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Syria Peace Talks Hang in the Balance; Danish Drama Explores Complexities of War; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 28, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: who will turn up to the Syria peace talks?

They are meant to begin in Geneva on Friday but the opposition coalition has threatened to boycott. My exclusive interview with Riyad Hijab, the

head of their high negotiations committee.


RIYAD HIJAB, FORMER SYRIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Assad does not want a political solution. I know Bashar al-Assad. I used to be his

prime minister before I defected.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Also ahead, the Oscar nominated film, "A War," explores the agony and the complexity of keeping your moral compass, even

in the heat of battle. The Danish director and a soldier-turned-actor join us.

MARTIN ANDERSEN, SOLDIER AND ACTOR: I think, as a soldier, regardless which country you're from, you're faced with some very, very huge moral

dilemmas when you're on the battlefield.



AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

The invitations are out, hotel rooms are booked and journalists are descending on Geneva. For the first time in two years, the warring sides

in Syria are meant to try again to find a political way out.

The U.N. special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, has organized proximity talks, which means the parties won't meet; they'll be in separate rooms with de

Mistura shuttling between them. But even that may be too much to ask.

The opposition is threatening to boycott unless the Assad regime lifts sieges and stops bombarding Syrian civilians.

There are also new questions about Assad's future and who is calling the shots.

Russia, Iran, the USA, Saudi Arabia?

It is clear that Russia's 3.5-month bombing campaign has made gains on the ground for Assad.

So does that make it more or less likely that he'll engage in meaningful negotiations?

I started by asking the head of the opposition high negotiation committee, Riyad Hijab, who joined me from Saudi Arabia, which has organized the

opposition on behalf of all the big powers who are taking part. Dr. Hijab is also a former Syrian prime minister. And he's the highest level

defector from the Assad government.


AMANPOUR: Dr. Hijab, welcome to the program.

HIJAB (through translator): Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Let me start by asking you, will you be going to the peace talks, the proximity talks, in Geneva tomorrow?

Is the HNC going?

HIJAB (through translator): The HNC has taken all arrangements and has taken all steps in order to participate in the peace process. We sent two

memos. The first one was to Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, in which we expressed our gratitude to the U.N. secretary-general and to the

international society.

We mentioned to Mr. Ban Ki-moon that we take a positive look into the upcoming peace process.

But, however, there has been some negative things, such as the U.N. Resolution 2254, which contains some articles that we consider negative,

particularly Article 12 and 13, which discuss humanitarian aspects regarding not targeting civilian areas.

And they discuss a need to lift the siege on civilians and to -- the release of women and children detainees. It's also discussed sending

humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.

We sent that memo to Mr. Ban Ki-moon and we are anticipating a response from him.

We told Mr. de Mistura that these principles are above the negotiation, that we cannot -- that they are final, which cannot be discussed or they

cannot be compromised.

AMANPOUR: Russia, for the last 3.5 months, have been bombing inside Syria. And many say they've been helping the Assad regime. Just a few days ago,

the Assad regime won back a very key, key place called Al-Shaykh Maskin.

So is Assad gaining more?

Will he want to come to negotiate at the --


AMANPOUR: -- table?

Or will he want to keep fighting on the battlefield?

HIJAB (through translator): Assad does not want a political solution. I know Bashar al-Assad. I used to be his prime minister before I defected.

And I know about his barbarism, his -- he believes in military solutions only. He does not want a political process, neither does Russia. All they

want is a military resolution. That's why they come to such peace talks in order to make them fail.

They do not come in order to accomplish a peaceful transition.

The one who has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians, the one who has been detaining thousands and thousands of people, who has destroyed

infrastructure in Syria, will he accept a peaceful transitional period?

And Russia, which has provided the umbrella for such a criminal regime, will they be serious about reaching a peaceful resolution?

No. They want a military resolution.

AMANPOUR: Well, what about the United States?

Because we understand that the United States has sent a message to you, Dr. Hijab, as head of the HNC opposition, basically saying that they have an

understanding with the Russians, with the foreign minister, that there will be no set timetable for President Assad to leave and that you might have to

accept President Assad being part of a national unity government.

Have you received that word from the United States?

HIJAB (through translator): No, I did not hear any such thing from any U.S. official. Mr. Kerry made it clear that the U.S. -- he and President

Obama are committed to the departure of Assad.

But we asked Mr. Kerry, when will that happen?

We want Assad to get out of presidency immediately after the peace talks; within the first months, let's say. But in order to say that Assad is

remaining indefinitely, that will not help peace.

Five years since Mr. Obama said -- the president of the U.S. said that Assad lost his legitimacy five years ago because he had been killing his

own people and he used chemical weapons and which Mr. -- President Obama considered a red line, that he could not cross.

Now three years later, after using the chemical weapons, Assad is still in power. So we are asking about what kinds of commitment that is, what kind

of commitment toward the Syrian people.

United States is supposed to be the sponsor of democracy and human rights. Now the Syrians are fighting along Bashar al-Assad while the Syrian people

are dying of cold, of hunger. The Iranians are also fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad.

So who are the friends of the Syrian people?

What kind of friends are those?

The Syrian people are suffering all types of starvation, all types of destruction. We are asking the United States, where are the promises and

pledges made by President Obama in 2011?

AMANPOUR: The foreign secretary of Great Britain, Philip Hammond, has said that if you, as the opposition, do not go to these proximity talks, you

will be handing the Assad regime a propaganda coup.

What is your reaction to that?

HIJAB (through translator): Please, understand our position. The Syrian people today are dying under bombardment. They are dying of hunger.

We are the ones who seek peace. We are the ones who are interested in peace and in a transitional period. My personal dream is that I and my

colleagues in the HNC can accomplish a peaceful transition in Syria and to end the Syrian tragedy, that Syrian people can go back to their homes and

live normal life like everyone else.

And we want peace, equality and liberty and the rule of law.

We don't want to go to talks that are -- that are doomed to failure. We -- I'm saying we are willing to go to negotiate tomorrow morning.

But now the national society has to live up to its commitments.


HIJAB (through translator): The United States is one of the countries and it's a permanent member of the Security Council. The United States has

been -- has been unable to get a can of milk for a starving child in Madaya.

Can such an international society accomplish a peaceful transition after five years of criminalism, atrocities by Bashar al-Assad and his allies?

After five years is the international society really serious to accomplish a peaceful transition in Syria?

We are the ones who are most interested in such a peaceful transition because we are the ones who are suffering.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Riyad Hijab, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

HIJAB: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And of course, central to all of this are the mounting civilian deaths and the millions of refugees. Yesterday on this program, we talked

of the horror of so many children dying during crossings and being barred from entering certain European countries, even the United States.

Now under pressure, today, the British government says it will take in unaccompanied child refugees.

After a break, we turn to "A War," the Oscar-nominated film. It's Denmark's powerful entry and it's about the Afghan war, starring real

soldiers and real refugees, that's next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

"War is hell," as the saying goes.

But what happens to your moral compass in that hell?

This is the complex dilemma thrashed out in the Danish drama, "A War." It got an Oscar nod in the Best Foreign Film Category. And it stars real

soldiers and real refugees, which adds to the verite of this story.

It's about a Danish contingent of NATO forces in Afghanistan and centers on a commander, who is accused of unlawful killing after opting to save his

own soldiers over a group of Afghan civilians.

It's getting tremendous reviews. And I spoke with director Tobias Lindholm and the soldier-turned actor, Martin Andersen. I spoke to them the day

they heard they might win an Oscar.


AMANPOUR: Gentlemen, welcome to the program. And I have to start by saying congratulations. Your film has been nominated for Best Foreign Film

for the Oscars.

What do you think it is about this film that appeals?

And particularly it's unusual because of the use of real vets and also real Afghan refugees.

ANDERSEN: I think one of the things that this film really does very well is it handles some of the different subjects that are very difficult to

handle by politicians, by the military, by the regular media. And, in that way, it makes us reflect on the wars that we've been fighting for the past


AMANPOUR: This film shows the dilemma between what a commander has done in order to save his battlefield family.

And what he did in your film was call down airstrikes on somewhere that he wasn't sure what it was.

Give me the dilemma that you were facing.

What is your message, Tobias, with the central story of this film?



LINDHOLM: -- to make a portrayal of the war as a complex thing. It's not simple. It can't be written on Twitter in 140 characters. It's


It's complex and it's very human that it's complex. And I wanted to tell the story in that way instead of just announcing somebody to be good and

somebody else to be evil.

But I actually, from a human perspective, tried to put everybody down in this -- in the soldier's boots and saying do I want to save my men or do I

want to risk the lives of civilians?

I mean, who could make that choice?

I definitely know that I couldn't.

And in that way, I just wanted to make a story that respected the complexity of war and the complexity of Denmark sending soldiers to war.

AMANPOUR: So the premise of this revolves around a lie. the lie that the commander, the lead actor, has to take, from the battlefield into his home

and then into the courtroom.

We're going to start with this clip, where the wife is confronting her husband about what he's going to say about what he did.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): The issue is not what you should have done but what you do now.

Will four years in prison help you?

Will that make you feel better?

Will the children feel better?

We need you at home. The children need you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): I dropped that bomb. It was my decision. I can't put the blame on the men.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): No, so just do as he says. Say you had the (INAUDIBLE) PID. Say you don't remember who gave it to you. You

have killed eight children but you have three living ones at home.


AMANPOUR: Wow. I mean, it's so intense. I mean, here's this wife; basically she wants her husband to lie under oath about something that's

banned under international law. There is no complexity under international law, when you kill civilians, that is a war crime.

ANDERSEN: Well, I think, as a soldier, regardless which country you're from, you're faced with some very, very huge moral dilemmas when you're on

the battlefield. And one thing about coming home is also surviving that part of it.

So one thing for soldiers is to survive being on the battlefield. But you also have to survive when you go back home.

And I think this movie portrays this as a big symbol of how do you come back as a whole person after the things that you experienced in war.

AMANPOUR: Tell me from your personal perspective, because you obviously are a vet. You're a soldier. You fought in those very wars.

How tough was it?

Did you ever confront anything remotely like that in your experience?

ANDERSEN: Personally, I've -- I don't think I've experienced exactly what happens in the movie but I've experienced quite many things that have

really pushed my limit and pushed my judgment and where I have been asking myself, am I actually doing what is right right now?

And I think when you're in a business where you're actually killing other people -- and that is what war is -- and it is not a very nice thing, but

you really are faced with these horrible dilemmas and you just have to find a way to get yourself through that.

AMANPOUR: And, Tobias, let me turn to you for the next scene because that, you know, insistence by the wife, that her husband lie to save himself and

to save his family, translates into the courtroom under oath. Let's play a scene and we'll talk about it.


AMANPOUR: So what were you -- what were you trying to force the audience to understand there?

LINDHOLM: I wanted to try to get the audience to sympathize with him, even though he does what he does and humanize this soldier instead of

dehumanizing him by only talking about what he's done out there.

By actually giving him a wife and some children and giving him some choices that can identify him as a human being.

AMANPOUR: What was going on in Denmark or what was going on in your sort of environment that made you choose this particular story?

What was the trigger?

LINDHOLM: The thing is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan just after 9/11 is the first one that Denmark fought since Second World War. So you

can imagine that this has more than anything else defined my generation in Denmark.

And I don't think that we've been speaking nearly enough about it. And I wanted to try to make a film -- I didn't know the exact story.

But then one day, I read in an interview with a Danish officer going on his third tour to Afghanistan.

And he said, "I'm not afraid of getting killed down there. I'm afraid of getting prosecuted when I get back home."

And right then --


LINDHOLM: -- I knew there was a story to tell. I started and I didn't understand and I think that that statement was so complex and so

interesting that it made me reach out and try to find soldiers that I -- that could share their experiences with me. And luckily I found Martin and

the guys.

AMANPOUR: Martin, did you find that fear amongst your comrades in arms, that people were worried, what if they did something and they ended up, you

know, being prosecuted?

ANDERSEN: Very much so, very much so. And part of -- a few of my colleagues have actually been in situations where they were faced with

charges of war crimes.

And I think it was an everyday concern on the battlefield in Afghanistan, especially later, as the campaign progressed. The rules of engagement

changed quite dramatically for the soldiers.

And it had turned out to be very, very difficult to maneuver and to actually to be able to fight the war.

AMANPOUR: You've now played this dilemma on film. But in the real world, if some soldier goes rogue and slaughters civilians, even if it is to help

save his own comrades, those are prosecuted.

There need to be those rules, right?

LINDHOLM: I totally agree. And the rules of engagement are there for a reason and the rules of war are there for a reason and we need to respect

those rules, no doubt about it.

The thing is that when you make a political decision to send soldiers to war and make rules that make -- makes it hard for them to do their job and

try to expect that wars can be fought in a civilized way, there is some contradiction in that that I find interesting.

And I felt that that was a necessary story to tell for us here in Selkirk, Denmark, to try to understand what we've been part of down there.

AMANPOUR: You're right. It's so complex. Tobias Lindholm and Col. Andersen, thank you both very much for joining me.

LINDHOLM: Thank you so much.

ANDERSEN: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Now after "A War," we've decided to go in search of a little peace, peace of mind, at least. When we come back, imagine a world

unafraid of natural disasters. The incredible water wunderkind Henk Ovink and the technology to prepare and protect us, that's next.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world that could ride out even the biggest storm. It's a fight that Henk Ovink, Holland's own Aquaman, is

determined to win by radically rethinking the capacity of our cities to deal with water and all its crises, including rising sea levels.

His most ambitious project yet, Rebuild by Design, is aimed at restoring New Jersey's Hoboken waterfront after it was devastated by Hurricane Sandy

back in 2012. We caught up with him at the Royal Institute of British Architects here in London, where Ovink is also trying to help the U.K.

government deal with --


AMANPOUR: -- its recent extreme flooding.


HENK OVINK, SPECIAL ENVOY FOR INTERNATIONAL WATER AFFAIRS, THE NETHERLANDS: Crises are increasing in frequency, so we'll have more and in impacts. And

those are any crises.

So more flooding, to rains and storm events and longer periods of droughts. And in those places at risk, at the edge, you have to start to prepare and

not to respond to disasters that are happening.

And it's my conviction that you can make it easy and understandable by working together. So when Hurricane Sandy hit the New York region, it

created an enormous disaster, huge impact, hundreds of thousands of houses lost, hundreds of people killed.

For that, I developed Rebuild by Design, a competition that was not focused on so much on repairing what was lost because of, you know, the Sandy

disaster but prepare the region for the future.

One of the projects that was developed within Rebuild by Design was the Hoboken project. We said we need a long-term, comprehensive approach full

of defense, increase the capacity of the city to hold water. Greening public spaces and green roofing, changing the sewage system, upgrading it

so it can actually deal with too much water and store the water.

And of course, you need to get rid of it, new pumping stations and new technical investments to ensure that your city stays dry.

Like the U.K., all over the world, you see these extremes increase. And in the U.K. I'm not sure of the long-term approach, short-term intervention

and better finance that is connected to the long-term approach. But it's a choice. We need to really want this.

And if we all want this, then also the U.K. can be very water-resilient. Preparedness instead of response should be the best way forward.

World Economic Forum actually says that water crisis is the number one global risk for the next decade, not only because of the impact through

surges and storms and pollution and droughts but also because water is at the origin of other crises, droughts increase conflicts and dams increase

trans-boundary conflict.

And we have no choice. There is no time to waste.


AMANPOUR: Henk Ovink with all sorts of new technology and design.

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

Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.