PM briefs MPs on G8 Summit


Wednesday  June 4, 2003

With your permission Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about the G8 Summit in France.

I pay tribute to President Chirac's very skilful chairmanship in guiding our deliberations. We reached significant conclusions on the Middle East, on Weapons of Mass Destruction and terrorism, and on Africa and sustainable development. In addition, we committed ourselves to strengthening the conditions for growth in the world economy. In all, there were 16 action plans and statements released at the Summit, copies of which have been placed in the House libraries.

First, on the Middle East we all recognised that a solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem is not only vital for stability across the Middle East. It would also deprive the terrorists of an issue which they exploit for their own inhuman ends.

I need hardly remind the House of the bleak pattern of mistrust, hatred and violence that has blighted the lives of generations of Israelis and Palestinians. Children have been growing up in an area with seemingly no prospect of peace. Since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000, until the end of March this year, 2300 Palestinians and over 600 Israelis have been killed.

There have been too many dashed hopes to be anything other than cautious in assessing the current situation but since I last reported to the House, the Roadmap for Peace has been published; the Israeli Cabinet has accepted it and there has today been the historic meeting between President Bush and the Palestinian and Israeli Prime Ministers in Jordan. The whole G8 summit united together behind the initiative President Bush is taking and fully endorsed what is now agreed on all sides as the only ultimate answer: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace.

That, Mr Speaker, is an objective of historic significance both for the Middle East and indeed for the whole world community. We in the United Kingdom will continue to support it with every means at our disposal.

Second, on terrorism and WMD there was striking unanimity of purpose that we must urgently strengthen our cooperation in the fight against these two closely related threats.

On WMD we underlined that North Korea's uranium enrichment and plutonium production programmes and its failure to comply with IAEA safeguards were a clear breach of their international obligations. We called on them to dismantle their nuclear weapons programmes. And we emphasised the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear programme, and called on Iran to sign and implement an IAEA Additional Protocol without delay or conditions.

And President Putin made clear that in the meantime Russia would suspend its exports of nuclear fuel to Iran.

These are important steps to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons and I welcome them.

In addition we took stock of progress on the $20billion programme launched last year to prevent terrorists acquiring nuclear, biological or chemical materials left over from the Former Soviet Union - to which Britain has made a commitment of up to $750 million. We put in place mechanisms to improve the prioritisation and co-ordination of technical assistance for countries seeking to assist in the war again terrorism; we launched new initiatives to tackle man-portable surface to air missiles and to tighten security controls on radioactive sources; and we agreed on a new drive to cut off terrorist financing.

Thirdly, on Africa and development, the Summit brought about the welcome participation of many African and developing nations. We all agreed that of central importance is a successful outcome to the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun in September and the successful completion of the Development Round by 2005. Mr Speaker, the wealthy nations of the world simply cannot any longer ask the developing world to stand on its own feet but shut out the very access to our markets necessary for them to do so. Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will be vital in this regard.

In addition, we agreed to resolve all other outstanding WTO issues including the compulsory licensing of drugs - the so-called TRIPS question - which is important for poorer countries to access drugs for their people, and is also essential for progress in the Doha Round.

We had extensive discussions about the problem of HIV/AIDS which afflicts 42 million people around the world. All of us welcomed President Bush's recent announcement of a $15 billion US initiative to combat it. And I hope at the European Summit in Thessalonika the EU will agree to match the US commitment to the Global Health Fund, potentially up to $1 billion a year. We remain on course too to eradicate polio from the face of the globe by 2005.

I set out in some detail My Right Honourable Friend, the Chancellor's, proposal to establish a new International Finance Facility, which could deliver a doubling of current aid flows for recipient countries committed to economic reforms and good governance. Finance Ministers have been asked to report back to Leaders on this proposal by September. It is important that we now sustain the momentum behind this initiative.

Mr Speaker, G8 Leaders also took the opportunity to discuss with President Mbeki and other African leaders the good progress we have made in partnership with NEPAD leaders over the last year in implementing the Africa Action Plan launched at Kananaskis. Over the last year we have seen the largest ever US commitment to aid for Africa and many EU countries, including our own, are increasing substantially our aid and development programmes. Consistent with this African-led initiative we discussed the steps they are taking to resolve the current appalling crisis in Zimbabwe. We condemned the action taken by the Zimbabwean authorities on Monday against their own people and called on the Zimbabwean Government to accept its citizens' right to demonstrate against the regime peacefully.

I was also pleased that we endorsed the initiative I launched last year to reduce corruption by getting companies in the extractives industry to make public the tax and royalty payments they make to governments, and for those governments to publicise their receipts. I believe that this simple idea could have a powerful impact. Transparency and increased accountability are the best defences against corruption.

Leaders also had a full discussion on the world economy and agreed on the central importance of fostering macro-economic stability and intensifying structural reform as the essential pre-conditions for strengthening growth. Chancellor Schroeder briefed us on the steps Germany is now taking to modernise her health and pensions systems and to increase the flexibility of the labour market. And President Bush expressed confidence in the strength of the US economic recovery based on rising productivity, and a pick up in domestic demand.

Finally, G8 Heads agreed to step up our collaboration on science and technology to help combat the long-term problem of climate change. It is crucial that we tackle this, but in ways that encourage sustainable growth and development. The G8 must lead the way, working in partnership with developing countries. We will focus for example on renewable energy, the hydrogen economy for transport, fuel cells and biodiversity.

After the sharp disagreements in the world community over Iraq, the Summit represented an important coming together by leading nations. In the past few weeks, we have seen the restoration of unity in the UN with Resolution 1483. As important as anything else, on the very issue of WMD and terrorism, there was a renewed sense of urgency and purpose. Of great significance, we have seen the Middle East peace process, despite all the cynicism, moving forward again.

Mr Speaker, whatever the differences of the past few months the summit showed common purpose on these key issues. It is now the task of the whole world community to build on the objectives that have been reached which are of such fundamental importance to us all.


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