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Russian Plane May Have Been Downed by Bomb; U.K. Ambassador on Special Relationship with U.S.; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired November 4, 2015 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: Britain is the first government to hold all flights in and out of the Egyptian resort of
Sharm el-Sheikh, fearing that the Russian plane crashed because of an explosive on board.
The British ambassador to Washington joins us here live on that and the U.K.'s foreign policy challenges at this critical time.
Plus: 20 years ago a champion of peace, the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated.
With violence there on the rise again, is his vision for the region over?
I'll ask his chief negotiator during the famous Oslo peace process.
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.
In a dramatic move, the British government tonight has announced that it fears the Russian jet, which crashed in the Sinai Desert on Saturday,
quote, "may well have been brought down by an explosive device."
Since that disaster, which killed 209 Russian holiday makers, both Moscow and Cairo have insisted that there is no evidence of terrorism.
But now the U.K. is suspending all its flights to and from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh pending further investigation. And
right now Prime Minister David Cameron is chairing a special COBRA security meeting at Downing Street.
Joining me now on the phone with the first official reaction from Egypt is the foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, who is right now in London
since his president is about to start an official visit.
Foreign Minister Shoukry, thank you for joining me.
Can I first get your reaction, the government's reaction, the president's reaction to this development from the British government?
SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, it's somewhat surprised. The prime minister spoke by phone yesterday to fully discuss
the issue. We can appreciate, of course, the offensive responsibility and desire to provide every protection to U.K. citizens. This is a desire that
we equally share.
But I think it is somewhat premature to make declarations related to what might or might not have happened to the aircraft before the
investigation is completed and before there is a definitive cause for this crash.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, the president, in an interview with the BBC, basically dismissed any notion that there was evidence or even the
possibility of a terrorist attempt on this plane.
Do you believe now that there may possibly be and that the British should be taking these steps pending an investigation?
And they are sending a special team to your country to conduct further investigations.
SHOUKRY: From the outset we've always maintained that this is a matter for the investigation to clarify and we should not prejudge or take
any measure that might have implications.
There were implications also that the fact a large number of Egyptians, who rely heavily on the tourist industry. I think in all
concerns should just take caution and have a tempered approach; while, at the same time, we are cognizant of the interest and the concern and have
provided additional security arrangements in all of our airports for the protection of our tourists and also to indicate that we are not sparing any
But that does not in any way imply one outcome or another. This is just a matter providing assurance and confidence to the tourist community
that Egypt is undertaking all that it can provide the assurance to the tourists in the country.
AMANPOUR: And, just briefly, obviously your investigators, the investigative team there, have started to analyze what they can from the
flight recorders, the so-called black boxes.
Can you tell us, do you know anything, any news of what has already been discovered from those devices?
SHOUKRY: Not at all except that the investigation is being conducted at the high technical level, with the participation of the Russian
Federation, the Irish, the French, those concerned with the manufacture of the airplane.
So every availability is provided by the Egyptian government for a full and thorough investigation. And as soon as there is an outcome, it
will be public.
AMANPOUR: And lastly, Foreign Minister, can you confirm to us that President Sisi --
AMANPOUR: -- has, in fact, arrived and will be having meetings with the prime minister starting tomorrow morning?
SHOUKRY: The president has arrived, has already conducted three meetings here with various U.K. companies and heads tomorrow to meet Prime
AMANPOUR: Well, we thank you very much, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. We look forward to talking to you more, hopefully, over the next
24 hours as these developments warrant. Thank you for joining us.
And as President Sisi, we've heard, has just arrived and is already conducting his meetings, there have, as you know, been several violent
incidents and his government always insisted that tourism is still safe.
So he is potentially likely to have an awkward meeting with Prime Minister Cameron after this decision tonight.
Joining us is -- right here live in the studio to discuss this and other foreign policy challenges, Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott. He's the
envoy to Washington and before that to a host of Middle East nations.
SIR PETER WESTMACOTT, U.K. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: You just heard what the foreign minister said, that they're disappointed and surprised by this, particularly since the investigation
has not been complete.
From the British government point of view, is this a hasty decision or is this prudent?
WESTMACOTT: I think the Number 10 statement speaks for itself. We don't take these decisions lightly, as you know. And the reality is that
the two biggest group of tourists in Sharm el-Sheikh tend to be Russians and British. There are a lot of people there.
The government has a duty of care to British subjects. And if we put out a statement which says that we fear that it may have well been brought
down by an explosive device, you know, we have said that because we have reason to fear that may be the case. We're not -- it's not a premature,
it's not a hasty judgment. We haven't said this is what happened. We don't know for sure.
Investigations are continuing; we look forward, of course, to hearing the results of the investigation of the black box. We're very conscious of
the importance of Israel's tourist -- Egypt's tourist industry. (INAUDIBLE) President Sisi is here in town and the prime minister and he
will obviously have some very important discussions tomorrow.
But, please, don't think that this is a decision taken lightly. It's because of the concern that we have and the responsibility we have for the
safety of British tourists.
AMANPOUR: Nine hundred thousand or so British tourists go to Egypt every single year. So it is not an insignificant number, as you said.
Is this meeting tomorrow bound to be an awkward meeting?
You've obviously been in many meetings between heads of government, certainly as an ambassador.
How do you think it's going to go?
WESTMACOTT: I can't predict. I'm not a crystal ball. But these meetings are always important. There are always important issues to
discuss. Some are easier than others. We're glad that the president has come to London. There's a lot of things which we need to discuss, some
easy, some difficult.
But you know when you have a terrible loss of life like this and if there is a suggestion that there might be some kind of terrorist act or
some explosive device, then of course the heads of government concerned have got to examine that as along as all -- as along with all of other
issues which are important to both Egypt and the United Kingdom.
AMANPOUR: Let's talk about the specifics and many have looked at this crash in the framework of intervention in Syria, Russia's recent
intervention in Syria.
To that end, we want to know whether you can confirm for us whether Prime Minister Cameron has abandoned his second attempt to take a vote and
consult with Parliament on actually joining the airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
Has he abandoned that, as the press have said?
WESTMACOTT: On that particular issue, Christiane, no. Number 10 were very clear. There has been no change in the government's position. The
prime minister has always been clear that, if we were to extend the airstrikes, and other very important military activity which the U.K. has
been taking in Iraq, is part of the counter ISIL coalition.
If we were to extend that into Syria, then he would need to go back to Parliament to ask for a vote. He's not going to do that until he's sure of
getting the right result. You know what happened a couple of years ago when Parliament voted on whether or not the U.K. would join President Obama
on taking action when Assad was using chemical weapons on an industrial scale.
The prime minister would not want to put that question until he's sure of the answer. But there's been no change in his position.
AMANPOUR: But he will still try to do that?
WESTMACOTT: When the time comes he will go to Parliament and he will seek parliamentary authorization for us to extend airstrikes into Syria of
the sort that we're already carrying out in Iraq.
AMANPOUR: So let's broaden this out a little bit because since the British are not involved in Syria at the moment and since there is a
perception that, in some regard, the British have stepped back, particularly after this vote that didn't happen; he was denied the ability,
as you mentioned, a couple of years ago, that other countries, for instance, like France, are taking over in this sort of shoulder-to-shoulder
special relationship with the United States.
In fact, some unnamed British civil servant, foreign service officer has lamented to the press that at least during Iraq and Afghanistan, the
Americans had to consult us, we were there. They had to at least pay lip service to us. Now they barely consult us and they're bypassing us.
Is there a bit of a crisis in Britain's shoulder-to-shoulder and leadership right now?
WESTMACOTT: No. But --
WESTMACOTT: -- let me say two things. First of all, we're not absent from Syria. We have been involved in train and equip. We have provided
about one-third of all the ISTAR, the intelligence, surveillance, targeting, aerial reconnaissance information provided by aircraft in Syria.
In Iraq against ISIL we have done a huge number of things. We have provided counter IEDs, speciality training; we've provided heavy machine
guns for the Kurds. We have had troops down there in an advisory role in Baghdad. We have provided tanker refueling facilities for the aircraft of
many different air forces which don't have the tanker facilities that we have got. We have had strike aircraft there. We have had surveillance
We've actually done a lot. So I think to suggest that somehow the U.K. has been taking a back seat simply is not true in the counter ISIL
operations. We have not been taking airstrikes in Syria.
Is there a crisis?
It is true. And we have just discussed that.
Is there a crisis in the relationship with the United States?
Again, absolutely not. If you look at the mil-mil link, the intelligence link, the political link, the foreign policy, the identity of
values and interests, look at all the things we're doing, lots of other areas, in the cultural area and the business and investment, I think the
relationship seems to me is actually very strong. There is no crisis.
AMANPOUR: You have been in the forefront of being in the United States, particularly as former a ambassador to Iran, knowing the region,
knowing all the dynamics about the Iran nuclear deal and having to sell it to a skeptical Congress.
How did that go?
And what are some of the most successful parts of your ambassadorships and the relationship with the United States?
WESTMACOTT: Well, as ambassador to Turkey, ambassador to France -- I was never ambassador to Iran, didn't have that privilege -- but I was there
for four years as a young diplomat some years ago. So I have some understanding of the country and spoke the language and so on.
I think one of the more recarding things that I was able to do with my colleagues from the P5+1 governments, which helped negotiate the Iran
nuclear deal, was make the case for that deal when a lot of people in the United States Congress wanted to get rid of that deal because they felt
either there was a better deal out there that could be negotiated -- we disagreed -- or that somehow the United States voted it down, that the deal
would somehow still be implemented by the Iranians and the rest of the Europeans. That wasn't going to be the case either.
So we were able to explain that, in our judgment, this was the least bad way, the most effective way, if you like, of ensuring that Iran did not
get a nuclear weapons program and I think when members of Congress heard from all of us, from the ambassadors not only the United Kingdom but the
other members of the P5+1, the Russian, the Chinese, the German and the French ambassador in support of the administration's argument, this was a
moment when we were able to support the administration in getting what I believe to be an important result for diplomacy.
Your other question, I would just say, going back a little bit, I was particularly proud to be part of the negotiation and the cajoling and the
discussion 10 years or so ago when we began the accession process for Turkey to join the European Union, when I was ambassador there. That was
an important milestone. I'm rather hoping that we will be able to restore momentum to that process in the future.
AMANPOUR: And we will talk more to you about it because actually this is a little bit of a swan song for you after your four years as ambassador
in the U.S. You are stepping back from that particular position in January. And we will have you back to do an even bigger tour of the
Sir Peter Westmacott, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
WESTMACOTT: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
And after a break, we're going to turn to Israel on the 20th anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. I asked one
of the architects of the Oslo peace accord about Rabin's legacy. That's next.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
Today Israelis and Palestinians may be on the verge of a third intifada with a month-long spate of stabbings across Israel and intense
clashes in the West Bank.
It began when a Palestinian stabbed two Israelis to death in the Old City of Jerusalem. There have been multiple attacks across Israel since
then and persistent clashes between Israeli youths and security forces. Let's look back 20 years ago, when the prime minister then, Yitzhak Rabin,
was assassinated in Tel Aviv and some of the hope for peace between the two sides went out the window.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Today Israelis and Palestinians seem to be on the edge of a third intifada with a month-long spate of stabbings across
Israel and intense clashes in the West Bank.
It began when a Palestinian stabbed two Israelis to death in the Old City of Jerusalem. This violence and the three Gaza wars over the past 20
years have defined the Middle East much more than the peace Prime Minister Rabin tried to bring.
This iconic scene on the White House lawn marked the end of a secret but successful process, the Oslo peace accords, which Prime Minister Rabin
and PLO leader Yasser Arafat authorized to take place behind closed doors.
YITZHAK RABIN, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: We who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today, in a loud and a clear
voice, enough of blood and tears. Enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The prime minister was dead, shot by an assailant in Tel Aviv.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): But the blood and the tears started flowing again just two years later with Rabin's assassination at a peace rally in
Tel Aviv, November 4th, 1995.
And this last Sunday, thousands of Israelis came out to honor him and his legacy and to mourn the loss of what might have been, the last best
chance for peace.
AMANPOUR: So was it the last best chance? Yossi Beilin was one of the chief architects of the Oslo peace accords, conducting those secret
negotiations with then-PLO executive and the current Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. He joins me now from Tel Aviv.
Mr. Beilin, it is indeed a sad anniversary.
Can you recall for me briefly where you were, how you felt when you heard what happened and the trauma that Israel has gone through since then?
YOSSI BEILIN, CHIEF ARCHITECT, OSLO PEACE ACCORDS: I was then in New York. It was a work visit in the United States for minister of economy.
And they -- during the afternoon we heard the bad news about what was happening in the Tel Aviv square and then about the assassination itself.
I was there with Amos Oz, the writer. We talked about the prospects for peace. We were very optimistic. And we cried, cried like two babies,
when we heard the crazy truth. We never expected something like that.
And we were very hopeful still that, despite of it, something will continue and that one can kill the person but cannot kill the process. And
no doubt that assassinator succeeded in deferring the process, not killing it but deferring it.
AMANPOUR: You say not killing it and I'm really interested to explore that with you because if anybody looks at the situation right now, they
would be deeply, deeply pessimistic, the increased polarization between the two sides, the several Gaza wars, the many clashes between the two sides.
And you know, journalist Dexter Filkins writing that the killing of Rabin bids to be one of history's most effective political murders.
How do you think this process will survive?
BEILIN: Well, effective, it was. No doubt. You cannot deny it. But the need for a border for Israel is vital. We are approaching a moment in
which a minority of Jews will dominate a majority of non-Jews, of Palestinians and it is intolerable. Any prime minister, rightist or
leftist, will have to find a border.
The only question is whether to do it through an agreement or unilaterally, like Rabin or like Sharon. There is no failed way and there
is no one-state solution. So we are -- we have to find a solution. And it will be found this way or another.
BEILIN: The problem or the sad tragedy is that Rabin was on his way to make peace both with Syria, it was ready to withdraw from the whole of
the Golan Heights for security and peace and with the Palestinians by a deadline of May the 4th, 1999. His assassination stopped this process,
exactly like a theoretical assassination of a president Abraham Lincoln in '62 -- 1862, rather, in '65, before the proclamation of the emancipation.
Had the slaves in the United States remained slaves until today, no way. But it would have deferred the process for long and that I believe
exactly what happened to us.
AMANPOUR: So what happens next? You know, your statement that he would have made peace in Syria with then President Hafiz Assad. One can
only dream of what might have been the result, given the total disaster in Syria today and in your region.
Yitzhak Rabin, who was a great warrior and who fought very successfully against Arabs and protected his nation, said that he knew, he
woke up one day and he knew that Israel could never rule by force over 1.5 million Palestinians as it was then.
But what next then?
Because there is this dilemma about what to do next. Israel is moving away from the center towards a much more security oriented, you know,
reality. Many criticize Prime Minister Netanyahu for not being able or willing to deliver peace.
Where is the hope?
BEILIN: Well, the hope is there for sure. The question is whether it is possible to do today what we wanted to do 20 years ago and regretfully
the answer is negative.
What is possible today is either to have a permanent agreement and to implement it only in the West Bank because Gaza is under a Hamas and
President Abbas cannot deliver Gaza in any kind of way in agreement.
And on the other hand, you have an Israeli prime minister who would like to find a solution but he is not ready to pay the price that people
like Rabin or, if I may say, like myself were ready to pay.
Now, in that case, I think that the realistic solution is to have today something like a Palestinian state in provisional borders, according
to the road map which was agreed upon in 2003 by both sides and became a U.N. Security Council resolution.
Something like that can be seriously negotiated. It will be, I believe, a mistake just to put the arrivals in the same room as Secretary
Kerry did in 2014 for nine months with no real results.
AMANPOUR: So let me finally ask you, we have a minute left. You know, the beauty of Oslo was in the secrecy and the unofficial official
nature of it. Is there any way of reprising that kind of process, getting the principles in a room out of the public glare and figuring it out?
Well, Oslo was born in a very, very strange situation. You cannot repeat this situation. And I'm not sure that it was exactly according to
the box (sic). What you need is leaders who are willing to have peace and ready to sacrifice their life for peace. If they are not around, it is
very difficult to have peace.
Today, apparently, this is not the situation. And you must find something which is partial rather than a very bold and courageous solution
for both sides.
AMANPOUR: Yossi Beilin, former negotiator and government minister in the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, thank you so much for
joining us on this really sad anniversary. Thank you very much indeed.
And that moment 20 years ago that shaped the region in the decades since. After a break, we imagine a completely different world. Australia
sets the hounds on the penguins but it's not what you think -- next.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we look down under, where a plague of foxes has descended on Australian wildlife. One broke into the Melbourne
Zoo and killed 14 penguins this week. As for the tiny Fairy Penguins of Middle Island in Victoria, they didn't stand a chance out there in the
But imagine a world going to the dogs -- sheepdogs, to be precise.
A few years ago a local farmer, seeing the plight of these penguins, had a brain wave.
Why not train up the sheep dogs that for centuries have been protecting livestock to also defend their flightless feathered friends?
The farmer became a local hero when the first penguin protector called Oddball was sent into the field and was so effective that the number of
penguins on Middle Island in Victoria has risen from almost none to 150.
There's even a film out about Oddball's heroic mission and the dog days are just beginning. Oddball has become a prototype for teaching
sheepdogs to protect all sorts of other endangered species.
And who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
That's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see all our interviews online at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.