UofT G8 Information Centre

Birmingham G8 Summit, UK, May 15-17, 

Free Search | Search by Year | Search by Country | Search by Issue (Subject) | G8 Centre

Summit Contents


Robin Cook, Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom
London, 9 May 1998

This is an innovation in the history of the G8; the first time the Foreign and Finance Ministers of the G8 have met together in advance of the summit in order to prepare the way for the meeting of the Heads of Government next weekend. This is part of the strategy which the British Presidency has adopted to make sure that under Tony Blair the Heads of Government, when they meet next weekend, can focus on a narrower range of issues and have an in-depth discussion on matters of common strategic concern to their governments. That is why yesterday and this morning we are meeting to discuss issues which do need common discussion between us but where we, as Foreign and Finance Ministers, can take some of the burden off the agenda for the Heads of Government.

I would like to focus this morning specifically on the progress we have made among the Foreign Ministers. We had a working session yesterday, followed by a working dinner. We covered a wide range of issues and I can report to you that with the exception of two or three issues which we wish to discuss this morning, apart from those the communique has been agreed. This morning we will be having a particular discussion on Iraq and also on non-proliferation and landmines. We will also consider any outstanding issues from the meeting of our officials last night.

We have covered such a wide range that it would not be, I think, practical or helpful for me to go through all the topics that we managed to consider yesterday. Let me highlight for you some issues of particular concern.

First, we did discuss at length last night over dinner the very tense situation in Kosovo. Indeed I can report to you that Kosovo was by far the longest item of discussion at our meetings yesterday. We have all agreed that the situation in Kosovo causes deep concern. During the course of the discussion there was considerable criticism of President Milosevic for failing to meet the requirements set by the international community and the Contact Group in particular. The members of the Contact Group present therefore decided to implement the investment ban which was contained in the statement of the last meeting of the Contact Group. That last meeting set 9 May as the deadline for President Milosevic to make progress on meaningful dialogue with Pristina, otherwise an investment ban would be approved. Last night we resolved to approve it.

Russia has entered the same reserve that it did at the Contact Group meeting in Rome. But all other members of the Contact Group, and Canada, last night committed themselves to an investment ban and Japan is undertaking to consider how it can accept its international obligations in that regard.

We also discussed last night the Middle East peace process. Madeleine Albright led the discussion on the Middle East peace process and she reported on the meetings that she held on Monday and Tuesday in London with the support of the British Presidency of the European Union. Tony Blair also met the participants and between them Madeleine Albright and Tony Blair both pressed on both participants the importance of agreement on the basis of the American proposals. Madeleine Albright also indicated that she would wish to secure agreement to those proposals in advance of any further talks this week in Washington. Last night we all expressed our concern that those talks should take place and should take place on the basis of agreement to the American proposals. And I hope that there will still be some room for flexibility on the part of both participants in order that both, not just one of the participants, can give an agreement to go to Washington for those talks.

We also considered some global issues of joint concern. I would wish to single out the progress that we have made on the environmental protection of forests. The past year has seen concern in many quarters of the world of the destruction of our forests and in particular the dramatic damage that has arisen from forest fires. At the Denver Summit the Heads of Government committed the G8 to an action programme on forests. We have now approved that action programme. It commits every member of the G8 to monitor and assess the state of their forests, in line with their own national criteria, but also working with partner countries to build the capacity to protect our forests, because they are not simply national resources - they are a very important part of the global resources in combating climate change. We also instructed officials to report back in the year 2000 on action taken in implementing our forest action programme.

So we have had a very full and successful meeting which has addressed not just the regional issues but has also addressed global issues. I have to report that, as we say, the atmospherics were good, indeed there was a very positive spirit of cooperation throughout our discussions. Last night's dinner in the Globe Theatre was particularly welcomed by my colleagues as it gave them the opportunity of seeing a quite remarkable reconstruction and a piece of our shared culture. I cannot resist ending by saying that I can't think of a more appropriate place for Foreign Ministers of the world to meet than in the Globe.


Source: Released at the 1998 Birmingham G8 Summit.

This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to: g8@utoronto.ca
Revised: .

All contents copyright ©, 1998. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.