Prime Minister Tony Blair's Statement to the House of Commons on the G8 Sea Island Summit
London, June 14, 2004
With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the G8 Summit in the United States, which I attended last week. I thank President Bush for his chairmanship of the Summit, and the people of Georgia for hosting it. I have placed copies of the Chair's summary and summit documents in the House Libraries.
At the outset, I am sure the whole House will join me in expressing my condolences to the families of the two British contractors killed in Iraq this morning.
At the G8 summit, we all agreed on the importance of transferring authority in Iraq at the end of the month to a fully sovereign Iraqi Government. We welcomed the formation of the new Iraqi Interim Government. The unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of the Resolution on Iraq demonstrates the international consensus to support the new government of Iraq under Prime Minister Allawi and to support the vision of a modern, democratic, federal and stable Iraq.
The new President of Iraq expressed his thanks for the sacrifices made by the Coalition forces to free his country from the evils of the Saddam regime. He was absolutely clear that there was no desire among the Iraqi people to go back to the past. He entirely rejected the notion that the people of Iraq were unable to make democracy work or that the insurgents represented anything other than a small minority of Iraqis. He described the reality to us vividly. Those who carry out violent attacks, blowing up water and oil pipelines, leaving ordinary Iraqis to go without power, are not patriots, he said. They are terrorists whose agenda is to cause chaos. They are determined to stop us succeeding. But we will succeed, with Iraq not just a better place for Iraqis but for the wider region and the world.
This led on to a discussion of the initiative to help build reform across the Broader Middle East and North Africa region. We agreed a set of proposals to help bring greater democracy, freedom and stability to the whole of that region, working in support of those in the region who want to make progress towards modernisation and reform.
Reform must of course come from within. The G8 responded positively to ideas from regional leaders, most notably at the Arab League Summit in Tunis, where Arab leaders expressed their determination 'firmly to establish the basis for democracy'.
We met a number of leaders from the region - from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen and Turkey. We agreed a comprehensive and detailed Plan of Support to give momentum to the initiative. We set out concrete measures to address the illiteracy, poverty and under-development of the region, to make the most of the region's entrepreneurial and cultural traditions on which it could thrive. We established the Forum for the Future, which will bring together Foreign and Economic Ministers from the G8 and countries in the Region. The inaugural meeting will be held in the Autumn.
We also discussed the Middle East Peace Process. We agreed that the basis for progress is still the Roadmap, which sets out the path to the two state solution. We agreed that the Quartet should meet in the region before the end of this month, and that it should now come up with a specific set of actions to restore momentum on the Roadmap. These should cover political reform of the Palestinian Administration, a security plan and an economic plan.
Taken together, the vision is of a Middle East which is no longer a source of instability and extremism, but of increasingly more democratic states which respect different religions and human rights and can live peacefully within the world community.
On the final day of the summit, we concentrated on Africa. Leaders from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Algeria and Uganda joined us. African issues are now a well-established part of the G8 agenda. We agreed a number of new measures. We have to ensure that when there is a conflict in Africa, we have the peacekeeping ability to back up and support a political settlement. So we made a commitment to ensure that up to 75,000 peacekeeping troops will be trained and ready to be deployed on peacekeeping operations by 2010. The UK intends to train, directly or indirectly, 17,000 African troops in this period.
We discussed the grave humanitarian and political crisis in the Sudan, which my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for International Development visited last week. The UK is the second largest donor to Sudan, giving £36.5 million this year alone. The G8 pledged assistance in ending the conflict and bringing humanitarian assistance to those in need. We agreed to work together to help the UN lead the international effort to avert a major humanitarian disaster.
We agreed a new initiative to extend AIDS vaccine research. We confirmed the polio eradication target. We also agreed on new measures to help break the vicious cycle of famine and food insecurity in the Horn of Africa.
The Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries Initiative has given welcome relief to the crushing burden of debt that has held back so many of the poorest countries. We have already agreed $70bn of debt relief for 27 countries, 23 of which are in Africa. We reaffirmed our commitment to implement and finance this initiative fully. We agreed to work with all parties concerned to extend the initiative from the end of this year to the end of 2006. This agreement opens the door for another ten countries to benefit from over $30 billion of debt relief. This will free up vital resources which can be spent on health and education and the eradication of poverty.
This series of initiatives confirms the growing importance of Africa for all of us in the G8. The UK alone will spend £1bn in Africa next financial year. A major part of the agenda for our G8 Summit next year will be the work of the Commission for Africa that we have established. The Commission will report back next spring with a series of agreed recommendations for action. We will then work with the rest of the G8 to take them forward.
The other major part of the agenda for the UK presidency of the G8 in 2005 will be climate change. We need to make progress with ratification of Kyoto; but we also need to look beyond Kyoto and its 2012 timeframe.
We had an extensive discussion of the world economy. We agreed on the need for further structural reforms in our economies to accelerate growth. We discussed the current level of oil prices, notably the recent pledge by OPEC to increase production.
On trade, there was broad agreement to press ahead with the Doha Development Round. We called on all parties to take the measures necessary to get the Round moving forward. The benefits are clear: substantially reducing trade barriers could boost global income by $500bn a year, with most going to developing countries.
On non-proliferation, we adopted an action plan building on and enhancing the existing global non-proliferation regime. We recognised the need to strengthen controls on the transfer of nuclear enrichment and reprocessing technology. We agreed to have new measures in place before next year's summit.
The G8 was originally created to discuss economic issues. Of course we still do this, but increasingly the focus has moved towards issues of international solidarity. This is because it is clear that in an interdependent world, what blights or enhances one part of the world, affects the other parts too. It is morally right that we extend democracy, cut poverty, remove the causes of conflict and instability and bring the hope of advancement to all nations. But it is also now clearly in our enlightened self-interest. If global terrorism and the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons are the new security threat we face, we recognise it cannot be defeated by security measures alone. Political freedom and rising prosperity as much as force of arms will be our ultimate shield. The G8 this year recognised this reality. We look forward to deepening it under British chairmanship next year.
Source: 10 Downing Street