The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1995Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech in Presence of Chairman Arafat – 14 March 1995

Below is the transcript of Mr Major’s speech made on 14th March 1995 in the presence of Chairman Arafat.


Chairman Arafat, distinguished guests.

We have a saying in Britain that a week is a long time in politics. I have no doubt that that is as true here as it is in London. But if a week is a long time, then how to measure thirteen years? For that is the time since my last visit to the Occupied Territories.

Little could I foresee, back in 1982, the huge changes in your circumstances – and in mine – before I returned to these lands. The Palestinian Autonomy is still at an early and formative stage. It is vital for the stability of this region and the future of its peoples that the Autonomy – and the peace process as a whole – should succeed. I have come to offer our support and our help. I have also come to look ahead.

The future is uncertain, and the path ahead strewn with potential pitfalls. But the goal of a lasting and peaceful settlement continues to provide hope to all the peoples of the region. Its single-minded pursuit retains a compelling logic. The search for peace, after decades of violence and hatred on both sides, was never going to be easy. It is bound to be a gradual and sometimes frustrating process, as you try to build a new future for your people.

But I am sure that in choosing to seek a permanent peace, you have chosen well. Britain will fully support your efforts in that direction. We want to see peace established on the basis of Security Council Resolutions. We believe that it can only be achieved by direct negotiations between the parties, with the support of the international community. We especially value, as I know you do, the active encouragement of President Mubarak.

The first requirement is to implement the Declaration of Principles: to press on with re-deploying Israel’s armed forces on the West Bank and so clear the way to free elections as soon as possible. I have been encouraged to hear from both Mr. Rabin and Mr. Peres yesterday and from you today, Mr. Chairman, of some recent progress. Elections are essential to strengthen the Autonomy and to weaken the opponents to peace.

Indeed, it remains crucial to intensify efforts against those resorting to violence. A lasting peace requires security – for both sides. This security will need to be vigorously sustained if progress is to be achieved.

The Declaration of Principles also stipulates that a number of crucial issues, including settlements and the status of Jerusalem, should be reversed for the final status negotiations. Meanwhile, the status quo should be respected, and nothing be done by either party to seek unilateral advantage. It is most important that that principle should be upheld.

But it is essential that while the negotiations continue, people should see improvements in their daily life. This will be very important in sustaining popular support for the peace process without which it is far less likely to succeed. I hope that the recent progress in your talks with the Israelis will, for example, lead to easier movement from Gaza to the West Bank.

Beyond these political issues, however, it is perhaps in the economic field that the international community can contribute most. The Norwegian Government have worked especially hard to co-ordinate international assistance. So has the World Bank. And I saw for myself this morning the effectiveness of UNRWA.

But the European Union remains by some way the major donor. The Union is providing 580 million dollars of new aid. We are establishing a Know-How Programme for the Occupied Territories worth some 7.5 million dollars to help your managers and your businessmen, your water engineers and your health administrators, to build up their own institutions. It will also encourage involvement by the private sector.

One such example involves co-operation between Palestinian and British companies, in particular Marks and Spencer, in a project with the Palestinian Autonomy and the British Government to help develop Palestinian skill in making garments for export, and so increase employment in wealth-creating ways.

This morning I handed over fifty vehicles to the Palestinian police, who, as you know Mr. Chairman, have been a particular focus for Britain’s bilateral aid. This follows our substantial contribution last year towards police salaries, and our provision of management and other training for you officers.

As I have said, the maintenance of security is an essential pre-condition for the successful pursuit of peace. Without it, neither Palestinians nor Israelis will be prepared to make the commitments necessary to achieve a lasting settlement. By enabling your police force to improve security within the Palestinian Autonomy, I believe that these vehicles, and the other help that Britain has provided, will make an important contribution to furthering the peace process.

Aid can never be the whole story though. Britain’s experience is that prosperity springs from private enterprise. That is why I welcome the policies for a free market which your Administration have adopted. What Palestinian businessmen need now is opportunity.

So I am especially glad to have with me today a very powerful trade delegation. They stand ready to help in developing your private sector. I am sure that the discussions with their Palestinian counterparts this morning have thrown up some really useful pointers; and I am glad that there will be opportunities to pursue these individually this afternoon.

Mr. Chairman, the Palestinian people have suffered much for too many years. I recognise the scale of the problems that still confront you. But you have taken a decisive and courageous step. We in the United Kingdom offer full support to the peaceful search for a lasting settlement for your people.