PM and President Obama’s press conference

A transcript of the opening remarks given by Prime Minister David Cameron at the press conference with President Barack Obama at Lancaster House in London on Wednesday 25 May, 2011.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon David Cameron

It’s a pleasure to welcome President Obama here today.

Over the past year I’ve got to know the President well.

And whether it’s in routine situations like sitting around the G8 table or the slightly less routine ones like getting a phone call in the middle of the night, I have come to value not just his leadership and courage, but the fact that to all the big international issues of our time, he brings thoughtful consideration and reason.

I know today he will be thinking of the dreadful tornado in Missouri - and all those who have lost lives and loved ones.

Our hearts in Britain go out to all those people too.

Barack and I know well the shared history of our countries.

From the beaches of Normandy to the Imjin river, our soldiers have fought together.

From labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Cambridge, England, our scientists have decoded DNA and cured diseases together.

And in millions of interactions every day - including our massive business relationship - our people forge friendships together.

That’s what makes this relationship special.

But what makes it essential is that it’s not just about history or sentiment.

It is a living, working partnership.

It is essential to our security.

It is essential for our prosperity.

And I feel every day just how important this partnership is.

The President and I, together with my Deputy Prime Minister, have just had some excellent discussions.

We’ve been talking today about the two things we care about most:

Getting our people jobs, and keeping our people safe.

Because every night, millions of British and American people take the same worries to bed with them.

They’re asking if they can find a good job, if they are going to get a pay cheque next month, if there will be work for their children when they grow up.

The stark truth of the world today is that no country is owed a living.

We’ve got to pay our way, and we’ve got to earn our way - and that is what the President and I are determined to do.

Barack and I did not come into politics to cut public spending but neither did we seek office to see our great economies decline, or to land our children with unsustainable debts.

That’s why by the second half of this decade, we’re making sure that debt ratios will be falling on both sides of the Atlantic.

At the same time, we’re investing in our roads and railways, in science, innovation, above all in our young people.

And down the line, the success of all this won’t be measured in export figures and trade flows, it will be in the feelings of the factory-worker in Phoenix, or the shop-keeper in Liverpool, or the engineer in Ohio…

…the people who know that if they work hard, then prosperity will be there for them - and the promise of a better life there for their children.

As well as the economy, the President and I had some good discussions on security.

Americans and Brits do not need to explain terrorism to one another.

Both our people have suffered at its hands; indeed, they have died together.

My wife Samantha was in Manhattan on 9/11.

I’ll never forget trying to contact her for five long hours and she’ll never forget the New Yorkers she met that day.

And today, as we come up to the tenth anniversary, we remember the spirit of that city and the sympathy we feel with those who lost their loved ones, including so many British families.

Now, there are those that say this terrorist threat is beyond our control.

We passionately believe that is wrong.

We can defeat al Qaeda and the events of recent months give us an opportunity to turn the tide on their terror once and for all.

I believe there are three actions we must take.

First, we must continue to destroy the terrorist networks.

And I congratulate the President on the operation against Bin Laden.

This was not just a victory for justice but a strike right in the heart of international terrorism.

In this vital effort, we must continue to work with Pakistan.

People are asking questions about our relationship, so we need to be clear:

Pakistan has suffered more from terrorism than any other country in the world.

Their enemy is our enemy.

So far from walking away, we’ve got to work even more closely with them.

At the same time, this is a vital year in Afghanistan.

British and American forces are fighting side by side in Helmand, right at the heart of this operation.

We have broken the momentum of the insurgency and even in the Taliban’s heartland of Kandahar and Central Helmand they are on the back foot.

Now is the moment to step up our efforts to reach a political settlement.

The Taliban must make a decisive split from Al Qaeda, give up violence, and join a political process that will bring lasting peace to that country.

We are agreed to give this the highest priority in the months ahead.

Second, we must reach a conclusion to the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Again, I congratulated the President on his recent speech on the Middle East which was bold, visionary - and set out what is needed in the clearest possible terms:

An end to the terror against Israelis. The restoration of dignity to the Palestinians.

Two states, living side by side, in peace.

Yes, the road has been - and will be - long and arduous.

But the prize is clear.

Conclude the peace process and you don’t just bring security to the region.

You deny extremists of one of their most profound, and enduring, recruiting sergeants, weakening their calling and crippling their cause.

That’s why whatever the difficulties, we must continue to press for a solution.

Our third action must be to help elevate the changes in North Africa and the Arab world - from a moment in history to a turning-point in history.

We’ve seen some extraordinary things.

Protestors braving bullets, bloggers toppling dictators, people taking to the streets and making their own history.

If global politics is about spreading peace and prosperity, then this is a once-in-a-generation moment to grab hold of.

It’s not a time for us to shrink back and think about our own issues and interests.

This is our issue - and this is massively in our interests.

Those people in Tahrir Square and Tripoli just want what we have - a job and a voice. 

And we all share in their success or failure.

If they succeed, there is new hope for those living there and the hope of a better and safer world for all of us.

But if they fail, if that hunger is denied, then some young people in that region will continue to listen to the poisonous narrative of extremism.

So the President and I are agreed: we will stand with those who work for freedom.

This is the message we will take to the G8 tomorrow, when we push for a major programme of economic and political support for those countries seeking to reform.

This is why we mobilised the international community to protect the Libyan people from Colonel Qadhafi’s regime, why we will continue to enforce the UN resolutions with our allies, and why we re-state our position once more: it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qadhafi still in power. He must go.

In all of these actions, we must be clear about our ambitions.

Barack and I came of age in the 1980s and 90s.

We saw the end of the Cold War and the victory over Communism.

We saw the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein and the world coming together to liberate that country.

Throughout it all, we saw Presidents and Prime Minister’s standing together for freedom.

Today, we feel just as passionately about extending freedom as those who came before us.

But we also know that idealism without realism does no good for anyone.

We have learned the lessons of history:

Democracy is built from the ground up.

You’ve got to work with the grain of other cultures and not against them.

Real change takes time.

It’s because we share this view that this partnership will not just continue, but get stronger.

And this is a partnership that goes beyond foreign affairs.

At home we have similar goals - to bring more responsibility to our societies and to bring transparency and accountability to our governments.

In all these ambitions our countries will continue to learn from each other, and work with each other.

As ever it has been a pleasure to talk to the President and it’s an honour to have him with us today.

Published 25 May 2011