Prime Minister's Official Spokesman
September 26, 2001
11:00 A.M. GMT
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised that the Foreign Secretary
had met the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, and was due to visit Egypt
today where he would meet President Mubarak and representatives of the Arab
The PMOS said that Mr Straw's meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister had lasted
for around eighty minutes during which they had discussed the fight against
terrorism. He had reported back on the meeting and had said that it had gone
extremely well. The Prime Minister was in no doubt that Mr Straw's visit to
the region had already proven worthwhile and necessary. It was clear from his
discussions, particularly with the Israeli Prime Minister, that we could build
on the opportunity to reinvigorate the Middle East Peace Process to which we
had already been committed prior to the events of 11 September, and which we
were now redoubling our efforts to achieve. Mr Straw had also had a working
dinner with the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, at which they had discussed
the overall situation in the Middle East. The Foreign Secretary had welcomed
Mr Peres' intention to meet President Arafat today.
Asked whether Jack Straw had reported back directly to the Prime Minister, the
PMOS said Mr Straw had reported back through the usual channels.
Asked if the Prime Minister believed that Mr Sharon was doing everything he
could in the war against terrorism, the PMOS said that the Foreign Secretary's
meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister had been a good meeting. The whole point
of Mr Straw's visit to the region had been to discuss, not just with the Israelis
but also others elsewhere, how we could reinvigorate the Middle East Peace Process
and build on the momentum which had been created. We warmly welcomed Mr Peres'
meeting with Mr Arafat today and believed it was a start to the process.
Asked if the Prime Minister shared Mr Straw's reported view that the problems
in the Palestinian territories had contributed to the terror attacks in the
US, the PMOS said that in his view this was an attempt to go back over ground
we had covered yesterday. The issue of the Middle East Peace Process was one
to which we had already been committed prior to 11 September. We now believed
that everyone should be committing their efforts to it. He added that it was
a good thing of itself to try to resolve the conflict.
The PMOS advised that a Cabinet meeting was due to take place tomorrow afternoon.
Asked if there was any significance in the fact that Cabinet was meeting in
the afternoon rather than the morning as was usual, the PMOS said no. The timing
was purely for logistical reasons.
Asked why the Cabinet was meeting tomorrow, the PMOS said that in the same way
the Prime Minister had met the Select Committees at the beginning of the week
and had recalled Parliament for next week, he was meeting the Cabinet tomorrow
to update them on the information we had received and to give a general view
of the situation.
Afghan Support Group
The PMOS advised that a meeting of the Afghan Support Group would be taking
place tomorrow in Berlin to co-ordinate the relief effort. It would bring together
at official level key donors and humanitarian agencies.
In answer to questions, the PMOS said the meeting would bring together all the
main agencies to look at how they were able to co-ordinate their efforts and,
as the Prime Minister had said yesterday, to help the situation vis-'is the
refugees in surrounding countries. They would also discuss how we could get
aid into Afghanistan. Of the £25m extra money which we had already committed,
£15m had been committed to UN aid agencies and the Red Cross directly.
We had invited NGOs to apply for assistance as well. We were already talking
to the Department of Health in the North West frontier area of Pakistan about
how we could put together a package which might help its public health system
cope. That would mean helping to supply drugs as well as equipment to hospitals
which were being set up, existing facilities and any new facilities which might
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about reports that Pakistan was setting
up refugee camps in drought-stricken areas, the PMOS said no doubt these sorts
of issues would be discussed at the meeting in Berlin tomorrow. Clearly there
was a need for countries and agencies to work together. That was the purpose
of the meeting.
Recall of Parliament
Asked whether the measures mentioned by the Prime Minister yesterday would be
looked at when Parliament was recalled next week, the PMOS said that the timing
had yet to be decided. We were clear, however, that we would continue the process
of looking at what measures needed to be taken in the short, medium and long
Asked what form the recall of Parliament next Thursday would take, the PMOS
said that the day would begin at 9.30am and end at 7pm. It would take the form
of a Prime Ministerial statement, followed by a debate which would be wound
up by a Minister.
Asked when the Prime Minister was due to go to Chequers, the PMOS said later
today, as things stood. He would continue to have meetings and discussions about
Asked if the military exercise in Oman was still scheduled to go ahead, the
PMOS confirmed it would. He referred journalists to the MoD for further details.
Crown copyright material reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO.