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Hague on the CAR; Hague on Syria; Hague on Bosnia; Imagine a World

Aired February 14, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to a special edition of our program. My special guest, British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Here at Lancaster House, the historic British building that was in 1979 the site of the agreement that brokered the independence of what was then Rhodesia to today's Zimbabwe.

Today, though, this is the site of a equality historic conference and that is gathering African presidents and others to try to end one of the worst scourges that Africa faces these days and that is wildlife poaching.

It's a trade that's worth nearly $19 billion a year, with poaching of rhinos and elephants at an all-time high.

It's a crucial time for the foreign secretary with crises ranging from Syria to the Central African Republic. I spoke to him about all of this, but we started with why this anti-poaching conference now.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Foreign Secretary Hague, welcome to the program. Thank you for joining me.


AMANPOUR: Britain is doing this once-in-a-lifetime major poaching conference or anti-poaching conference. There's been a law in effect since 1989 that bans the sale of ivory. And yet it keeps going on.

What do you expect to be any different after this conference?

HAGUE: Well, many things, I'm glad to say. I think this will be a turning point, provided we all follow it up, what we've agreed here today. This is an important combination of measures where African countries and many others are going to take new measures to try to destroy the illegal trade, the illegal markets.

They will be destroying stockpiles of ivory; transit countries will be doing more, the countries through whom these products are transported, to intercept them; countries working together, treating this as serious organized crime.

Some of the countries where there is demand for these products in Asia, ivory and rhino horn, have been here at the conference and are talking about what they can do to affect demand.

AMANPOUR: And why is it so crucial right now in your view?

HAGUE: It's crucial because we're really at the 11th hour on -- or later than that. Rhino populations have been devastated with one killed every 10 or 11 hours at the moment. The illegal trade in ivory has doubled in the last six years.

And this as well as being a moral issue that these great animals have as much as right to inhabit this world as we do, is also a human issue in many other ways. It is feeding organized crime, corruption in some of the countries concerned. There are -- there are said to be connections with terrorist groups in some cases.

So this has to be confronted and it's urgent to do so.

AMANPOUR: China has now made a great show of burning ivory, burning tusks and it's one of the big demand countries. Vietnam is another one.

Yes, the officials understand that they're not meant to be trading in rhino horn, for instance, but there are many, many reports of people going to so-called traditional medicine shops and being offered rhino horn for everything from a hangover to cancer to whatever else it might be.

How does one stop the demand?

HAGUE: I think it needs several -- we need several ways to attack this. One is governments giving a lead. The governments of China and Vietnam have been here at this conference; they're engaged in this process. We'll work with them a lot more over the next few months and years.

So we welcome all of that. And attitudes can change. The Chinese government, for instance, on some shark-fin soup, has taken a lead. Well, that's possible on other things as well.

And I think in the modern world with social media, which is well used, including in Asian countries, it is possible for information and understanding and education to spread quickly and attitudes to change.

Not everybody realizes that an elephant is killed to obtain ivory. Some may think that it falls off, some that it is a tooth of an elephant. Not everybody understands that. And getting that understanding across can be done and it can make a difference to the demand.

AMANPOUR: Let's move over to a major problem for humans, and that's in the Central African Republic. Right now the head of the UNHCR has said a major sort of process of ethnic cleansing is going on. Others have said that within the next several weeks, the Muslims from there could been extinct. They could be all driven out.

And they're calling for a big international peacekeeping force.

The former French foreign minister told me, why should it just be the French? Why doesn't the rest of Europe help us with an international peacekeeping force then?

HAGUE: The rest of Europe is going to help. France has done a very important job and we have supported them in Britain; we've supplied transport aircraft to assist the French and African deployment. They've done a very good job. There are now thousands of African forces being deployed.

But into a very big country --


AMANPOUR: And they're not by any chance enough?

HAGUE: -- they will need more. And they're in a very big country.

But they are there; it's very important that it -- that African troops are deployed. There will be more help coming from Europe. We have agreed in the European Union what we call a CSDP mission, Common Security and Defense Policy -- that means other countries, in addition to France, are --


AMANPOUR: Including boots on the ground, a peacekeeping force?

HAGUE: It will include a small number of other troops from other European countries, not from Britain in this case; we are helping in other ways with humanitarian aid and, as I say, with logistical support.

But so other European countries are going to do more. And then of course we will have to discuss at the United Nations what is needed on top of that.

But the involvement and the support of African states -- and this is absolutely crucial. I've been discussing it today with the president of Chad and there is a clear commitment from other countries to support a political process there, to supply troops that can maintain peace and security.

But I don't want to understate in any way the size of the task.

AMANPOUR: And do you agree that it's really time-sensitive and it could reach a tipping point very, very quickly?

HAGUE: It's very time-sensitive. And that's why France acted when they did as quickly as they did. And that's why we've all assisted with the deployment of African troops there. It's very time-sensitive. It could deteriorate further.

But there is a new president, as you know, in the Central African Republic and who is trying to make sure that a political process is pulled together.

So we have to support that and get behind that. But of course things could go the wrong way. And we might have to do more.

AMANPOUR: When you say might have to do more, what do you mean?

HAGUE: Well, I --


HAGUE: -- I don't want to be specific. That depends on all the whole international community agrees together. But I'm talking about what I've just described of African forces being there, taking responsibility, improving security and, of course, trying to ensure that ethnic cleansing does not take place.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it is pretty awful to hear that, 20 years after Rwanda, the genocide there, indeed, in Bosnia as well. There is fear in the CAR that it's going to happen there. And as I said, many NGOs and people are saying the Muslims are practically disappearing.

HAGUE: Clearly, there have been -- from the capital, Muslims have been leaving in large numbers. So there is a big problem.


AMANPOUR: After a break, we'll continue our conversation. And we'll move on to the deadlock talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition and what about those Sochi Games?




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program and a special edition from Lancaster House in London. My continuing conversation with the British Foreign Secretary William Hague. We move on from the crises stalking Africa to the one stalking Syria.


AMANPOUR: I want to move on to Syria, particularly reports that law enforcement here in Britain has identified a man from Britain as having been somebody who blew himself up, a suicide bomber, at an Aleppo jail.

Can you confirm that for me?

HAGUE: Well, I don't want to comment on an individual case. I can't give out details of individuals or anything that --

AMANPOUR: Am I on the right track --

HAGUE: -- legal proceeding.

AMANPOUR: that the government believes that that's happened?

HAGUE: But there is -- there are credible reports, let's put -- let's put it that way, of individuals from Britain and individuals involved in -- from Britain in such activity and, indeed, hundreds of people from Britain and many other Western countries involved in going to fight in Syria and that is a huge concern to us.

AMANPOUR: In fact, the head of antiterrorism at the -- at the Met, at Scotland Yard, has said what you've just said; it's a massive problem; hundreds could be coming back here indoctrinate by Al Qaeda and their aim is to attack the West, whether it's Britain, whether United States. They're very concerned in the U.S., too.

What is your policy if people are coming back from Syria, jihadis?

HAGUE: Well, we have certain things we can do to protect ourselves and our country --

AMANPOUR: But are they getting arrested onsite if you know who they are? I mean, what happens if they come back through the borders?

HAGUE: Well, it -- we can deprive people of their passports if we know they are going. We can cancel the leave to remain in the U.K. in the future of people who are resident in the U.K. But the home secretary can take certain actions about individuals.

Of course, it's hard to generalize about that, because what individuals have done in Syria or might try to do in Syria may vary enormously. So it depends on the individual case.

AMANPOUR: But this is specific threats to the homeland.


HAGUE: For people who we -- who we believe are a threat, those are the sorts of things that we can do. And of course we will work with law enforcement authorities in other countries to try to track such people and to prevent them going to Syria or being able to cause damage in other countries when they get back.

But the solution to this, of course, lies in resolving the conflict in Syria. That is really what we have. That is the only long-term answer to this. And that is what we're trying to do through the Geneva process, monumentally difficult though it obviously is.

AMANPOUR: It doesn't seem to be going very well, according to all reports. Lakhdar Brahimi, the special envoy himself, after the first round, said I regret to tell you I have no progress to report.

And what are your hopes for actually any kind of political resolution or progress?

HAGUE: It's very difficult, as you have accurately described. I think that it's very important now for the Syrian regime, for the Assad regime to engage with what the opposition have been putting forward.

One of the lessons of the last couple of weeks is that the national coalition, the opposition, have done better than many people in the world thought they would in terms of coming to these negotiations, very seriously, having a broad and representative delegation themselves and putting forward serious proposals, including for a transitional government in Syria.

What we're seeing is the regime not really deal with that. They're not proposing a transitional government. And in particular, they are not agreeing to humanitarian access in many parts of Syria, where hundreds of thousands of people are under siege.

So we look to those, to anyone with influence on that regime. That includes Russia and Iran to apply the pressure that, if there's to be any hope at all of defeating the threats that we've talked about, it's time for the regime to play a more constructive role in those negotiations.

AMANPOUR: First to the opposition, you just said they have shown a maturity and a presence beyond what you might have imagined. Many of them had been telegraphing to us for months that this was their objective.

Is it time now then to actually step up and try to identify those in the opposition who you could actually support militarily to bring an end to this conflict?

HAGUE: Clearly they are receiving military support from --

AMANPOUR: It's non-lethal --

HAGUE: -- some countries. Well, they are receiving lethal support from --

AMANPOUR: Yes, but I mean --

HAGUE: -- various sources.

AMANPOUR: -- the United States --

HAGUE: From Britain, they're receiving other help, practical support that isn't lethal. It's very difficult for -- we've never taken the position in any of these conflicts that we send lethal supplies. And it's very hard for us to guarantee what happens to those lethal supplies. And that, of course, is a major difficulty for us.

So I'm not holding out any prospect of changing that in the near future. But we do want to be able to send them more practical support of other kinds that saves lives. We have sent in the past body armor. We have sent vehicles that are bulletproof vehicles. We have sent water purification kits, communication equipment and so on.

So, yes, they deserve practical support of different kinds from different countries. We have to keep a moderate opposition in being. Otherwise, the choice is Assad or the extremists.

AMANPOUR: Again, obviously, many would say to really have a moderate opposition that survives, they need to be able to have, you know, much more support, which they're not getting.

But I want to ask you to react to what the U.S. intelligence is now saying, the head of the National Intelligence, Clapper, James Clapper has said that actually Assad -- he told this to Congress -- is stronger now since the so-called chemical weapons deal.

He's stronger now and he's more entrenched in power and U.S. intelligence does not see him budging any time soon. You've described that they're being intransigent at the talks.

Do you agree with that?

HAGUE: Well, he's clearly not intending to budge. There is no sign of that whatsoever. There are more different ways of assessing who's stronger and who's weaker, and it varies all the time in Syria, as you know very well. This has gone backwards and forwards over three years now.

And so I think it would be a mistake for this regime to think it's now so strong it doesn't need to do anything --

AMANPOUR: (INAUDIBLE) thinks that.

HAGUE: -- it's sitting on -- they might think that for now. But I think they will --

AMANPOUR: They think that you need them, because you need to engage with them because you've signed this deal with them, which they're not fulfilling, by the way.

HAGUE: Which they are not fulfilling rapidly enough on the chemical weapons and, again, it's very important that all the pressure is maintained, including from Russia on them fulfilling the chemical weapons deal.

It is still an important and positive thing that the chemical weapons are being dealt with, that the agreement exists to deal with chemical weapons.

But of course that does resolve the wider picture. We've not succeeded, that the world has failed so far in resolving the Syrian conflict. And therefore many of our policies are directed at supporting neighboring states.

We give a lot of help to Lebanon and to Jordan. We're sending a huge amount of humanitarian assistance. And we are assisting with the destruction of chemical weapons.

AMANPOUR: You know there's increasing calls to get more deeply involved. I know you're saying you're not going to do it. But Assad is starving his people. We broke the story of the industrial scale torture and starvation and killing of prisoners. But even in those besieged towns, people are starving. Barrel bombs, air attacks, even as these talks are going on.

Secretary John Kerry recently told a group of U.S. senators that the U.S. policy has failed, that this policy of standing back, of not getting involved, has failed.

Do you feel the same way?

HAGUE: Well, I'd put it a slightly different way, as I was just saying in answer to your previous question, the whole world has failed on this.

But the one time that there has been an international agreement at the U.N. Security Council, and even with the regime, is on the chemical weapons, as we've just been discussing. That happened when all five permanent members of the Security Council were together and the whole Security Council carried something unanimously.

Now it's time for that to happen on some other subjects, in particular on humanitarian access.

AMANPOUR: So you gave him a deadline back then. And some are saying shouldn't you give that kind of warning again? Stop besieging these towns; get serious about the negotiations or we'll intervene.

HAGUE: Well, I think the next step is to see whether the world can come together, the U.N. Security Council, on demanding the right degree of humanitarian access.

AMANPOUR: And their convoys were fired on as they tried to do this thing that allegedly was agreed to, take humanitarian aid in.

HAGUE: Yes, and they are in serious fault themselves; some of the people who have been evacuated from Homs have then been arrested and we don't know what has happened to them all.

So this --

AMANPOUR: By the regime, you mean?

HAGUE: -- by the regime. This is a chaotic situation. But it requires a clear response from the United Nations Security Council.

But you are -- obviously you are asking me to say we will do; we will threaten military action and --


AMANPOUR: Well, it worked once.

HAGUE: -- intervention and I'm saying what we have to try to do is come -- is the whole world, the whole U.N. Security Council, including Russia and Iran from the margins, press this regime to come to a political solution, have humanitarian access.

Otherwise, the crisis in Syria is going to get worse and it is going to get worse both in terms of the humanitarian cost and the growth of extremism that is a threat to the security of many countries, not just in the West.

AMANPOUR: I feel like I lived this and many did through the Bosnia years in the 1990s, great reluctance to intervene; things got terrible, bad security for Europe, for the Brits, for America, for everybody. And hundreds of thousands of people were killed. And then intervention actually worked.

I'm saying this as a leadup to what you just tweeted, that it's -- the new Bosnia protests are a wakeup call for the West to fast-track Bosnia to the E.U. and NATO.

Do you think that has any real chance?

HAGUE: Yes, it's -- again, it's very difficult, though. In Bosnia, politics seems to have become completely stuck, though their political leaders are not making progress together, either towards the European Union or towards NATO or in constitutional reform of their own.

I think they need more pressure from the rest of the world. I think that this will need a lot more focus, both in American and in Europe over the coming months. There has been an assumption, I think, that in Bosnia- Herzegovina, things are stable now; they are at least settled.

But actually they are fundamentally unstable in a country with 63 percent youth unemployment and an absence of political progress and working together. So this requires, again, the attention of the world. And I was saying that to my fellow European foreign ministers earlier this week.

AMANPOUR: Would you agree? Lord Ashdown, who was the high representative of Bosnia, told me yesterday that the E.U. has failed to use its considerable leverage? No one has more leverage over the Bosnia situation than the E.U. And they're just letting it unravel.

HAGUE: Well, we've not used enough of that leverage in recent times. And the E.U. can do it.

For instance, in relations between Serbia and Kosovo, great progress has been made through some very skilled diplomacy, from the European Union backed up by countries like Britain and Germany. We've really been able to move things forward.

We haven't given sufficient attention, collectively, to Bosnia. We haven't used all the leverage available to us. And now we are going to have to do that over the coming months.

AMANPOUR: What do you feel would happen if you don't?

HAGUE: It's hard to predict in what I say is an unstable situation, because we don't know the consequences of -- that that might lead to. But we do know that they're -- that those consequences are dangerous and that the situation, although relatively calm as we speak, could easily get much worse.

And so I don't want to predict exactly how that might happen. I do want to call for us to do more about it in the meantime.

AMANPOUR: What did you make of the slightly undiplomatic language by America's assistant secretary of state for Eastern Europe, the expletive- driven comment towards the E.U.?

HAGUE: I'm sufficiently --

AMANPOUR: This was on Ukraine.

HAGUE: I remember the report that the -- I'm sufficiently diplomatic; I don't comment on undiplomatic comments.


AMANPOUR: We'll be back with a final thought right after a break.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, I asked Foreign Secretary Hague, despite all sorts of frustrations with Russia, what did he think of how the Sochi Olympics were turning out so far?


AMANPOUR: Everybody was incredibly in uproar about Sochi. There was going to be terrorism -- thank God it hasn't happened yet. Everything was going to fall apart. The Olympians wouldn't be able to compete in any sort of normal fashion.

What is your reaction, having seen the Games so far?

HAGUE: Well, we want it to go well. We hope the athletes -- of course, many of them are performing very well, doing very well and have the full freedom to be able to do so. We want any Olympics anywhere in the world to be successful and to be safe.

So let's hope that carries on. And, yes, we have some differences with Russia over some issues, such as LGBT rights, but we want them to succeed in hosting a successful Olympics.

AMANPOUR: Have you mentioned gay rights to the African presidents here?

HAGUE: Well, I have not on this -- we're very focused here today on the -- on the wildlife trade. but this is something we absolutely discuss in the commonwealth in particular, with African presidents, and Britain is a very strong champion of LGBT rights throughout the world.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Secretary Hague, thank you very much for joining me.

HAGUE: Thank you.


And that's our program tonight from Lancaster House. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and good night from London.