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TRANSCRIPT "A" OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE
GIVEN BY THE PRIME MINISTER, MR TONY BLAIR
ON SUNDAY, 17 MAY 1998
I would like to begin, if I may, just by saying a word of congratulation to Birmingham, to the people of Birmingham, for having hosted us and for having put on such an extraordinary and stunning display and there is no doubt at all that this is now a major international centre here. So well done Birmingham.
You also will know that we have tried to make this a slightly different format this time by having the Heads only with a very focused agenda. Let me just run through the main points that we have managed to agree over these past few days and what I think has, by common acceptance, been a highly a successful summit.
First of all we have agreed some propositions for new financial architecture for the world to learn the lessons of the Asian crisis - transparency, codes of good practice with publicity for those who fall short, the designing if you like of a set of international economic and financial standards which countries can subscribe to and which then help both give them credibility in international economic terms and also ensure that the markets function in a more stable way.
We also paid particular tribute in the discussion we had this morning to the work that China has done in the aftermath of the Asian economic crisis and to its very strong commitment to financial stability.
We made a firm and agreed response to the Indian nuclear tests, with particular emphasis on the forward strategy of bringing India into the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the non-proliferation system. We made clear statements also on the Middle East peace process, on Kosovo and on the Ukraine. On crime we had a detailed discussion in which we not merely agreed certain principles in relation to how we deal with international crime, in particular high-tech crime, drugs, international organised crime, but we also agreed a 10 point action plan specifically on high-tech crime, new measures on money laundering and financial crime. We underlined the dangers of corruption, we expressed our desire for new measures to tackle the trafficking of human beings, joint law enforcement action and also joint action in respect of firearms trafficking.
In respect of development, this is an area which has obviously caused a lot of interest around the world to our citizens. We made particular effort to get an agreed text on development and aid which has a number of different elements to it: first of all, continuing and substantial aid, not least the right resources for the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Fund, and we agreed new efforts to get all countries to agree to untie aid. Secondly, more debt relief, particularly under the heavily indebted poor countries initiative so that all eligible countries are in the process by the year 2000, and even where the processes are slow, that they can get some form of interim relief which helps them even if the process hasn't been completed by the year 2000. We also called for the forgiveness of aid-related debt for the least developed countries and we agreed a new initiative to respond to the exceptional needs of post-conflict countries, including early debt relief.
Then we agreed a major new effort on the world's diseases, particularly malaria where we believe we can cut the death rate very significantly in the next 10 years through new techniques and through the World Health Organisation's roll-back malaria initiative. Britain, I should tell you, this morning has agreed to contribute some 60 million pounds to this and it should have a very significant impact indeed on the poorest, who are the victims of this malaria.
We also, on the environment, expressed our support for the Kyoto Process, our determination to make it a reality, through both tough domestic action and through international action also, for example through trading mechanisms and through working to draw in the developing countries to the process of environmental protection.
We agreed also on the prospect of Russia's membership of the nuclear safety group, And in respect of employability, which formed a major part of our discussions yesterday, then the G8 Ministers agreed on the principles and national action plans that have been drawn up over this past period of time. We put particular emphasis on tackling social exclusion, the young and long term unemployed particularly, helping small businesses and entrepreneurs, and making sure that the tax and benefit systems were more employment-friendly, and I think that was a debate in which it was very clear there was a strong common agenda there.
This morning, as well as the other discussions we had, we discussed particularly the millennium bug, that is the year 2000 computer problem. We agreed that even amongst the G8 there were varying levels of preparation and we agreed also it was vitally important to ensure that we get the right international, as well as national, action through the World Bank Trust Fund, and Britain has committed some 10 million pounds to that, and through the OECD. And we agreed, as the Chairman of the G8, to convene a meeting of each of the individual people that we have appointed in our own countries to co-ordinate action to hold a meeting of the G8 experts and do that in Moscow where President Yeltsin made a particularly strong plea as to the importance of action on the millennium bug in his country too, and indeed around the world.
Finally obviously we issued a statement on Northern Ireland where we expressed our unanimous and warm support for the Good Friday agreement, and the very clear readiness on behalf of all the countries of the world to help economically, political stability can be assured.
So it was a very full and busy agenda. We agreed at the end that the new format that we adopted this year, effectively to have the Heads of Government restricted to that format, get a focused agenda with some concrete steps out of it, we agreed this morning that in the future we would continue to adopt the same format, because I think people did think it had worked a lot better than years before.
And as I say, once again my congratulations to Birmingham and to all the people that made this such a friendly and harmonious meeting.
QUESTION (Michael Brunson, ITN):
Prime Minister, two points if I may. First, is it true that Sandline will not be prosecuted even though they may have been in breach of the UN embargo? Secondly, you have devoted a lot of time while you have been here to Northern Ireland and you have got President Clinton to make two joint appearances. It suggests to me that you are seriously worried about the strength of the Yes vote on Friday. Am I right?
In respect of the first, Michael, the issue of the prosecution is a matter for Customs and Excise, they will have to make their decision in the proper way and it wouldn't be right for me to interfere with that in any shape or form. In respect of Northern Ireland, we obviously want as large a Yes vote as possible, but I think it is also important to realise that in these last few days before people make up their mind, I think it is important that the concerns that people have are addressed, because people are focusing very, very seriously upon it indeed, and I think it is important also that we explore with people the arguments that they are having. This is a debate in Northern Ireland that people are going into in immense detail, emotions are very high, people are aware it is a huge decision for their future, and I think the more that we can explore the arguments in a sense the better that it is. So it is not so much concern about the Yes vote as a very focused desire on my part to make sure that people understand from us, get the clarification they need as to what the agreement needs so that they can make up their own minds. But in the end of course the decision is a decision for the people in Northern Ireland.
QUESTION (Tony Juniper, Earth Matters Magazine):
The G8 countries have a massive and disproportionate impact on the quality of the global environment, the question of global climate change and deforestation are two particular areas that environmental groups are concerned about. The communiqué today, however, has some only very modest future plans in terms of how the G8 nations are going to deal with those problems, many of those commitments in the communiqué are also existing in international law and voluntary agreements already. Do you think this is sufficient, is it good enough in terms of achieving sustainable development and what do you propose to do now in concrete terms between this time and the COT4 (phon) in Buenos Aires to advance the question of global climate change and debatement of possible fuel emissions?
I should say to you that there was a great deal of discussion actually about the environment, and indeed energy policy as well and you will see that that is covered fairly extensively in the communiqué. Of course the Kyoto summit has really provided the principal context in which these debates have been held, and quite rightly too, because it has allowed us to engage with countries, not just those within the G8 but outside of it too, and engage in a real dialogue between the developed and the developing countries. But I think that the important thing that we decided as a result of the discussions we had was that we reinforced our own individual commitment to implement Kyoto, in other words it would be odd if the G8 in some ways superseded Kyoto, and that is not what is supposed to happen, but you will see the very clear statements made in the communiqué that we take it upon ourselves each individually to take the domestic action necessary to reduce significantly greenhouse gas emissions, in accordance with Kyoto, and in addition to that we agree that we will work further on flexible mechanisms such as international market based emissions trading, joint implementation, clean development mechanisms, in order to engage in international action at the same time. And we have also agreed, because there is the Buenos Aires meeting coming up in the autumn, to work closely on that too.
So I would say, and of course we mention the whole question of the forest and deforestation as well, I think there is a new and greater commitment in the world today to taking action on climate change. We in Britain have been at the forefront of these moves and I guess in some ways we are a little bit ahead of some other countries, but nonetheless I wouldn't under-estimate the degree to which Kyoto is now accepted as the basic framework within which we work. And secondly, if you recall last year in Denver, there were some quite difficult discussions about climate change in the environment. This year it has been accepted, so I think that is progress, And certainly so far as we are concerned domestically in Britain we are making a lot of progress towards meeting the targets we have agreed.
You talk about the questions of detail in Northern Ireland, how will you in a detailed way spell out in legislation the provisions needed to meet the worries of Unionists in Northern Ireland that people connected to the paramilitaries could be forming part or meeting as a group when, for example, on the biggest political issue which has come before you - that of the Indian nuclear tests - you have all agreed to go your own ways rather than taking concerted action to press India in a particular direction?
On the first, Robin, I have obviously addressed these concerns very specifically indeed on the Frost Programme this morning. I have made it abundantly clear that in the legislation that will come before the British Parliament we must make it quite clear, even for the Shadow Assembly, that people cannot engage in a dual strategy of violence and democracy, they have to choose between the two, and that choice is clear and explicit in the agreement and we will clarify it further in the legislation. And that includes all the various elements that go to make up an assessment of whether people have given up violence, including of course the independent commission's judgments on decommissioning. You know I cannot say any more than I have said, people can't pick and choose in this agreement and I have clarified, not changed the agreement, but clarified it to make it quite clear to people that all parts of the agreement, including the elements on decommissioning, including the elements on non-violent democratic means are all there and they are all matters that go to affect both prisoner release and people taking their seats in the Northern Ireland Executive. And the basic principle is completely clear, there will not be people taking their seats in the Northern Ireland Executive, nor will there be the accelerated prisoner release programme unless it is clear violence has been given
And the interesting thing about the whole Northern Ireland peace process is the institutional structures, the north-south bodies, the Northern Ireland Assembly, those issues which for years, and years, and years meant that people couldn't come to an agreement in Northern Ireland, in a sense they are I think accepted as a fair way forward. And what we now have to make sure is that the other concern people have got - namely that the paramilitary organisations try a dual strategy, ballot box here, gun here
- we have got to make sure that that concern is laid to rest as well. So I think we have laid to rest many of the institutional concerns, we now have to use the last few days to lay to rest that concern too.
In respect of the G8 and India, I simply don't agree that we haven't issued a very strong statement indeed condemning the nuclear tests and calling upon India unconditionally to sign up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty process. We also, rightly of course because it would not be appropriate to do it in any other way, say that individual countries will have their own individual response, but there is no doubt at all that the decision by India has gravely weakened the security of the world and it is important that they realise the huge international concern that having done these tests now, particularly with what we are hearing in terms of what Pakistan may do, it is essential that they come within the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty process. And I hope that the statements that were made by the Indian Prime Minister to me on the telephone on Friday are delivered in practice because it is vital for the world's security that they are. But we did not underestimate in any shape or form the gravity of the situation.
This is the first G8 meeting with full Russian participation. How do you see,to which extent could Russia have seized the challenge of G8 to sustain the process of global integration?
I think the contribution that Russia has made to the G8 has already been very evident, and for example I mentioned just in my press summary in relation to nuclear energy, and in respect of the millennium bug, the contribution that President Yeltsin made personally to this. And I think it is extremely important because people understand the tremendous economic changes that are happening in Russia at the moment, we appreciate very well that without the voice of Russia being heard in the G8 Councils, it is far more difficult for us to deal with the serious international issues that confront us. And I think again, particularly in respect of India and Pakistan, the question of nuclear tests being carried out, to have the strong voice and leadership of Russia that is immensely beneficial to the G8 and tremendously strengthens and underpins our consultations and our discussions. So I would say to you that I have seen very clear evidence myself from this G8 of both the positive and strong leadership that President Yeltsin has been able to give, and the immensely valuable contribution that Russia makes to our dialogue and considerations.
Although the final communiqué, the G8 accept that the peace process could fail in case the Israelis and the Palestinians don't negotiate and don't resume talks again, but the communiqué in my view fell short in condemning the unwillingness of the Israeli leadership to the promises that they made to you personally and to the United States and all the current talks between the Prime Minister and Albright. Why haven't you condemned the unwillingness of the Israeli leadership? And finally may
I ask you how do you feel about the Newcastle defeat yesterday?
Sad is the answer to the second question. On the first, I think it is just worthwhile emphasising to you what we did say, We strongly supported the package of ideas that have been put forward by the United States and we welcomed the acceptance in principle of the Palestinian side to that package of proposals. I think the reason why we tried to be positive in our language is that we are still hopeful that this process can be taken forward, that the remaining gaps between the sides can be bridged, and
therefore I think that we felt it incumbent upon us to try and deal with this in as positive and as constructive a way as possible. But you will see set out very clearly in the statement we made in the Middle East peace process the two points that I have made, plus the expression of our deep concern at the continuing stalemate. So I hope very much, as I have been saying for these past few weeks when I have been engaged in some of these discussions myself, that we can find a way forward to get the Middle East peace process moving along satisfactorily because it is of such vital importance for the entirety of the region and the world.
(END OF TRANSCRIPT "A", CONTINUED ON TRANSCRIPT "B")
Source: Released by Radio Technical Services, Birmingham G8 Summit, 17 May 1998.
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