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Iran in Spotlight after Landmark Implementation; Syria Peace Talks Tentatively Set; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 20, 2016 - 14:00   ET







MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We do not have a fight to pick with Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, the fact is that the instability in

our region is caused by a panic in Saudi Arabia.




AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour, live at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

As makers and shakers gather here in the Swiss Alps, the economic and political landscape of one country more than any other has changed

dramatically since last year's meeting and that is Iran.

With sanctions now lifted, the country is a brand new emerging market, but the oil glut and plummeting prices plus its feud with Saudi Arabia are all

causing real worry.

So how does all this look to Iran?

I asked Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in his first TV interview since implementation day.


AMANPOUR: Foreign minister, welcome back to the program.

ZARIF: Good to be with you.

AMANPOUR: First senior Iranian official to talk about implementation and the new day.

Is Iran happy about this new chapter?

ZARIF: Of course. We worked very hard for several years. We withstood pressure, sanctions, probably the most extensive sanctions that's been

imposed on any country but our people did not give up their rights just because they were under economic pressure.

We started the negotiation based on the principle of non-zero sum --.


AMANPOUR: Win-win --

ZARIF: -- win-win, as you say it, as here, economists say a positive sum game, so that everybody would look at what they needed to achieve, explain

what they needed to achieve and achieve it.

From our perspective, we wanted two things. We wanted to have our nuclear program, which was peaceful and we wanted the removal of sanctions.

From the other side, ostensibly they wanted to make sure that we wouldn't build nuclear weapons.

So from my perspective, from day one, it was a win-win situation because we could provide them with what they needed, because we didn't expect or

didn't intend to develop nuclear weapons and, at the same time, we just had to work out the details.

And because of the extent of mistrust that existed, we needed to work out every minute detail of what we needed to do.

AMANPOUR: And that was obviously very difficult and it took several years --


ZARIF: Two years.

AMANPOUR: At the end of it, it was John and Javad, Secretary Kerry, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. You were talking on first-name basis.

Secretary Kerry has said that you forged a good-working relationship.

Do you agree?

ZARIF: Yes, we did work together. I mean, there are days, a lot of mistrust between the two countries but we managed to be able to talk to

each other, to send e-mails to each other. And that started almost two and a half years ago when we met for the first time behind the Security Council

for half an hour.

AMANPOUR: And where does that lead now?

Because just as the implementation was happening, as the American prisoners were leaving Iranian airspace, President Obama slapped more sanctions

because of the ballistic missile test that you -- that you conducted.

Is that all out the window now, the good working relationship?

ZARIF: Well, of course, that hurts because we believe that we are entitled to our defense. You know, we spend a fraction --


AMANPOUR: But they said it was against international sanctions.

ZARIF: It is not.

It is now. It is not against --


ZARIF: It is not against JCPOA. It is not against --

AMANPOUR: That's the nuclear deal.

ZARIF: -- it's not against the nuclear deal. It's not even against the Security Council resolution 2231.

AMANPOUR: Then why are their sanctions on them?

ZARIF: Because the United States has this fixation on missiles. Now they do not pay attention to the fact that they sell billions of dollars' worth

of military hardware to our neighbors. And Iran is deprived -- should not be deprived of the means of its defense.

So we develop our means of defense ourselves. And we have every right to defend ourselves.


AMANPOUR: So you're saying under the U.N. sanctions, missiles were OK?

ZARIF: No, under the U.N. sanctions --


ZARIF: -- Iran has been called upon -- not Iran; Iran is not required anymore. Iran has been called upon and there is terminology and this

terminology was the subject of months and months of negotiation.

Iran has been called upon to -- not to develop or test ballistic missiles, which are designed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

We're not going to have nuclear warheads, so we don't design anything to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. As I hear Secretary Carter has

already said, the entire focus was on preventing Iran from having a nuclear warhead.

We believe that they never wanted to have a nuclear warhead. Now the international community can ascertain, can make sure that Iran will never

have nuclear warhead and that would not -- should basically relieve this anxiety that Iran is developing missiles that are capable or designed to be

capable of carrying nuclear warhead.

So we believe there was no base in law, there was no base in reality and it wasn't -- it wasn't necessary. It was a nuisance that the United States

decided to do this. I'll call it a sort of addiction, addiction that some in the United States have to sanctions and pressure.

I think, just like people who smoke, they know that they don't work but the addiction prevents them from just calling it quits. So I think it's best

if the United States would, once and for all, determine for itself that sanctions don't work, that, with Iran, negotiations, talking, respect

always works.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me then talk about the negotiations that led to the release of the Americans in Iranian jails.


ZARIF: And Iranians in U.S. jails.

AMANPOUR: Exactly. But I want to talk about the hold-up at the last second when Jason Rezaian, "The Washington Post" journalist, was forbidden

from bringing his family -- or at least his wife and mother couldn't travel.

It took some calls between you and Secretary Kerry to unblock that, we hear.

Give me a little idea of that.

ZARIF: You see, there always been miscommunication. People in the United States believe that that was part of the deal. People in Tehran didn't

know that was part of the deal. And as soon as Secretary Kerry showed me that it was a part of the deal, it just took a call.

AMANPOUR: You mean -- you mean -- you mean to have the wife and mom come with him?



So he said it was part of the deal and you said OK.

ZARIF: Yes, because if it was part of a deal and we had committed ourselves to it, we just had to carry out what we had committed ourselves

to. That's what we do.

Iran, you see, everybody was saying that Iran would never implement a nuclear agreement. We implemented actually ahead of time. That is why

everybody was expecting the implementation day sometime in May or April or May, we had it in January. That's the type of people we are.

We implement. We fulfill our promises. People had been promised in the -- in the long negotiations that took place between us and the United States,

because, unfortunately, people don't know about the fact that many Iranians, Iranian Americans actually, lingered in jail in the United States

for simply allegations of violation of these economic sanctions.

So I'm happy for all of the families. I'm happy for the family of Jason and the family of Amir Hekmati and Mr. Abedini and others, who have -- who

now have the loved ones with them. We believe that they had committed acts that were illegal.

But the families are -- I'm happy for the families; all of them are Iranian American families. I'm happy for the families of other Iranian Americans,

who still live in the United States but now back to their loved ones. I think it was an important achievement that we all made together.

AMANPOUR: So if that's all a good, happy family situation that we have now, everybody is seriously worried about the most alarming feud in the

region and that is between you and Saudi Arabia. There have been dueling op-eds in "The New York Times" between you, the foreign minister of Iran;

Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia.

And where is this going to end?

The Saudi foreign minister has said Iran is trying to obscure its dangerous sectarian and expansionist policies as well as its support for terrorism by

leveling unsubstantiated charges against the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Where is this going to end?

ZARIF: Well, it was unsubstantiated charges; 15 of the 19 people who blew up 9/11 were Saudi citizens. People who murdered others in San Bernardino

had just visited Saudi Arabia.

But I'm tired of this.


AMANPOUR: But should everyone be panicking that Iran is back in the community of nations?

ZARIF: I think -- we were always in the community of nations, not their allies had recognized that Iran is a serious partner. Up until then, it

was the Saudi allies, particularly the United States, who was at loggerheads with Iran.

Now it hasn't changed. But the Saudis are panicking that there may be a slight opportunity that tensions between Iran and the West would reduce.

And that smokescreen --


ZARIF: -- that had allowed them to export this Wahhabi ideology of extremism to -- if that smokescreen disappears, then people see we're

calling spade a spade.

Unfortunately -- and we do not have a fight to pick with Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, the fact is that the instability in our region is caused by

a panic in Saudi Arabia that believes there is a disequilibrium in our region after the fall of Saddam Hussein and after the Arab Spring.

We believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia can be two important players, who can accommodate each other, who can complement each other in the region. We

don't expect or we are not interested even in pushing Saudi Arabia out of this region because Saudi Arabia is an important player in this region.

Unfortunately, the Saudis have had the illusion that, backed by their Western ally, they could push Iran out of the equation in the region. And

they were successful for some time. You remember that Iran was excluded from the talks on Syria.

AMANPOUR: Do you think there'll be talks?

They've been tentatively moved to -- for January 25th.

And what do you say about concerns that three and a half months of Russian airstrikes have supported President Assad and have, in many people's view,

perhaps made any notion of meaningful negotiations invalid now?

That Assad is back and he thinks he's going to win.


ZARIF: -- let me tell you, there is no military solution to Syria. We believe it. I hope that others believe it, too. There is no military

solution. We have insisted that there should be a political solution.

But a political solution means that you cannot determine the outcome of the negotiations before you start the negotiations.

For the past three and a half, four years, some people in the region and some in the -- and more -- most in the West wanted to determine the outcome

of the negotiations, saying that President Assad should not be a part of the future of Syria before they even started the negotiations.

Now that many people are coming back to their senses, saying that negotiations between Syrians need to determine the outcome inside the

negotiating room, not before they even start the negotiations.

So I believe if everybody has the right perception and set aside illusions about the future of these negotiations, there is every reason that they

should take place. Iran has committed itself to support these negotiations.

Since Iran joined the talks on Syria, we've had good progress. We've -- we're able to adopt a Security Council resolution with, according to

Secretary Kerry, was based on a plan that I presented a couple years ago but, unfortunately, was resisted then.

Now we're happy that we're moving in the right direction of talks among Syrians for a political solution in Syria, with the Syrians determining

their future, not with us determining their future for them.

AMANPOUR: Foreign minister, thank you very much indeed.

ZARIF: Was good to be with you.


AMANPOUR: And up next, I interviewed the United Nations special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura live.

Will he be able to send out those invitations to the Syria peace talks, which are scheduled for next week?

Find out after a break.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

So, after some initial optimism about a political track and a date for peace talks in Geneva tentatively --


AMANPOUR: -- set for Monday next week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, met today here in Switzerland

to iron out a row about who can attend Syria peace talks and whether those talks will even start on Monday as planned.

U.N. Special envoy to Syria and this political process, Staffan de Mistura, is the man who knows and he joins me now.

So, do you know?

Are you actually going to be able to send out the invites for these talks to start in Geneva on Monday?

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO SYRIA: On Monday, I can't tell you today. I will tell you on the 24th, one day before, because --


AMANPOUR: It is that fraught?

DE MISTURA: That's correct, because there are a lot of work still to be done. What we want to ensure is that, this time, it will not be like

Geneva 2, a serious talk about peace and not talk about talks.

AMANPOUR: So what can you achieve in these next few days then before Monday, given that the Russians and President Assad have basically said,

no, we're not going to have these people at this conference.

And they say we want these people at the conference and then some of the opposition say, well, we don't even want to go unless the sieges are

released, unless the bombardment of civilians stops.

Can you actually resolve that in the two days or three?

DE MISTURA: Well, first of all, I'm not alone; we had a Vienna group, as you know, with Russia and America, which are talking.

AMANPOUR: Yes, but Russia is the one taking Assad's side right now. It's not playing a neutral role.

DE MISTURA: Correct. But they're also interested in making these talks start. There is something different than before. They really have a

genuine interest in seeing the talks starting.

Now these are about the Syrians, OK?

At a certain point, vetoes is part also of posturing and pre-negotiations; in diplomacy, we know it. And you're seeing how, between Iran and the

U.S., diplomacy can work but there is a lot of preparation and posturing.

I believe we can start the talks. That's not on the 25th. But we need to maintain the pressure and we need to maintain the momentum.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's talk about pressure and momentum because, as I posed to Foreign Minister Zarif and as I've talked about Russia, they have helped

President Assad, particularly Russia, with three and a half months of bombardment now, to the point where a lot of the opposition is getting, you

know, stopped and wiped out.

And that some who are close to him thinks that he actually has a chance of winning now.

So, how meaningful can any talks be, given that he thinks perhaps he doesn't have to bargain anymore?


AMANPOUR: Do you buy that?

DE MISTURA: No, I don't because I've been in Damascus recently and I had a feeling that they were starting thinking that. But they were also thinking

one thing, that this conflict has been up and downs, ups and downs, and victory over this month becomes a defeat next week.

Secondly, Russia is involved. But I want to believe that Russia has a great vested interest in not getting involved for too long. And I think

the Americans and the Russians are talking about that as well.

AMANPOUR: And what about Iran then?

Because they have obviously been the ground forces, the shock troops, along with their Hezbollah allies, to support Assad.

If Russia is in the air and helping them politically, Iran is on the ground.

DE MISTURA: Correct. But the Iranians do -- and I think you probably heard recently Minister Zarif saying, we have learned to listen. There is

no military solution.

AMANPOUR: They say that as they are propping up with their military President Assad.

DE MISTURA: Every negotiation, unfortunately, in history -- and you and I have seen many -- when there is a serious potential for the real

negotiation, you will see everybody trying, first verbally rhetorically and secondly, military, to take a better position.

We should look at it with concern but not being pressed. We should just push for it because we know that the Syrian people and basically everyone

now realize that this cannot go on.

AMANPOUR: Well, what about a Saudi Arabia and its feud with Iran?

I mean, obviously, they've backed different sides in Syria.

How complicating is that for a political process?

DE MISTURA: It is complicating.

But one good news, at least, I went both to Saudi Arabia and to Tehran just when the discussion, the tensions took up. And I got from both of them a

guarantee publicly that at least in Syria this will not be affected. It will play that tension elsewhere because they, too, probably realize that

the time has come for at least trying to find a political solution, which will be a compromise.

No one will be totally happy. Perhaps the only ones happy will be the Syrians, who finally will see the end of this horror.

AMANPOUR: Well, the Syrians really cannot wait any longer for these diplomatic games to be played out. We've seen the most horrific siege and

using food and starvation as a weapon of war. I mean, so many hundreds of thousands now are dead and millions are fleeing.

I mean, really?

Does this have a chance of ending by this time next year?

DE MISTURA: Well, that's why I've been, on behalf of the secretary general, linking the beginning of the talks and the continuation of the

talks, when they --


DE MISTURA: -- start, with concrete demonstrations of something for the Syrian people -- ceasefires, convoys -- we have had now four of them, not

enough -- but it is at least a continuation and not just one every three months.

So we will constantly link what we call confidence building measures to talks. The Syrian people don't believe anymore when they hear about the

conference. God knows how many conferences we've had. So we will and we will continue to say, you want to talk?

Link it also with some walk.

AMANPOUR: The Turkish government, even the United States government, you know, they're all involved. But certainly people are saying the U.S.

hasn't done enough to support its idea.

If Russia is -- and Iran are giving military support to one side, the U.S. is not helping enough to the side that they say they're supporting and

Russia is now busy blowing them out of the water anyway, the U.S. approved opposition.

So, I mean, what can be done in that regard?

DE MISTURA: Well, first of all, I must say, the Americans, and particularly through John Kerry, have shown that perhaps they have not got

as involved militarily and that's a discussion that they should take in their own country. But they are certainly got heavily involved


We would have not had Vienna talks -- which are not just talks. These are really a group of countries, can imagine, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Russia and

America, sitting around the table and being talking about how to end this war?

I think they're putting a lot of political capital in it and probably the Russians are serious because they don't want to end up in a long, endless

conflict in Syria. They, too, want a solution.

AMANPOUR: Staffan de Mistura, U.S. special envoy on this situation, thank you so much for joining us.

DE MISTURA: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much.

And when we come back, we'll have more from Davos, where power is at its most picturesque -- but we change focus. My interview with China's self-

made real estate titan, Zhang Xin. Imagine a world with the most self-made female billionaires. That's China. That's next.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where the heights of power can be reached by anyone.

Today I spoke to Zhang Xin, a self-made billionaire and one of the world's wealthiest women. As the CEO of SOHO China, a real estate giant, she's

developed much of the Beijing skyline. And with China having two-thirds of the world's self-made female billionaires, Zhang Xin is a disrupter, as

they say here in Davos.


AMANPOUR: Zhang Xin, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: How does a young girl of 14 go from abject poverty in China to one of the richest women in the world, worth multibillions of dollars?

How did that happen?

I mean, is it your mother who put you --


AMANPOUR: -- apparently you had some financial -- I mean you worked on a factory floor for a lot of your time.

ZHANG: Well, I was able to go to England to get education. At somebody's generosity to provide a scholarship, financial aid, because you know, in

the '80s, when we left China, no one had any money, right?

And I only had worked in the factory, saved a little bit of money, enough to buy a plane ticket to go to England. So --

AMANPOUR: Did you even speak English?

ZHANG: I didn't, none at all. I started learning English at age 20.

AMANPOUR: Your SOHO China Foundation is philanthropic and you've said that China does not have a tradition of philanthropy.

ZHANG: Right.

AMANPOUR: Why and how are you trying to fix that?

ZHANG: Well, we grew up in Socialist China, where everything was provided by the state. So the idea of a philanthropy, private donation, it's

unheard of it. And then look at myself, whose been a major, major recipient and benefited so much from education at somebody's generosity.

And I thought, you know, this is something close to my heart, is to do with education.

AMANPOUR: What do you make of the Chinese economy, the slowdown which is affecting the world?

And I'm sure everybody here at Davos is talking about that.

ZHANG: Right. Well, we're definitely in a much slower growth period. Companies are all addressing, like ourselves, for instance, for the 20

years as a developer, all you needed to do is buy a piece of land and build. And most people are successful that way. But that has very much

coming to the tail end.

AMANPOUR: What inspiration would yours and your husband's -- he also came from rural China.

ZHANG: Right.

AMANPOUR: What lesson does it have, not just for Chinese people, who are looking at you, but for people around the world who see, you know, suddenly

a woman occupying a very powerful, a very rich place in the business world?

ZHANG: Well, I'd say, when there's opportunity out there, like China's last 20 years, go for it. Right. I mean there are opportunities in a lot

of countries.

Now I seek frontier countries, like Burma, coming up, right. I'm thinking, that must have a lot of opportunities there. And it's up to people to take

it and do it.

AMANPOUR: And when you read that, you know, Zhang Xin, you, are richer than Donald Trump, Steven Spielberg --

ZHANG: Oh, gosh --

AMANPOUR: Oprah Winfrey.

ZHANG: That's a joke.

AMANPOUR: It's true though, right?

ZHANG: I don't know. I don't know the numbers actually. So I don't really know.

AMANPOUR: How much are you worth?

ZHANG: I don't know.


AMANPOUR: You don't know.

Well, on that note, thank you very much.

ZHANG: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can now always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me

on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from Davos.