World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


G8 "overshadowed" by events in Middle East - Blair

Tony Blair has looked back at the talks he and his fellow leaders held on Africa, energy and world trade at the St Petersburg summit.

But he admitted that the crisis in the Middle East had overshadowed their discussions.

Air strikes in Lebanon began last week after the seizure of two Israeli soldiers.

Speaking to journalists at the end of the three-day summit, Mr Blair described the situation as "difficult, fraught and immensely dangerous".

PM reflects on "critical situation" in Middle East
On Africa, the PM confirmed that the leaders had recommitted themselves to the agreements reached in Gleneagles last year.

He said there were "possibilities" that a deal on world trade could be reached.

And "virtually all" the participants in discussions on energy agreed that a balanced policy for the future - including nuclear and renewable power - was needed.

Returning to the conflict in the Middle East, the PM said:

"It was a summit overshadowed by the crisis in the Middle East and we certainly for our part will do everything we can to try to resolve that and to try to restore some calm to what is otherwise a difficult, fraught and immensely dangerous situation, not just for the region, but for the whole of the world."

PM'S PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

Prime Minister:

Let me give you a summary of what has taken place at this G8 but I would first of all like to thank President Putin and Russia for the excellent organisation of this G8 summit and for his personal chairmanship of it, which was excellent and extremely to the point, so thank him for that and thank the Russian people as well.

Obviously this is a summit that has been overshadowed by events in the Middle East, so I will say a word about that. The situation is very serious indeed, as you know, and the purpose of the statement that we put out last night was to spell out the conditions in which there could be a cessation of hostilities. There are a number of things that we have to work on, both in respect of southern Lebanon and also in respect of the Gaza. In respect of southern Lebanon, we have indicated in our statement that we should examine the possibility urgently of a UN force that goes in to create a proper international security monitoring presence under the guidance of the UN Security Council. The Secretary General of the United Nations, when he was speaking just now, indicated that he supported such a thing and his team is out there at the moment in the area working on this issue. So that is important. It is important also that we give every support to Prime Minister Siniora and the Lebanese government at this very, very difficult time. It is important also that we ensure that all those various elements that we talked about in our statement yesterday are implemented. All of us need to reflect on the tragic death of so many innocent people in Beirut and innocent Israelis killed by deliberate acts of terrorism.

Then there is the issue to do with Gaza and what is important there is obviously that there is the release of the Israeli soldier. That we then have the early withdrawal of Israeli forces, and again that a proper system of negotiation put in place. As soon as possible obviously, as we say in the statement and I reiterate again now, we need to make sure as far as possible that we return to the basic principles set out in the road map and a negotiated process towards a two state solution. It may seem a long, long way away as we look at current events now, but frankly in the end, as we know, that is the only possible solution that will deal with the root causes of the crisis that has arisen.

Secondly, in relation to the issues that we expected to dominate the G8 summit we have obviously dealt with the issue of Africa where we have recommitted ourselves to the Gleneagles programme. As you heard the United Nations Secretary General say this morning, there has been a great deal of progress but there is more that we have to do, and I spoke today to urge people to keep to the commitments that they have made.

We also of course have had discussions on the World Trade Organisation talks and their importance. I think you probably know that this is going to be tough and difficult to do. However, I have to say that the discussion we had over lunch did indicate very, very strongly the desire of everyone to inspire Pascal Lamy, who is the Head of the WTO, to reach an agreement. Around the table, both the President of the United States, President Lula from Brazil, and the President of the European Commission indicated that they wanted to see the necessary flexibility to reach a deal. So in those terms something that looked rather tougher yesterday, I now think there are possibilities, and we have simply got to make sure that those G4 talks that will be taking place tonight, and again tomorrow, succeed.

Then obviously there was the issue to do with energy, and here I think there were a number of things that came out very, very clearly - people's concern about energy security, people's concern about energy supply and rising prices. We had a very interesting discussion today where I would say that virtually all the participants said how important it was to have a balanced energy policy for the future, including renewables and including nuclear power. I thought it was interesting both from countries like ours, but also countries like India and China, that the concept of a balanced energy policy was very, very strongly there indeed.

Also so much of what we agreed at this G8 summit, like infectious diseases for example or education are very important, but I come back to the point I made right at the beginning, for very obvious reasons it was a summit overshadowed by the crisis in the Middle East and we certainly for our part will do everything we can to try to resolve that and to try to restore some calm to what is otherwise a difficult, fraught and immensely dangerous situation, not just for the region, but for the whole of the world.

Question:

Prime Minister, you talked about an international force going into the Lebanon. Do you have any idea of the timescale for that going in and what would have to be the preconditions; secondly, would you expect Britain to play a part in that; and finally we overheard you telling George Bush that you were prepared to go to the region to prepare the way for Condaleeza Rice. Is that a firm plan?

Prime Minister:

It is all about transparent government. In relation to the latter point, no, we will simply do whatever we need to do, as will the Americans, to try and bring about a situation in which we can calm the situation. However, in respect of the international security force, this will obviously take time to put together and that force cannot operate except in conditions where there has been a cessation of hostilities. But if people know there is the possibility of having such a force in southern Lebanon that can ensure that these attacks by Hezbollah are not taking place. I think there is at least a chance of getting the necessary calm there so that we can focus of course on the other issue that is immensely pressing, which is what is happening in the Gaza. But if we do not have even the concept of such a force for stability there, then my concern is obviously that the terrorist rocket attacks, and I think there have been over 1,000 in the last week probably from Lebanon into Israel, continue the loss of innocent lives, and then of course the air strikes in which also innocent civilians are dying. So if we can't get such a force to act in that way then I think it is very difficult to see how we are going to restore the calm. But it will take time for that to achieve, don't be under any doubt at all. Now as for the position of Britain and British forces, you know our forces are somewhat stretched for very obvious reasons, it is also not a role historically we have played in that region but of course we will work with other partners and allies to see what can be done. But in any event it wouldn't be a British force, it would obviously have to be a multinational force.

Question:

Prime Minister, also on your favourite open mic question - President Bush can be heard saying: "The irony is that they need to tell the Syrians to tell Hezbollah to stop this shit and it would all be over". Who is they, by which I mean who do you both feel is in the best position to influence the Syrians, is it you, the Americans who have got to influence the Syrians, is it the Russians? Who would they listen to?

Prime Minister:

Well I think, as I was saying to you yesterday, everyone is concerned that this action by Hezbollah, which is after all not just about the kidnap of Israeli soldiers and the killing of Israeli soldiers, but is also about rocket attacks being launched with the deliberate purpose of killing innocent people, innocent civilians, that has not arisen coincidentally given what has been happening down in the Gaza, and people of course know about the strong influence of Syria on Hezbollah. I think that the President was saying, what I am saying, which is that everybody around the table should use its influence on Syria to try to get this to stop. And the fact of the matter is if we do not stop it and this situation continues, it is going to escalate even further. Now it has escalated significantly in the past week, if it escalates again in the next week we are going to be in a very, very dangerous situation indeed. As I said to you this morning, I think the outside reaction will be why haven't you asked for an immediate cease-fire? The answer to that is very simple, unless we bring about the conditions in which there can be a cessation, it isn't going to happen, and those conditions have to obviously involve the release of hostages and the cessation of terrorist and criminal activity. We also need a situation where we are then able to see how an international monitoring presence can act then as a buffer protecting Israel against attacks and therefore relieving Israel of the necessity of striking back.

Question:

Prime Minister what assurance can we have that this new stabilisation force would succeed any more than UNIFIL, which has been there for almost 30 years now? And secondly, we understand that Gordon Brown has had a baby boy; I just wondered if you have any reaction to that?

Prime Minister:

Well my reaction to Gordon's good news is to wish him congratulations and say how delighted I am for him and Sarah, and John and of course the new baby.

The force that is there at the moment, UNIFIL, is I think I am right in saying fewer than 2,000 troops. This new force would obviously be of a significantly larger contingent with a far more specific mission. Now whether we can get agreement to doing this incidentally is an open question, but it is difficult for me to see how we are going to be able to put in place the stability that we require going forward unless such a security monitoring presence is there. If it is not there then the danger, of course, is that those that are responsible for this, and after all it was started by Hezbollah's attacks out of Lebanon, will begin again. So the mission would have to be far more specific and clearer and the force employed would have to be far greater. But there is a reason why UNIFIL was there in the first place, precisely because of the concerns that people had.

Question:

Prime Minister, we are just getting reports that ground forces from Israel have entered Lebanon. What is your reaction to that? Is it something you can possibly countenance?

Prime Minister:

I don't know, because I haven't heard that myself I haven't got a comment to make on it. We can give you a comment once we have checked it out.

Question:

In principle though, how would you regard such a development?

Prime Minister:

If you don't mind, on an issue as sensitive as this I want to know the facts before I comment. You must have just heard that now, because I haven't heard it.

Question:

Can I ask you a question about trade? We have been in this position lots of times before where summits have issued declarations of intent on trade, what makes you more confident this time that this nut can finally be cracked? Have there been any real signs that people are willing to move on the really hard issues?

Prime Minister:

Well to be frank, before we had our lunchtime discussion I was somewhat pessimistic, if I am blunt about it. I am less pessimistic now because around the table, in turn, the President of the United States, the President of Brazil, the Prime Minister of India, the President of the European Commission, and the German Chancellor came in and spoke very strongly in favour of a trade deal and the necessary flexibility being given to our negotiators to secure one. It is important for the world economy because the benefits of it are potentially huge. On the table, just so that you know, are offers that even at the moment represent about two or three times the gains of the previous trade round, but of course they are not agreed unless everything is agreed. So it is important for countries like Britain and the developed world. It is hugely important because it is a development round for the poorest countries that desperately need the ability to trade into our markets, and it is important for the multilateral system of negotiation, which is what we believe in. It is far better therefore to have that multilateral system develop and give us a multilateral round rather than have a series of bilateral trade deals or regional deals. So I am more optimistic now, but the crucial negotiations will be very, very tough and difficult and it may well be that before we do this final agreement it will have to be ad referendum. The are various interested different groupings - the European Council, America - President Bush in the end has got to get this through Congress - and of course the G20 is not just Brazil and India and Mexico and others, it is 20 different countries with their own views.

Question:

If you don't mind, I will ask my question in Russian. Mr Prime Minister, the day before yesterday Mr Putin talked about Georgia with President Bush and he said that he would discuss this issue in the framework of this summit. Before you said that the Georgian issue could be discussed during the G8 summit, have you talked about Georgia and if so what have you discussed?

Prime Minister:

President Putin simply explained the situation and the difficulties of the relationship, particularly with certain groups that are operating in and around Georgia. I wouldn't say there was a detailed discussion round the full G8 table on it, but I know it is an issue that President Putin raised, not just with President Bush but with others, and this really formed part of a discussion about how we produce stability in this region, but it was also more widely than that is covered some of the connections between the different groups that are engaged in activity that is endangering security.

Question:

You talked about giving support to Prime Minister Saniora of Lebanon. When was the last time you talked to him? And in that context, is it helpful that the Israelis seem to have targeted and killed 9 Lebanese soldiers, the people that might disarm Hezbollah?

Prime Minister:

Well I spoke to President Saniora shortly before I came to the summit, I will speak to him again I think probably within the next 24 - 48 hours, and I do, and did, offer him then my support in what is a very, very difficult situation. But you know we have got to understand what is happening here because we can all have our positions and we can condemn one side or condemn the other side, but the fact of the matter is this began with the kidnap of soldiers. Then there were Israeli soldiers killed and then there have been rocket attacks, as I say perhaps as many as 1,000 or more rocket attacks which have killed innocent people in deliberate acts of terrorism launched from the Lebanon. Now of course it is tragic that in the retaliatory strikes there are also innocent civilians killed in the Lebanon and we express full solidarity with them and their families at a time such as this, but we have got to look in the international community at what the are solutions. They are to try and stabilise and calm the situation and then deal not just with the issues to do with the Lebanon, but also to get back to trying to deal with the situation in Gaza because that situation still continues. Unless we get the release of the Israeli soldier and the early withdrawal of Israeli forces there are going to be problems north and south, and that is what is happening at the moment. The worry for me, and I will be absolutely blunt with everybody about this, my worry is that this whole business is not coincidental. Something is happening here which is creating instability and conflict in one of the most sensitive parts of the world, where people know that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is hugely sensitive, particularly for the Islamic world, and where there has been an attempt, quite deliberately, to broaden the conflict out from the Gaza strip by bringing in southern Lebanon. Let's be clear, that is what is happening and I don't really believe, myself, that it is a mere coincidence that it has happened like that over the past few days. That is why it is important that we give a strong signal and any country, whether it is Syria, Iran or any other country that has influence over Hezbollah and influence in this situation, should use it to create the conditions in which you can have a cessation of hostilities. If this continues and it spirals, the situation is really dangerous for that region and for the world even if you allow for the fact that already wholly innocent people and tragically with families grieving and mourning today that have lost loved ones over the past couple of weeks in circumstances which they should not have had to endure.

Question:

Did you discuss with President Putin your wife's visit today to meet human rights groups? And secondly, what is your wife hoping to achieve from today's meeting?

Prime Minister:

No, I didn't discuss that with President Putin and I am sure the purpose of the visit is simply to indicate the importance we attach to these issues.

Question:

I will ask my question in Russian. I have two questions. Can we call the political system of Russia a fully-fledged democracy of the European model? Yesterday you signed a document on high corruption, you mention in that document that Heads of State undertake to extradite corrupt officials, therefore can the Russian Prosecutor's Office expect the extradition of Boris Berezovsky?

Prime Minister:

Well in relation to extradition, these are things that are eventually decided by our courts. I think sometimes there is a misunderstanding that somehow I or anyone else can order the extradition of someone. If you talk to the British journalists they will tell you how hard I find it to deport people who we believe are a threat to the security of our country, never mind the extradition of others. So the extradition laws will simply have to follow their course there.

In respect of Russia we had a good and a frank discussion last night around the table on the issue of democracy and Russia and we expressed, as we always do, our belief that it is important that people are free to disagree in a democracy and that people are free to remove the government if they don't like it. Those are the two basic principles and there will be all sorts of different models of democracy, that is for sure, but the basic principles of democracy I think are very clear.

Question:

Could I ask you whether in the past 48 hours you have been urging Israel not to escalate the conflict by using ground forces in Lebanon? And secondly, when you talk about there being no coincidence about what is happening here, are you suggesting in any way that because of the American and British difficulties in Iraq there is an attempt to widen the conflict across the Middle East?

Prime Minister:

First of all, we are urging restraint and proportionality in respect of any action that Israel takes as a result of the terrorist action that is being launched from Lebanon into Israel, because we know that the people who are responsible for that terrorism are the militants of Hezbollah. When retaliatory action is taken then without any deliberate intent there are innocent lives that are lost. The tragedy of this situation is that there are innocent Israeli lives being lost in these deliberate acts of terrorism, there are civilians being killed as a result of the air strikes taken as a result of that terrorism. Now I haven't heard this issue about ground troops and as I say I will comment on it when I have looked at the facts of it. In relation to the second point you make I don't think it has got something to do with Iraq, I think it has got something to do with the desire of countries in the region to exploit the situation, the Israeli-Palestinian situation, in order to destabilise the region, and I think that is wrong and I think if they have got any sense about where the future interests of that region lie they should stop any such encouragement. But you know you have just got to go back and look at the facts, I mean what has been happening over these past two or three weeks is not just a series of unconnected coincidences, that is for sure.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

ALSO:

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

ALSO:

Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news