Posted by: Administrator | 13 May, 2007

President with PM Tony Blair in press conference

6 December 2004

The Prime Minister has spoken of the UK’s strong relationship with Pakistan, following talks with  President Musharraf at 10 Downing Street.

Prime Minister:

Good Afternoon Everyone. First of all can I extend a very warm welcome indeed to President Musharraf, to welcome him here to Downing Street and say how delighted I am to see him here again, and thank him for his courage and his leadership in Pakistan at the moment, at a difficult time for the world when the relationship I think between Britain and Pakistan is strong, but where we need that strength to tackle the problems that we face together.

And in summary we have discussed obviously bilateral issues and relations between Britain and Pakistan. I said incidentally how pleased I was that President Musharraf is to address members of the Pakistanicommunity here, and then I think tomorrow elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

I also expressed our strong support for the relationship of economic development between our two countries and indicated how much we support the push that Pakistan has made in respect of access to European markets, and we will do what we can to help on that issue. I also congratulated President Musharraf on his attempt to bring together moderate voices in respect of Islam in order to show the true face of the true faith of Islam and explained how important I thought that that was.

In addition of course we discussed the obvious range of international Questions, the war against terrorism in which we both cooperate very strongly, both bilaterally and again with our main allies. In respect of the situation in Afghanistan, where I was interested to hear of the President’s visit there a short time ago and where we agreed that in Afghanistan there is some cause for optimism about the progress that is being made there. In respect of Iraq, where we agreed that whatever the issues of the past, the important thing now is to see the strategy through and to make sure that Iraq is capable of becoming a stable and democratic state. And of course we also discussed the immense importance of the Middle East peace process and the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian issue. In the view of both of us, this is something of crucial importance, not just to the Middle East but to the wider world.

So once again Mr President, many, many thanks indeed. We of course discussed, I should say, as you would expect we would discuss, the issue of Kashmir and relations between India and Pakistan, that goes without saying.

But Mr President, once again thank you very much for coming here. Can I thank you, as I said, for your leadership at this difficult time, and can I also through you thank the Pakistani community here in this country who do an immense amount for this country and whom we are very proud to have as part of our nation.

President Musharraf:

Thank you very much Mr Prime Minister. Ladies and Gentlemen, well I would say we are both passing through difficult times, that is a very common relationship that we have. May I first of all start by expressing our gratitude for the warmth and the many courtesies being extended to us here. This is my third visit. I am very glad that we have exchanged ideas on a whole range of issues, extending from international, our regional, that is Afghanistan and the Kashmir issue, on which we exchanged notes, and also on the bilateral economic relations. I am very glad to say that there is a total consonance of views and the desire to enhance our relationship, enhance our understanding of international issues, enhance our cooperation on various important issues, like terrorism and bringing peace and harmony into the world. We did discuss how to address the root causes of terrorism, the breeding ground of terrorism, how to address those, and we have commonality of views, I must say. We also discussed the issue, we analysed the progress in Afghanistan and I am very glad to say that I expressed my views to the Prime Minister on the improvement that is taking place in Afghanistan’s situation. Therefore on international, regional issues, we have consonance of views.

I am extremely grateful to the Prime Minister to accept my request to enhance economic, commercial and trade ties bilaterally and with the European Union, because I told him that this really means creation of jobs, other than the economic benefit, and creation of jobs means addressing the issue of poverty alleviation and that also means fighting extremism. Therefore I am grateful that the Prime Minister understands our realities and he would look into enhancing our commercial interests.

On the whole I look forward, and Pakistan looks forward, to cementing our political and diplomatic bonds further with the United Kingdom because we have a relationship, a historical relationship with each other which we need to further cement, and also cementing them through enhanced economic and trade ties, because we already, the United Kingdom is the greatest trade partner in Europe with Pakistan and we want to further enhance these ties.

I would like to close by expressing my gratitude to the Prime Minister for his involvement, for his very positive involvement in world affairs today, trying to contribute his bit towards resolution of the core issues that would improve conditions in the world, and also for his understanding of realities in Pakistan and our region.

Question:

Mr President, you made clear that you discussed the root causes of terrorism with the Prime Minister, but you have also expressed, most recently in your Newsnight interview to be broadcast tonight, strong reservations about the way in which the war on terror is being fought on the strategy, that you think it misses the root causes, and you have accepted strongly the principle, the idea that the war on terror has actually made the world less safe. Can you expand on that analysis a bit? Do you think that the west is simply not making enough of a commitment, despite all the public rhetoric?

President Musharraf:

I see a war on terror in two dimensions. The first dimension is its immediate dimension, and that is fighting terror head on militarily, and that is what we are doing. Pakistan is also part of a coalition, I think that is the right part in its immediate context. Then there is a strategic long term dimension and that is hitting at the core of what creates terrorists, what creates an extremist militant environment which then leads on to terrorism – that is the resolution of political dispute and I would like to say that there is total consonance of views between me and the Prime Minister. I know that the Prime Minister has his resolve and he is trying his best to hit at the core of the problem – a resolution of political disputes – and that is the right way of going forward, and then of course addressing socio-economic problems of illiteracy and poverty. That is the route forward. Now I am very sure that the situation in the world now is right for a resolution of these disputes, political disputes, addressing the core and also going for socio-economic development, whilst simultaneously confronting terrorism with force. This is the right path and we have total consonance of views on this.

Prime Minister:

If I could just say I completely agree with that, and I think you will find that most sensible people looking at the world today know that since September 11 we have got to take every action that we can, and both Pakistan and Britain are doing this, to fight terrorism militarily, but we would be foolish to ignore the causes upon which terrorism preys, and that is why it is also important to address those political disputes as well.

Question:

Mr Prime Minister, it has been reported that the United Kingdom is going to host peace talks on the Middle East. I wish to know do you see any role for your guest in resolving the Middle East problem, as he has already discussed the same Question with the President of the United States last week in Washington, and he has the experience of dealing with the international affairs and he has been dealing with the Indians, he has been dealing with the Kashmir issue, and are you in agreement that Palestinian issues and Kashmiri issues are the root cause of terrorism across the world?

President Musharraf:

Thank you for the compliment.

Prime Minister:

I am not sure whether it is not better for you to answer that before me. But look I think the President of the United States, President Musharraf and myself are all agreed on the importance of trying to resolve the Palestinian issue. Now the precise means of that, that is something that we have to sit down and work out in the coming weeks, but the one thing I think all of us are very sure of is that now is the moment to grasp the opportunities. There is the possibility of change opening up, and I don’t want to go into the detail of the discussions we have had, although the counsel of President Musharraf will be extremely valuable in this regard, but I don’t want to go into the details of those discussions, but I do want to emphasise, I think the next period of time is absolutely crucial. If we don’t seize this opportunity now, it may not come for us again.

President Musharraf

May I make one statement, that whenever I have interacted with the media it seems that we always get anchored in the past trying to waste energy on why certain incidents took place. Let’s look at the future, let’s spend energy on the methods of resolving the issues that confront us in the future.

Question:

Just two aspects of the war on terror. First of all the reaction of both of you to what has happened in Saudi Arabia, and secondly, what do you say to those, both Pakistani critics and western critics, who allege that Osama Bin Laden and other senior leaders of al Queda do operate out of Pakistan with relative impunity.

President Musharraf:

If you see historically what had happened very briefly over two and a half decades this area of ours on our … Afghanistan was in turmoil for two and a half decades, all that had its impact inside Afghanistan, and after 9/11 and the operation in Afghanistan, all that element, or its worst impact, shifted on into Pakistan and we started feeling the brunt of the extremism and terrorism within our country. We operated against them and we have removed, apprehended more than 600 al Queda members from our cities and now our cities are reasonably clean. Why I say reasonably clean, because I think on odd days we do get Kurd stringers of al Queda in some places, so therefore we are reasonably clean, we have cleaned them up from the mountains. And now as far as Pakistan is concerned, we have broken the back of al Queda in Pakistan, and I say this with total conviction and authority, they are on the run, their
command and control structure is broken, their logistic bases have been smashed and we occupy them, so therefore while previously there may have been accusations against us, and which I did not certainly appreciate very much, now there ought to be no reason for any doubts that Pakistan is winning the battle against extremism and terrorism within its own area.

Question:

… Saudi Arabia.

President Musharraf:

Frankly I don’t have the exact details of what has happened there, but there are of course some terrorists and extremists operating there. I don’t know the details so I wouldn’t be able to comment on exactly what is happening.

Prime Minister:

I think the only comment I would have is to say that the attacks today once again demonstrate that virtually in every major country around the world these extremists try to operate, and that is why it is so important that we do get after them and try to defeat them by as many military and security means as we possibly can, at the same time recognising that ultimately there are deep causes of this that we also need to eradicate, and that is what Britain and Pakistan are working on. And I think you will find a very, very clear sense, virtually with every senior leader that I speak to today, that those two things need to go together. And that is why some of the changes we were talking about, for example in respect of Pakistan, were not just changes to do with the operation of security measures, but were also to do with the changes happening in Pakistani society, economic development, the importance of that, and I think the same lessons apply in other countries too.

President Musharraf:

There are underground linkages, may I add, with these terrorists operating everywhere, therefore the strategy of resolving political disputes actually strikes at the core of terrorism, and that is the route that we should be taking, which we agree.

Question:

Do you think that you have provided a new breeding ground to al Qaeda in Iraq, and your strategy in Iraq is completely failed and you need to change your strategy in Iraq now?

Prime Minister:

No, I think we need to just see it through. I think that if we allow these people to succeed in Iraq, that will put the whole of the region back. And I don’t believe that people in Iraq should face a choice between Saddam Hussein and the brutal dictatorship that he exercised there against his own people, hundreds of thousands of them dying, and being ruled by religious fanatics or terrorists. I think it is perfectly possible that that country, I am sure this is what its people want, to make progress towards stability and democracy, and we should help them do that. And whatever differences people have about the wisdom of the conflict, I think everybody knows that the important thing now is to stick with it, stay the course and see the job done.

President Musharraf:

May I add to this? I think the strategy, if you are talking of the strategy now and for the future, there is a military part and a political part. I think in both areas the military part is to fight terrorism, which is happening there, it should fight terrorism with Iraqi security forces and therefore an Iraqi security force needs to be raised, which is happening, maybe it could be speeded up. On the political side the path taken of holding elections within Iraq is the right course again, and if all parties involved, segments involved, participate in the elections, that is the right course of action. And therefore I think as far as the future strategy is concerned, that is the right course of action and it must not be abandoned because it will
create more destabilisation in the whole region. I totally agree with whatever future strategy is being … up.

Question:

Do you share the views of some in Washington that UN General Secretary Kofi Annan should stand down over allegations of corruption in the Oil for Food Programme? And are you disappointed that President Bush hasn’t taken the opportunity to rally behind Mr Annan?

Prime Minister:

I believe that Kofi Annan is doing a fine job as United Nations Secretary General, often in very difficult circumstances. I have had the occasion to be grateful for his leadership on many occasions and I very much hope that he is allowed to get on with his job, which is important in an important moment of international affairs, without criticism that I think if people analyse it for a moment they will see is unfair.

Question:

If bilateralism and dialogue between Pakistan and India do not yield any results, would Britain be willing to play its role in resolving the issues between the two countries?

Prime Minister:

Well I think you know when I was first asked this Question a few years ago, and they give you a very careful formulation to use on all these occasions for very obvious reasons, I think that what has happened in the last few years is that ourselves, the United States, others have tried very hard to help India and Pakistan to put this into a different position. I think that is now possible and I think the most intelligent thing for us to do is to try and give every support to India and Pakistan to resolve this, because this is really what we want to see. But there is the prospect of dialogue that is there, I welcome that, I think that that dialogue has to be meaningful, that it is sensible that it is, and I hope that in time to come it is possible for India and Pakistan to come to understandings over Kashmir that allow these two very great and powerful countries to focus on issues to do with economic development, to do with stability in the wider world, to do with the whole set of regional interests that they have in common, rather than have the whole of the relationship determined by this issue. And so I welcome all the moves made on both sides, India and Pakistan, to try and resolve this, and I think at the present time it is best to give those moves support and try to do everything we can to help and not impede that, and that is what we try to do. And over the past few years, as you know, we have spoken about this many times and I think and hope that our input has been constructive, but in order for it to be constructive it
also has to be diplomatic.

President Musharraf:

Shall we take the final Question from a lady, because no lady has got up?

Prime Minister:

Thank you, Mr President, for reminding me of this, you are right.

Question:

Mr Blair, given that you have a large Kashmiri population living in Britain, and they are very vocal about the Kashmiri situation, I would like your views on what you think about the Kashmiri point of view, the Kashmiri perspective, and what you feel, whether they have a right or a say so in what is being discussed between India and Pakistan, and which
way the land lies for them.

Prime Minister:

Well I think, if you will forgive me for making a very diplomatic response to that, I think what everyone wants to see in respect of Kashmir is a set of circumstances in which the people there can live their lives, free from fear but in a way that they can express themselves properly too, and where the relationship between India and Pakistan is not wholly dominated by this Question. And I think that rather than for people like myself to start stipulating this is the end
result that we would like to see, which I don’t think it is my place to do, I think the important thing, as I said a moment or two ago, is that we give every support to India and Pakistan in trying to reach a proper dialogue on this issue because in the end surely for people in Kashmir that is the most important thing, because they are the people actually
living there who have to live with the problems. And so if it was possible to find a dialogue that yielded a better way through, I am sure that would be in their interests.

President Musharraf:

… I think Pakistan’s stand is very clear, that there is no solution possible without the participation of the people of Kashmir in the dialogue at some time or other; and secondly, that any solution that is arrived at has to be acceptable to the people of Kashmir, other than India and Pakistan, there is no doubt in my mind, and we will never allow the people of Kashmir to stay out of whatever we arrive at finally.

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