effectively on market reform, reform based on the market and we all of us have been helping them now because of those two facts for some time. The Soviet Union is at an earlier stage of this discussion and we will be listening very carefully to what President Gorbachev says when he speaks to the Heads of State and Government tomorrow and obviously we will then need to work out a response to him but it will be a response of encouragement, but that particular discussion is not at such an advanced stage as our cooperation and help for, say, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
Question (The Independent): Foreign Secretary, you said that you did not want the people of Iraq to starve. Does that mean that now there is no question of allowing any sale of oil for food?
Foreign Secretary: There is not before us at the moment a precise proposal of that kind but as I have said, we are anxious to reconcile two things -- both of them are in paragraph 7 of the communiqué: we don't want the people of Iraq to suffer from disease or hunger and the humanitarian measures that I mentioned earlier about medicines and food are there to prevent that but equally, we do not want to enable or encourage Saddam Hussein for reasons which are familiar to everybody and we will have in New York week-by-week to reconcile these two objectives, which we have done up to now and wish to continue to do.
Question (CNN): Foreign Secretary, given your passage on the Soviet Union and the visit President Gorbachev, is the G7 now becoming the G8?
Foreign Secretary: No. I don't think he expects that. I don't think that will happen.
Question (Cyprus News Agency): Did you have the chance to discuss the continuous occupation of part of Cyprus?
Foreign Secretary: Yes and you will see in the third text which will be circulated that we support on Cyprus the Secretary-General's continuing efforts to draw up an outline agreement. We think that if the participants could seize the opportunity which exists now and set out realistic proposals, there could be real hope of progress towards the kind of settlement which is envisaged in Security Council Resolution 649, i.e., a settlement which is lasting, bi-communal and bi-zonal.
Question (Mexican News Agency): Mr. Hurd, I would like to ask you regarding the normalisation of Japanese-Soviet relationships, does the G7 have a common approach to ask the Soviet Union to give back the Northern Islands and will this be put to him on his visit to London?
Foreign Secretary: We certainly believe, as I stated earlier, that the relations between the Soviet Union and Japan should be normalised and certainly we are clear that that must include solving the problem of the Northern Territories. How that is solved is a matter for discussion and negotiation between Japan and the Soviet Union.
Question (Peter Jenkins (The Independent): Foreign Secretary, you said that the United Kingdom, France and probably other countries would support whatever means were needed to prevent Iraq from becoming a nuclear power. Does that mean that the United Kingdom and those other countries would participate in whatever action was necessary for that purpose?
Foreign Secretary: Yes, it does mean that. No decisions have been taken, of course, about any renewed military action against Iraq's nuclear facilities because we are at the stage of examining the mass of information which Iraq has now produced following the deadline of July 25 which was set. She has responded to that with a mass of new information. That information and the reports of the UN Special Commission and the [International] Atomic Energy Agency have been made in New York in the last two days and are now being evaluated and we will then have to see whether it is sufficient. We doubt it. We think there is still evasiveness but that evaluation is not yet complete. Further demands, requests, may then be put to Iraq but at the end of the day I hope the Iraqis are not in any doubt that the international community does not intend to allow Iraq to develop nuclear facilities which might be turned to military purposes, i.e., we are going to make sure one way or the other that Iraq does not become -- does not even create the danger of becoming -- a nuclear power.
Question (Greek TV): About the United Nations, you plan to make it stronger. Is it going to have its own forces and is it going to have its own teeth?
Foreign Secretary: The United Nations can find teeth, to use your phrase, quite quickly. The difficulty about having a standing force is that it would not be apt for particular purposes and this has always been the problem. It has been much discussed; there have certainly been books written and proposals put forward for having some of a standing force. It is not a matter which the G7 has discussed.
My own feeling has always been that actually you would find, if you had a standing force and you then had a particular occasion that you wanted to use it for, that it was not actually equipped or resourced for that particular occasion. It therefore probably is easier and better to mobilise -- which can be done reasonably quickly -- the necessary resources for each particular occasion.
Question (Mexican and Latin American TV): Is the intention of reducing conventional and nuclear arms in the world an indication that the Seven can dedicate in a serious effort of course more resources to the developing countries and in this case, from your point of view, do you think this effort is necessarily ... than the promises for the Soviet Union?
Foreign Secretary: No, I don't think so. We are all conscious that moderation in the level of military spending is a key to sound economic policy and good government and while all countries, not just developing countries, are struggling with competing claims on their resources, excessive spending on arms of all kinds diverts resources from the overriding need to tackle economic development. That is obviously true of developing countries but it is also true of developed countries. We are not trying to be patronising of pointing fingers here. We are simply saying that the more money you spend on arms, the less you have for economic development. Some spending on arms is necessary. We have dealt with the point of principle which is safeguarded in article 51 of the Charter but we are making a general point here which applies right across the world. Certainly, part of the presentation which President Gorbachev will make tomorrow as regards the Soviet Union will cover his desire to civilianise a good deal of Soviet industry, to move it away from defence spending.
Question (Barry Wood, Voice of America): Foreign Secretary, in paragraph 14 where you talk about South Africa, are you suggesting that they should be eligible for loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and are you suggesting when you say "We will direct our aid for these purposes, housing and social welfare" that aid programmes are planned by the Group of Seven?
Foreign Secretary: On your first point, the reference there to international borrowing is deliberately general. The Group of Seven is not entering into the discussions about the Gramm Amendment or how in the new situation South Africa might gain access to the international institutions. We deliberately kept that fairly general because we know that is a discussion which is going to go on initially between South Africa and the United States and we did not want to enter into the detail of that.
On your second point, yes, absolutely! I imagine that almost all the countries seated round the G7 table have their own aid programmes in South Africa. We have nearly 300 British projects precisely aimed at this area. The importance of this part of this paragraph is that now is the need to restore growth, not later, if South Africa after apartheid is to have a chance of offering jobs, housing, schooling to black South Africans who have been deprived of them hitherto. That is the importance of the paragraph.
Question (... Gussmann, ... TV): Mr. Primakov said here in London that if aid to the Soviet Union is not substantial there is a strong danger of social unrest in the Soviet Union. First, do you believe this statement is true? Second, did you get the sense among the Group of Seven that they believe this?
Foreign Secretary: The Group of Seven is discussing today in a preparatory sort of way how it should handle President Gorbachev's presentation. It will not reach any firm decisions until it has listened to him of course, but that discussion of how it might be handled is really going on at lunchtime and later today so I can't be precise about that, but I think it is very clear from what President Gorbachev himself said and really from what everybody has said that he is not expecting and we are not expecting that the outcome of this meeting in London this week will be a clear decision on precise and massive aid to the Soviet Union beyond the technical assistance which is already flowing and which everyone is agreed is clearly necessary and which will no doubt be stepped up. That I believe is the position which is understood by everybody.
We will wish to send back with President Gorbachev a message of encouragement for reform. Quite how that message is to be couched, what procedures are to be set in place, is something which is going to be discussed with him and indeed amongst ourselves.
Source: Released at the London Economic Summit, 16 July 1991.