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A transcript of the interview given by the Prime Minister David Cameron at the G8 Summit in Deauville, France on Thursday, 26 May 2011.
I want a very simple and clear message to come out of this summit and that is that the most powerful nations on earth have come together and are saying to all those in the Middle East and North Africa who want greater democracy and greater freedom and greater civil rights - we are on your side. We’ll help you build your democracies; we’ll help you build your economies; we’ll help you with trade - we’ll help you in all the ways that we can, because the alternative to successful democracies is more of the poisonous extremism that has done so much damage in our world. And to people back at home wondering what is the relevance of summits like this - well, if we can support democracy and we can defeat extremism, we can keep more of our people safe. That is why it really matters.
Can I ask you, first of all, reports that Mr Mladic may have been seized this morning, what do you make of that? And, secondly, on Libya, there are reports in the Times that a town called Yafren has got 10,000 citizens besieged by Gaddafi forces; they’ve been besieged by weeks. They desperately need help, apparently. Will you provide it? Are we going to commit attack helicopters - the Apaches - and if so, when?
First of all, on General Mladic, we have to wait until these reports are confirmed, but we should remember why it is we are pursuing this man and why he is pursued by the International Tribunal in the Hague in that he is accused of the most appalling war crimes both in terms of what happened in Srebrenica, but also in Sarajevo. Let’s wait until these reports are confirmed, but there is a very good reason why the long arm of the international law has been looking for this man for such a long time. On the issue of Libya, what I want to see, as the President and I discussed yesterday, is keeping up the pressure and turning up the pressure because I believe the regime in Libya and Colonel Gaddafi are feeling the pressure. And we will do all that we can - diplomatically, politically in terms of sanctions, and militarily - to make sure we put in place UN Resolution 1973 and we save the lives of civilians in that country and we give the Libyan people the chance to determine their own future. On the issue of helicopters, we are looking at a range of things that we can do to turn up the pressure and, when we’re ready to make an announcement, we will do so.
Prime Minister, sending Apache helicopters would be, in the words of the Chief of the General Staff, a ‘ratcheting-up’ on Libya. Is it a dangerous escalation, and what do you say to people back home who say that more than two months on Gaddafi is no closer to being out of Libya?
What I would say to everyone who cares about this is we have already stopped a massacre. A massacre in Benghazi, a massacre in Misrata - the action that British and French and American and other forces have taken has saved civilian lives. But more than that, we’re demonstrating that there is a chance for people in North Africa to choose their own future and their own freedom rather than have to put up with appalling dictators like Gaddafi. Now, we will make a decision on helicopters, we will look at the arguments carefully, but I do want to see us turning up the pressure in the right way so we can make sure that people in Libya can choose their own future.
So, it’s not a dangerous escalation?
No. This is what we are looking at in terms of turning up the pressure of those things that will help us to enforce Resolution 1973 to save more lives and to turn up the pressure on the regime so that actually people in Libya can choose their own future. And we see the Arab Spring - the growth of democracy and freedom rather than it turning backwards.
Question, Sky News
You gave a justification for helping those countries involved in the Arab Spring, but, at a time when there is a row at home about overseas aid generally, can you really justify potentially giving billions of pounds to Tunisia and Egypt who are going to be here, in order to help them establish democracies? And could I also ask you about Syria - you and President Obama have been making some pretty belligerent noises about Syria. Are you seriously considering military action against another Arab country?
Well, first of all, let me deal with Syria. We think what is happening in Syria is appalling. I think the crackdown, the loss of life, the fact that civilians have been shot on the streets is absolutely appalling, and it’s right that the international community is turning up the heat on that regime. It’s right that Britain has been leading the calls for sanctions for travel bans, for asset freezes, for action in the United Nations. And I think you’ll be seeing more of that in the days ahead. What I’d say to everybody about the issue of overseas aid and the money that will be pledged at this summit is that there is a real case for saying, ‘If we can secure greater democracy and freedom in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, that is good for us back at home.’ That will mean less extremism, it will mean more peace and prosperity, and it will mean there won’t be the pressures of immigration that we might otherwise face to our own country. Britain does have a role in the world working with allies to try and secure greater peace, greater prosperity, greater trade, greater democracy, and those things aren’t just good for the countries we are talking about - Tunisia, Egypt, Libya - they are good for Europe, they are good for us in the UK. That’s why what we’re talking about today and tomorrow here in Deauville at the G8 really matters.
Question, Sky News
And just on the Apache helicopters, if I could pick that up - has the deployment been agreed in principle now, it’s just a matter of when, or is there still some doubt that we may deploy Apache attack helicopters?
As I say, we are looking at ways of turning up the pressure including the use of helicopters. When we’re ready to make an announcement, we’ll make an announcement. Thank you very much indeed. See you all later on.