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OSCE Monitors Turned Away from Crash Site; Violence Continues Between Hamas and Israel; Interview with Chief Palestinian Negotiator; Hot Conflicts Around the Globe: Where Does U.S. Have Influence?
Aired July 28, 2014 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This comes as Russia has been firing back at critics. They're denying any role in downing the jet or any responsibility for the chaos right now in Ukraine. This despite new American satellite photos that allegedly show Russia launching attacks into Ukraine.
Joining me is Michael Michael Bociurkiw, he's the spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He is part of that team, that international team of monitors sent to evaluate the crash zone that have now, we understand, just moments ago have been turned back. Michael, can you hear me?
MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, SPOKESMAN, OSCE (via telephone): Yes, I can hear you. Good morning.
BERMAN: What happened to you as you tried to get to that crash site this morning?
BOCIURKIW: Right. Well, we had traveled a fair distance to the crash site, probably a little over halfway there. We had our own special monitoring mission team members with us, about 12. And we were joined by about 45 experts from the Netherlands and from Australia. So it was the biggest ever contingent of experts attempting to get up there.
We had secured overnight, or at least we thought, assurances from both sides, the Ukrainian side and the rebel side, that we would have safe and unimpeded access. And then what happened near the town on the rebel side, there was quite loud shelling nearby. We took the decision ourselves, consulting with our Dutch and Australian friends, to turn the convoy around. It just didn't seem safe to proceed.
And we can't say this enough. It's unacceptable what happened. The site is vulnerable, as you know, to natural and manmade factors, and we're really sick and tired of being delayed. This is the second day in a row now.
BERMAN: Do you have any sense of who is responsible for this shooting which ultimately caused you to turn around?
BOCIURKIW: We do not. And certainly we are not going to get into the game of finger-pointing. But we made it clearly on it's in nobody's interest that this mission not proceed. Again, we had the biggest numbers of experts both from the Netherlands and Australia. They have been preparing for two days to get to work, to really actually accelerate their work, because everyone knows that time is of the essence. And yet we're prevented by shelling from going forward.
BERMAN: Let's reiterate that point. We're 11 days now from when this plane was presumably shot out of the sky. Why is it so crucial for you now to be on the ground at that scene?
BOCIURKIW: Well, our hearts, mind, and prayers really go out to the families. I think I speak for everyone here on that point. We all know there are still human remains out there exposed to the elements, number one.
Secondly, it is one of the biggest open crime scenes in the world as we speak, and it is not secured. There's no security perimeter around the 30 or 35 square kilometer site. So it is, again, vulnerable to many different factors. The experts are more than prepared to go there and resume that collection, retrieval of human remains, and also to examine the debris and then prepare it for probably transfer elsewhere.
BERMAN: It does seem, Michael, that someone lied to you. You had assurances from both sides that this area would be safe. And if they didn't lie to you, then they're unable to control their own people there. What are your plans going forward? Will you just keep trying every day until you either get there or it becomes impossible?
BOCIURKIW: We will keep trying every day. We will try again tomorrow. I'm sure in between now and then there will be very stern talks with both sides that we need to get there as soon as possible and unimpeded, because, again, it's in nobody's interest that these visits do not take place. Everyone is ready to go. But when there's such unpredictable safety aspects involved, for example, the shelling, it's difficult. And we had thought that, for at least a few hours today the guns will be put down, the checkpoints will disappear, but that obviously did not happen.
BERMAN: It is a shame and people being hurt here are the families of the victims of the crash. We appreciate your efforts and we do hope you do get access to the site as soon as possible, Michael Bociurkiw of OSCE, thanks so much for joining us.
BOCIURKIW: Thanks for having us. Bye-bye.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now another breaking development overnight in the battle in the Middle East. A top Israeli official told us a short time ago that Israeli is only firing into Gaza after being fired upon by Hamas militants, which began after the ceasefire over the weekend ended. Israel is still pursuing destruction of tunnels stretching from Gaza into southern Israel. Now the U.N. Security Council is also hoping to bring an end to the bloodshed. The body calling it a late night overnight session for a full stop to the hostilities at a late night meeting, as we mentioned.
Martin Savidge is on the ground in Jerusalem with the very latest. So Martin, what is the very latest on the ground? Is there any hope on the horizon for a sustained calm here?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sort of depends on how you interpret that statement you were just talking about. That came from the Israeli foreign ministry. And it's described at least by Israeli as an unlimited ceasefire. And as you point out Israel says it's only responding when fired upon and only responding to the area from which they received fire. They also, of course, are keeping their troops inside of Gaza and they're continuing to destroy those tunnels as they find them.
Hamas is not going to look at that and say that's a ceasefire, and they certainly aren't going to like to hear the word "unlimited" when Israel maintains an occupying force inside of Gaza as Hamas would perceive that to be. So Israel is calling it an unlimited ceasefire. Hamas would definitely not call it that.
Is it a glimmer of hope? It's certainly clear that the conflict levels seem down today. That's no indication it will remain that way, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Martin Savidge on the ground. It is a confusing and difficult situation to piece together. That's why you're on the ground to get the reporting straight from you. Thank you very much.
Let's get the Palestinian point of view on all of this. Saeb Erekat is the chief Palestinian negotiator. He's joining us from Ramallah in the West Bank. Thank you so much for your time. You heard from Martin Savidge, as it always is, conflicting reports where things stand on the ground. But most importantly I want to get your take on what has happened overnight, coming from the U.N. Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire for humanitarian purposes.
The spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry told me a short time ago that Israel is abiding by that and not taking part in any more offensive actions. Why are the rockets still then coming then from Gaza?
SAEB EREKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Because the Israelis are not saying the truth. The Israeli army is inside Gaza, occupying Gaza. They're actually destroying Gaza. I'm sure you've seen the footage of what's happening to more than 1.5 million people in Gaza, eight persons per square meter.
Two days ago Secretary John Kerry came out in a press conference in Cairo and then in Paris and introduced a plan of a seven-day ceasefire, he called it humanitarian ceasefire. Palestinians accepted and the Israeli government rejected. That's the truth. So if this campaign of public relations addressed by the Israeli spokespersons, they cannot hide the fact that they have destroyed so far 20,000 Palestinian homes, that more than 1,100 Palestinians are killed, mostly women and children, and that there are 6,000 people wounded and there's no more infrastructure in Gaza.
What we need is to employ de-escalation, de-confliction. We need a ceasefire immediately, and United States secretary of state offer that two days ago. And the offer is still on the table. We are willing to dispatch a delegation to Cairo to begin deliberation of the long-term issues in Gaza, but I'm afraid that the Israeli tanks, Israeli soldiers, Israel missiles are inside Gaza as I'm speaking to you, Kate. Now, they are inside Gaza shooting, destroying, demolishing, and saying to you they are defending themselves. What they're doing, they're the occupying power. What they're doing is not self-defense. What they're doing, they're the occupying power, they should be responsible for the human lives there. Killing women and children, look at the United Nations figures, 90 percent of those killed are women and children. It's a total destruction.
And that's what's happening in Gaza. What we need is to adhere to what secretary of state offered with the Egyptians, with the Europeans, about a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire to begin de- escalation, de-confliction, and then the delegations can be in Cairo under the auspices of Egypt to begin the dialogue required.
BOLDUAN: Mr. Erekat, how do you get to the point then? If you think Israel is not telling the truth about offensive actions on the ground, then how do you get to the point of a ceasefire since neither side has any trust that the other will stick with it? I know you do not speak for Hamas, but how is it going to happen?
EREKAT: I think if the Israeli army decides to have ceasefire, they pull out of Gaza, and then the ceasefire will stick. We have the United Nations, we many ways to verify monitor the ceasefire in Gaza if the Israeli government pushes to declare a serious ceasefire. And that's not what's happening.
BOLDUAN: So you would --
EREKAT: The Israeli army is advancing more and more into Gaza, destroying more and more into Gaza.
BOLDUAN: Let me clarify this point. On your part, you believe, from your viewpoint you believe a serious attempt at a ceasefire coming from Israel would be only if they would remove ground forces from Gaza?
EREKAT: That's the point of friction, Kate. If you want to have a ceasefire and if you say you're not occupying Gaza, the first thing to do is to get separation, to get back to where you were before you began your military incursion, land incursion, because if you want to keep your army in Gaza, that's the friction, that's the shooting.
You're saying I'm going to destroy tunnels while destroying homes, schools. What happened to the school of the United Nations two days ago when 22 people were slaughtered and killed? I'm not going to say finger-pointing? I'm not going to do anything. All I want to see now is these people in Gaza, 1.7 million people in Gaza, are really in a horrifying situation. They are homeless. They have nowhere to go. There is no place safe in Gaza. What we need is a United Nations-led effort to ensure a ceasefire is put in place. This could happen if the Israeli army gets out of Gaza and then the United Nations can say to both sides no is the zero hour.
BOLDUAN: Do you believe if Israel would move troops out Hamas would stop firing rockets, because Israel does not believe anything they do will stop an offensive action coming from Hamas?
EREKAT: Look, 48 hours ago there was a declaration of a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire sponsored by the United Nations, and both sides stopped. This could happen. I think it's in the interest of everyone, because if Israel believes they can solve this Palestinian problem by attacks, by F15s, missiles, by destroying Palestinians, they're only doing one thing -- they're adding fuel to the fire. They're launching the cycle of violence, counter-violence, extremism, not only between Palestinians and Israelis but throughout this region.
Our problem needs a political solution. And 45 years, 46 years of Israeli occupation must come to an end. There is only one way out for both Israelis and Palestinians, and that is a peace process that would lead to a two-state solution, a state of Palestine to live side by side, a state of Israel on the 1967 lines. Israel's failures to achieve this through negotiations over the past 20 years will add more complexities to our overloaded wagon of complexities. What we need is a political solution. Military solutions will not produce anything other than extremism and launching the cycle of violence and counter- violence, and that's the truth of this region.
BOLDUAN: Final question for you. An important point on the part of the Israel government, and the important point that they continue to return to and part of their goal in operation they're taking part in right now is to uncover and destroy tunnels going from Gaza into southern Israel. They told me this morning they uncovered 36 tunnels from Gaza into southern Israel. From your perspective, what is the purpose of those tunnels?
EREKAT: Look, I know the situation is so much complex. I'm not saying I know the picture as a whole. But all I know is that what we need know -- there's a fire in the building. We need to get the people out and then we need to extinguish the fire. And then we sit down and talk.
And the day after for Gaza and the West Bank must be addressed seriously and must addressed through political means, not military means, because if the Israelis say they are destroying tunnels, that means one thing. They will reoccupy Gaza. Now on the West Bank, there are no tunnels, no people are shooting missiles in the West Bank, but yet last night 200 Palestinians have been wounded. Last Thursday eight Palestinians were killed in peaceful demonstrations. So at the end of the day what you will witness is the collapse of the Palestinian Authority here, a total Israeli reoccupation of the West Bank, a total Israeli reoccupation of Gaza, and can an Israeli tell me what they will do the day after?
BOLDUAN: The tunnels, though, is an important point coming from the part of the Israelis. I understand you say a political solution, not a military solution is one you should be looking at. Saeb Erekat, we appreciate your perspective on this, clearly not an easy answer. I'm not saying that I have one. That's for sure. Saeb Erekat, thank you very much for your time this morning. And thanks for dealing with the delays, since we're dealing with a big communication delay. Thanks so much. Michaela? MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a look at your headlines. It's 14 minutes past the hour. Staying in the Middle East right now, the Libyan government now looking for international help after oil tankers caught fire during clashes at its international airport in Tripoli. A convoy of British diplomats fleeing the violence made it safely into Tunisia after coming under fire during the trip. All this after the U.S. embassy in Libya evacuated it's personnel. Fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi is at its highest level since the revolution three years ago.
Severe weather turned deadly along the California coast. A 20-year- old man was killed; at least a dozen others were injured in a lightning storm along Venice Beach, California. Firefighters say a bolt of lightning hit the water. The electric current traveled, hitting swimmers and surfers along the way.
A Florida beach day turns tragic. A father was killed, his young daughter is fighting for her life. They were struck by a plane that had to make an emergency landing on a Gulf Coast beach. The victims are identified as 36-year-old Ommy Irizarry and his daughter Oceana, who had to be airlifted to the hospital. The men, meanwhile, inside the plane, they were not injured.
A ride at an Ohio theme park has been shut down after an accident that injured two people. A cable on the Sky Hawk ride at Cedar Point Amusement Park broke Saturday night. Cedar Point says the ride will remain closed while the park conducts an investigation. The spokesman says safety is the park's top priority.
BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) probably very important for that ride.
PEREIRA: I'm thinking so. Let's talk weather because we know that there's been extreme weather, some tornadic activity. Do you like I knew that word, Indra? Taking a look at it for us.
INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Always impressed with you, Michaela.
But, yeah, this is actually Connecticut yesterday. We're talking about an EF-0 tornado that really uprooted trees, around 80, 85-mile- per-hour winds yesterday early afternoon, even took sports equipment and threw it across the field. And it was not the only incident of severe weather yesterday. In fact, we actually had six reports of tornado damage. We saw about four in Tennessee, one in West Virginia, and then that was the one in through Connecticut.
And plenty of storm reports from just those strong winds that were out there. All of this from the same culprit. And, today, the tail end of it still producing that severe weather for about 6 million of you from the Carolinas really all along the Gulf here, even going all the way back in through about Mississippi. So that's going to be the concern as the same front continues to take its time.
But once it makes its way offshore, finally, the good news, we'll be talking about high pressure building in. Maybe a couple of scattered showers around the lakes. But most of you will love this workweek. Hard to say, right, but especially as you go towards the middle of the week, it's going to get a lot nicer out there.
For today, as the front still in place and making its way out, about two to three inches of rain basically kind of throughout New England. But after that, the story is going to be the cool air finally diving down all the way to the southeast. Yes, so the temperatures that have been so hot and humid are going to be going down. And it's not just the temperatures themselves but that humidity level going down. So those excessive heat warnings you've been feeling in the southeast finally going away. It's going to feel oh so much better. A lot of people should thank me and I should be happy during the workweek.
BERMAN: Everyone should always thank you. So it will be really nice outside as everyone is inside working during the work week.
PETERSONS: Thank you, John, for just taking all the fun out of it for me.
PEREIRA: We have to plan that better.
PETERSONS: He just sucked the life out of me.
BOLDUAN: Sorry, Indra. I was ready to help you out.
PETERSONS: Thank you. Everybody should like me but John.
BOLDUAN: All John's fault.
Coming up next on NEW DAY, the Mideast conflict. We're going to return to this. We're also going to talk about the unrest in Ukraine. So much instability. How the consequences affect the United States. We'll discuss.
BERMAN: And coming up INSIDE POLITICS, does the United States have buyers' remorse about the 2012 election? We will dive deeper into our new fascinating poll.
BERMAN: All right, welcome back to NEW DAY everyone. Israel and Hamas facing off in the Middle East with little sign of progress toward peace there. Ukraine and Russia teetering on the brink of conflict, really engaged in a hot conflict. Iraq fending off ISIS militants. Militants are wreaking havoc right now in Libya and Syria. There is so much instability in so many parts of the world, the question is how does it affect us here in the United States? And can the United States find any way to bring calm to these regions?
Want to get some perspective on all this from Bobby Ghosh, managing editor of "Quartz". Bobby, thanks so much for joining us right now.
BOBBY GHOSH, MANAGING EDITOR, "QUARTZ": Thanks for having me.
BERMAN: I want to take a look at this map right now and look at all of these hot zones. And, by the way, off the map over here is Afghanistan where the U.S. still has troops and the Taliban is making big gains in some of the regions right there. Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State, took a look at a map like this and essentially said the world right now is a mess. An accurate description?
GHOSH: It is. At any given point, there are some parts of the world that are a mess. But the concentration we're seeing now is really unprecedented. I mean, not for several years have we had so much conflict, so much conflict that is, as you said, hot conflict. (INAUDIBLE) conflict. People with bombs, guns, people are being killed. We haven't had that for some several years. And that is a huge challenge. John Kerry is the busiest man in the whole wide world because he's having to deal with all the conflicts.
BERMAN: All at once. And then the question, what does Secretary Kerry do? What does the United States do? What can the United States do?
Because take a look at Libya where there's this conflict, this civil war, raging right now. Over the weekend, the United States pulled all of its personnel out of the U.S. embassy. They say they didn't close it; they don't want to use the term close the embassy. But that's semantics. I mean, the United States not in Libya anymore.
GHOSH: Yes, pulling out -- pulling out your staff from an embassy is a very big statement. The British have followed suit as well.
There's a huge conflict taking place there. The fall of Gadhafi, which was celebrated a couple years ago, has not resolved all the problems. You have enormous tribal divisions, and this is a country with oil. So this conflict affects, could affect us directly because it has an impact on the price of oil. And this is a conflict in which we did get involved; the United States as well as its European allies contributed to this conflict directly. If you remember, we imposed that no-fly zone over it, so we kind of own this a little bit.
BERMAN: Let's talk about another conflict right now where U.S. involvement has been debated over the years. Take a look at Syria right now. Everyone right now looking in Gaza right there at Hamas, 1,000 or more people dead right now in Gaza. But in Syria, just over the last week, there are reports that well over 1,000 people, maybe as many as 1,700 people have been killed in conflict there.
GHOSH: Yes, and the important thing, that is, if the reports are to be believed, more than 1,000 of Bashar Assad's soldiers have been killed. Keep in mind, the last several months, his army has been sort of successful. They've driven the rebellion back, they've taken over a lot of territory, but now they're losing soldiers, 1,000 soldiers in just a few days. That's a huge blow, not just in terms of personnel, but also in terms of it's a psychological blow.
Who is succeeding here? But it's still, on the grand scheme of things, a stalemate. But if the rebels, whether that's Islamic groups, whether that's ISIS, whether that is what we would consider good guys in the conflict, whether they're the ones killing the soldiers, the end of the day, it doesn't kind of matter very much at this point in the conflict. Assad is losing soldiers. That's the important thing right now.
BERMAN: Now, you look at all of the interconnectedness here, because it's ISIS forces contributing to pushing back Basshar al-Assad's forces. But it's ISIS fighting against, right now, the Iraqi government and picking up territory in Iraq. And you look, of course, at Iran right now. Iran's got influence in Syria. Iran's got influence in Iraq.
GHOSH: And Gaza.
BERMAN: And Gaza. And then Russia up here has influence over all of this as well. But Russia right now engaged in this increasingly hot conflict with Ukraine.
How much force can the U.S. bring to bear -- I don't mean actual troops on the ground, but diplomatic force, diplomatic pressure, can the U.S. bring in this conflict in Ukraine?
GHOSH: Well, America's diplomatic forces are spread thin a little bit. There are only so many places that John Kerry can go to at any given point in time. And you're dealing here with people who are not interested in hearing what the United States has to say.
Putin has made it clear over and over again that he does not give a damn about what the U.S. has to say. He's dealing with a domestic audience that is -- he's very popular. Every time he thumbs his nose, every time he says something nasty about the U.S., his poll numbers go up. He's clearly determined that Ukraine must remain within the Russian sphere of influence and not in the European or American sphere.
BERMAN: Bobby, you look at this map which Madeleine Albright and others say is a mess right now. If you had to pick one place where the U.S. could cause change, could make it, for lack of a better word, better, what would the one place where the United States has the greatest influence be?
GHOSH: Well, traditionally the greatest influence has been in Israel. But right now that's proving problematic. Both sides in that conflict, the Israelis and the Palestinians, have been very critical of John Kerry over the last couple of days. Now, you can argue that if both sides are criticizing him, he must be doing something right. But it's not leading to a solution.
Ironically, it might be actually in Libya where we might have the greatest amount of influence. Because the two parties there, the two groups that are fighting, have actually been communicating with the U.S. We pulled the embassy out. That is a big statement. And because we've got actual connections to all the warning sides there, I think we may have some influence there. It might be also the place where we need to focus right now because there is a serious impact on the global economy because of the oil.
BERMAN: Bobby Ghosh, keeping an eye on all of it for us, and there is a lot to keep an eye on.
GHOSH: It's hard to pick any one.
BERMAN: Appreciate your help. Thanks so much. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Thanks so much. Coming up next on NEW DAY, it's the last week before Congress is set to begin its month-long recess. Some call it vacation; others call it a district work period. But there's still a long to-do list before they head out. Will anything get done before the break? We'll go INSIDE POLITICS next.
Also ahead, the Ebola outbreak in Africa, now affecting American aid workers. We're going to tell you what we know right now.