UK-German relations 'extremely strong'

 

Wednesday  April 16, 2003

Relations between the UK and Germany remain extremely strong, despite differences before the conflict in Iraq began, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said following talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Mr Blair said that it was important Iraq moved towards a representative form of government and that progress is made on the humanitarian front.

Read a transcript of the joint press conference below.

CHANCELLOR SCHROEDER:

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. I have the very special pleasure of welcoming Prime Minister Blair from Great Britain, my friend Tony Blair, a friend of Germany, and we caught him on his way to Athens and I was very pleased indeed that he was kind enough to stopover on his way to meet me here. We obviously spent some time together now, we addressed bilateral and international affairs. Since the British-German relations are of excellent quality, I feel I am justified in saying that we devoted only a little time to that aspect because it just didn't need any more. We then continued to talk about the joint tasks that we have in Europe. There have continued to be economic and political jobs for us to concentrate on and to jointly do, but then we turned very quickly to the international focus, particularly obviously the situation in Iraq. It is no secret to anybody here that there were differences of opinion about the necessity of the war in Iraq. It has now happened and our relationship is such a relationship that it is not necessary for us to deny that a difference of opinion has been in existence on that, but we are now looking at what we are faced with right now and that is going in and solving the existing problems. And whatever the difference of opinion might have been to begin with, it is very important that the problems are now going to be solved after the regime has gone down and we must make sure that the problems are solved in a democratic form and way. It goes without saying that this necessitates intact healthy transatlantic relations. They are important and necessary, and we will obviously jointly be working towards those in the future. As to the situation in Iraq, we think it is now necessary that the United Nations does decide the right type of framework to make sure that above all the humanitarian assistance for the people in Iraq does reach the people, and it is important that we all constructively work to that effect. Secondly, it is obviously very important that calm and security reigns in the streets of Iraq again and we all see that the Alliance is already doing their utmost and best to get this situation of calm and security going in the country again. And then obviously thirdly there is the situation of the reconstruction of Iraq. Germany has been outspoken on the fact that we would like to see this happening under a United Nations umbrella. As to the closer details of that specific umbrella and what that means, obviously the Secretary General of the United Nations, possibly the United Nations Security Council and the members of the Alliance are called upon to nail down the exact details of how that is going to look and what shape it is going to take. It will obviously not be an entirely easy, but certainly a very necessary task.

PRIME MINISTER:

First of all can I say how pleased I am to be here in Germany with Gerhard Schroeder, who is a good friend of mine, and to say that whatever differences there were before the conflict began in Iraq, the state of our bilateral relations is extremely strong and will remain so. I think what is important is as the Chancellor has just said to you, how much agreement there can be now about how we manage the future in Iraq and elsewhere. I think there is very strong agreement: one, that the appalling regime of Saddam having fallen, it is important that we move Iraq towards a representative form of government and towards democracy; secondly, that we make sure that we do everything in order to make progress on the humanitarian front, and in particular that we make sure that security and order is given to the people of Iraq as swiftly as possible; and thirdly, of course, there is the issue of the reconstruction of Iraq, both economically and politically. And in each of these areas I think it is very clear, and again here I believe that there is agreement, that in principle the United Nations must have a key role. And I entirely agree with Chancellor Schroeder that the important thing is to agree the principle of that role and then discuss between us diplomatically the details of how that role may be fulfilled. And I am even more sure after the discussions that we have had, that with goodwill and intelligence on all sides we can find the right way forward for the Iraqi people and for the international community. Also we both agreed on the importance of the Middle East peace process and a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem which preoccupies so many people, not just in that region but throughout the world.

And of course in respect of Europe and European cooperation, our ties and our working together are very strong, they will remain so, and I have no doubt at all that we should continue to work together for a Europe of security and of prosperity in the future. And of course there was strong agreement on the importance of the transatlantic alliance and the partnership between Europe and America.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, first of all can I ask you about the humanitarian crisis. We have heard of the 12 year old boy, Ali - aren't there hundreds of people like him who simply can't be airlifted, and doesn't that underline the need to get humanitarian and medical supplies through with the same urgency as the troops were replenished during the military action. And Chancellor Schroeder, now that Saddam has gone, do you think that the world is a safer place as a result of the military action you wouldn't support?

PRIME MINISTER:

First of all, the question for me. It is important to recognise that the security situation is still difficult, it is only in the last few days that Saddam's regime has collapsed. We will do everything we can, and are doing everything we can, to protect the hospitals, to get supplies in and to make sure that where it is necessary we evacuate those people that have been casualties of the conflict and try and help them. And there are already two young Iraqis who are in the United Kingdom who were injured in the British area of control and who are receiving treatment in the UK. So we are well aware of the fact that it is not one individual case, there are many cases which cause us concern. We will do everything we can in respect of those people and the main priority is to take out those who need to be taken out for medical treatment and to make sure that we try and get medical supplies into the hospitals that need them. But I do emphasise, at the moment the security situation is still difficult.

CHANCELLOR SCHROEDER:

Obviously whenever a dictatorship goes, it is a gain for mankind in general and for the rest, not only for the people of that country but for the people of the whole international community in the world too. Now obviously whenever a dispute arises, it is not so much the debate about the rights or wrongs of that dispute, but more about the ways and means one deals with a given crisis, like this one for instance. And I think it is very important now, and I very much hope that we will succeed in doing this, that the military victory now gained in Iraq can be turned into a real gain for the people, also a political gain for the people of Iraq and the international community. There is a lot of work that needs doing to get this gain and to take it home for ourselves and the Alliance and I hope that will succeed.

QUESTION:

Chancellor, could you imagine that on the basis of the three point plan just presented by Prime Minister Blair, the situation in Iraq could become safer and that it could generally be a good cure to be dealing with the situation? And Prime Minister, an explicit invitation has been extended to you to join in the group of those who want to reinforce ESDP in Europe. You know about the initiative of the four, are those plans and ideas that you feel you can give your support to, at least in the mid or long term?

CHANCELLOR SCHROEDER:

I am very pleased that as I already pointed out, regarding the role to be assumed by the United Nations in the process coming now, in principle at least we agree that the United Nations should have the role of an umbrella in that situation, whether you call it a vital role or a central role, I think that is all words and terminology and word-smithing. So we agree on the fact that there has to be this umbrella, a United Nations umbrella, and I think it is, as I said, up to the diplomats to then sit down and nail down the whereabouts and the specifics of that umbrella. Now let me just repeat, what is now important is that firstly humanitarian assistance does get going, that the product and the goods get to the people; that secondly, the re-establishment of order and security in the country does gather momentum; and that then thirdly, the reconstruction of the country can begin. And just by the way, if and when we are talking about treating injured children outside of Iraq, certainly Germany would like to offer its help here whenever and wherever such children are in need of treatment and where we feel we can be of assistance, we would very much feel that it is our humane and special honour to go in and offer this assistance, we would be pleased to do so.

PRIME MINISTER:

And in relation to your question, can I actually thank the Chancellor also for that offer of assistance, that is important. In relation to your question, I would be in favour of anything that reinforces the European defence in the way that we have set it out, a process that was begun at St Malo, and which on the basis that we have set it out, is obviously fully consistent with and compatible with NATO. That has always been our desire and I am sure that will be the outcome.

CHANCELLOR SCHROEDER:

We were actually surprised at the time with St Malo, but that is just by the wayside.

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