Foreign Secretary William Hague was interviewed by BBC Radio 4. He talked about Afghanistan and his upcoming visit to Washington.
Martha Kearny: Now the Cabinet also discussed Afghanistan I gather which I assume will be top of your agenda when you go to Washington tomorrow. Do you share the concerns there about President Karzai?
William Hague: Well look we, we will give time and support for the strategy to succeed, we’re not going to come in to office and say to four, more than forty other nations involved in Afghanistan we are now going to rip up everything that you have agreed, you know, at the London Conference a few months ago. We want to give that time and support to succeed. That does, of course, involve the Government of President Karzai implementing many commitments that it’s made but he, he has been in Washington all week, President Karzai, working with the US Government on their strategic partnership for the future, on implementing the commitments made. So, of course, we’re hoping he will do that.
MK: There are differences though aren’t there with your Lib Dem partners on this; Nick Clegg has said that he would like to see the troops back from Afghanistan within a Parliament. David Cameron thinks there should be no artificial timetable.
WH: Well there were no sharp differences on this in the election campaign. Both of the parties in the coalition want the strategy in Afghanistan to succeed. We will, of course, take stock. A new Government is an opportunity for us to ask the questions, to inform ourselves, to make sure first of all that we’re satisfied with the, the all the equipment of our troops, the deployment of our troops. Liam Fox and I will be working together very closely on that so we will take stock together and come to a shared understanding of the situation.
MK: But when would yourself, when would you like the troops to come back home?
WH: Well when their job is done and that is at the point where Afghanistan, where Afghans can look after their own affairs without presenting a danger to the rest of the world. And, of course, we want to speed that up in any way that we can, that is why Britain is doing so much to help train the Afghan security forces themselves, that’s why we are in Helmand in, in the strength that we are. But we will take stock together but we’re not looking here at setting artificial deadlines, arbitrary deadlines, a date of withdrawal.
MK: Now Europe is obviously going to be a very important issue for you as Foreign Secretary, the current Chairman of France’s Financial Services Authority has said that only god would help Britain which that aren’t in the Euro, Sweden and Poland, did help but if starling, if sterling is targeted are you going to be able to persuade our European partners to help?
WH: Well what happens to sterling is up to, is up to markets of course and it has given some confidence to sterling that we have formed the coalition Government with a strong majority and a five year future we hope and believe ahead of it, now that has certainly helped our currency.
MK: But if sterling is, is targeted by the markets the Bank of England can’t act on its own as it will need help from, from other central banks and can you rely on our Eurozone neighbours?
WH: But look if you’re saying that we should have agreed to join in the Eurozone provision of the bail out for Euro members I think that would have been quite wrong, though that was the view of the outgoing Government and it’s certainly our view. Britain has very serious financial problems of its own and we can not engage in a greater potential bail out of Eurozone members defending their position on the Euro than anything we’ve engaged in so far.
MK: A key appointment in the coalition Government is going to be who the new Europe Minister is, can you tell us whether it’s going to be a Conservative or a Liberal Democrat?
WH: Well these appointments will be made very soon, I think the Prime Minister is engaged in them pretty much as we speak so within a few hours you will know who many of the other Ministers are but you could understand it’s not my role to announce these things even on your distinguished programme.
MK: Thanks for the plug. That was the Foreign Secretary, William Hague.