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Sweden's Foreign Minister on the Pressures of the Refugee Crisis; Wearing the White Helmet; Negotiating Peace While Dropping Bombs; Imagine a World. Aired 2:05-2:35p ET

Aired February 3, 2016 - 14:05   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the U.N. Syria peace talks have been suspended less than a week after all sides gathered in

Geneva and tonight a special report on the mounting casualties and the Syrian volunteers racing to rescue them.

In London, Britain prepares to host an emergency donor conference for Syria while Prime Minister Cameron also prepares to do battle over Brexit. The

Swedish foreign minister joins me.


MARGOT WALLSTROM, SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER: We're hoping that there (INAUDIBLE) would be an enormous loss for the European Union.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): And rowing their way into history: an all-woman crew, a small boat and surviving 257 cramped days on an unpredictable



NATALIA COHEN, COXLESS CREW: There were times when we felt that her wrath and her frustration, there was also the times where we sort of felt her

utter calm and silence as well.


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

David Cameron's pitch to keep the U.K. in the E.U. began in earnest today. The British prime minister went mano a mano with skeptical lawmakers in



DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: I believe that we'll succeed more of a -- as a country if we get a good deal in Europe and stay in a

reformed Europe. That will be good for jobs, good for investment, good for growth. And that's what I'm fighting for.


AMANPOUR: Cameron is also fighting for Syrian refugees, as tomorrow he hosts a major donor conference here in London. The U.N. says it needs $8

billion to address the crisis.

Last year their vital food and shelter programs were dramatically underfunded which possibly explains the massive exodus from the camps in

the region and the massive influx into Europe.

Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallstrom is among the continent's many leaders attending, as her country starts to roll up the welcome mat,

deciding to deport up to half of its asylum seekers.

She's known for her outspoken defense of European values and she spoke candidly about how Europe has failed the refugee test and about her now

famous, quote, "feminist" foreign policy.


AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, welcome to the program.

WALLSTROM: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Sweden has been incredibly generous, compared to your population. You've taken in a huge number of refugees -- I think 160,000

or so. Sweden is about to kick out half of those, 60,000 to 80,000.

Why, after all your generosity?

WALLSTROM: I would not use the words "kick out."


WALLSTROM: No, but the thing is, of course, if a system of asylum will work properly, you also have to then look at the applications and those who

do not have a reason to get asylum.

AMANPOUR: What's been the turning point?

Is it just that the system can't cope?

What's happening?

Because it's happening in Finland, in Denmark, I mean, some pretty difficult things to so stomach from liberal Scandinavia.

WALLSTROM: There are two things that I think we should mention as reasons for also changing the rules and how we deal with it.

The first is that we actually, as one rather small country, received 30 percent of all the unaccompanied children that came to Europe.

As one country, we received 30 percent of them, most of them young boys. And, of course, in the end, this causes a stress also --


WALLSTROM: -- on our system because this is a long-term responsibility. And we want to give them all the best that we have to offer a child that is

to be brought up also in Sweden.

And, secondly, the other E.U. member states did not share the responsibility for the refugees who came to Europe. And, at a certain

point, there were a few countries that bought up all the barbed wire and a few others that bought all the blankets. And I think that this is not a

system that can prevail.

So we have to share the responsibility for refugees.

AMANPOUR: So many statements out of the E.U. about an equitable sharing of the burden just never came to pass.

Has the E.U. failed?

WALLSTROM: In a way. Until now we have not been able to deal with this in a way that is satisfactory. And it also puts in question the whole Dublin

Convention, the Schengen, the idea of a Schengen area.

And I think that we will have to look at that again -- and this is also demand from our side that we have to look at the rules. So we have to look

at how it is implemented in the whole of the European Union.

But it has also put our solidarity to the test. And I think this is where we were very disappointed at a certain moment and we have had to work on

that. We've had to talk to our neighbors and we've had to talk to our friends in the European Union to explain also what are the effects and how

should we work on this together for the future.

AMANPOUR: The Swedish government, the German government, Chancellor Merkel, were considered so generous, so forward-leaning.

So the question is, were you wrong, were you naive, did you miscalculate?

WALLSTROM: I think we miscalculated the willingness of other E.U. member states to help.

AMANPOUR: But not --


AMANPOUR: -- your own country.

WALLSTROM: Well, I think what we did not the foresee, what we did not see happen was, of course, that there were so many children, so many

unaccompanied minors that came.

AMANPOUR: Why is that a problem?

WALLSTROM: Because you cannot just say, you know, get a job, get out there and get yourself somewhere to live and get a job. A child has to have

education. We miss, what is it, somewhere around 60,000 teachers. And you cannot just send them somewhere, anywhere in the country, and ask them to

establish themselves. It takes so much more, many of them needing trauma treatment.

AMANPOUR: You've become quite famous around the world for your feminist foreign policy.

What is that?

WALLSTROM: Happily. Well, this is an attitude. It's an analysis of the world, what does it look like?

So the analysis is that we are still far from equality between men and women. So we say let's look at do women enjoy the same rights?

Are they represented?

And certainly what about resources in a society?

So it's a tool, it's an instrument to use.

AMANPOUR: But it's a pretty blunt instrument, as welcome as it is for many women around the world. But you are practically persona non grata in Saudi

Arabia. You pulled the defense contract, I think. You called their -- a blogger and the way they treat women medieval. And they're pretty angry

with you.

Is that a price worth paying?

WALLSTROM: I think, you know, we all, as foreign ministers, we look for a respectful dialogue with all countries where we can have mutual respect and

be engaged in the dialogue with mutual respect. And they know our position when it comes to human rights and democracy and women's rights.

But I think today, if we look at the bigger picture in the world, it is more and more difficult to fight for human rights and democracy. So it

comes sometimes at a price.

Also saying what you think. But I also believe that we have to be a few countries there to actually run with this and, in particular, women's

rights and look at where we are now in front of this donor conference, where -- and peace negotiations in Geneva on Syria and the future of Syria:

where are women?

AMANPOUR: Do you think more countries should be doing what you do, in other words, more democracies making women's rights and human rights a big

part of their foreign policy plan?

For instance, Britain, which has been heavily criticized for its no-hold- bars (sic) friendship toward Saudi Arabia.

WALLSTROM: Definitely because it is also smart policy. It is something that we have all the research to back it up. It is -- it means often that,

if women are engaged, for example, in a peace process, you will have more options on the table and you will also have a more sustainable peace.

Can I also say, somebody said, you know, that the risk is that peace negotiations of this kind becomes bad men forgiving other bad men --


WALLSTROM: -- in fancy hotels. And it's not my expression. I stole it from somebody. But I think we really have to look out so that also the

peace negotiations and actually with the help of Saudi Arabia that defined the opposition and help to do that in a way that we all of us should


And we're trying to complement that by saying that we also give more women a chance to have their voices raised in the peace negotiations.

AMANPOUR: Are you watching the U.S. presidential election?

WALLSTROM: Yes, some of it, of course. I follow it.

AMANPOUR: Do you hope that Hillary Clinton will win?

WALLSTROM: Yes, I have to admit I do.

AMANPOUR: And finally, the E.U. is now considering the reform package offered to Britain.

From your perspective and from an E.U. perspective, Britain should stay in? Shouldn't stay in? What -- how important is it for Britain to stay in?

WALLSTROM: We need Britain to stay in. We need the U.K. to stay in the European Union. Of course, they must stay -- or we're hoping that they

will stay. And it's for the people in the U.K. to, of course, take a vote but we are hoping that they will stay because it will also mean an enormous

loss for the European Union.

AMANPOUR: Donald Tusk's draft agreement, proposal, along with Prime Minister Cameron, is being debated by the E.U. right now.

Do you think, what you've seen of it, is that it?

Is that good?

Can there be anymore from the E.U.?

WALLSTROM: We are still looking at all the details. As usual, the devil is in the details, so we are studying it carefully. And I'm not sure we

are -- we have finished all of that so they're analyzing the text.

But it looks like it's a serious attempt to try to solve some of the problems that the U.K. has. And I think he brings up a national

parliament, it's a bigger role, is absolutely something that I, myself, as the vice president in the commission, worked for.

So I think that's maybe less controversial than other parts of its social benefits and so on.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

WALLSTROM: Thank you very much. Thank you. My pleasure.


AMANPOUR: Meantime, the U.S. and Europe believe that 1,900 European fighters have now returned to the continent from Iraq and Syria and the

threat level remains high here.

After a break, the terrible and mounting death toll. Syria's White Helmets digging people out of the rubble -- next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Bad news for anyone holding out hope for a cease-fire in Syria. The U.N. special envoy has tonight declared a three-week pause in talks that have

come unstuck after barely getting underway in Geneva.

Meantime, on the battlefield, Russian airstrikes are giving President Assad the edge, such as in Aleppo. According to latest reports, where a self-

styled civil defense force calling themselves the White Helmets are often the first and only rescuers.

Nearly 3,000 Syrian men and women who volunteer to pull survivors from the wreckage make up this force. And CNN's senior international correspondent

Nima Elbagir has this insight into their extremely dangerous work.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A young survivor of Syria's civil war, trapped --


ELBAGIR (voice-over): -- in the rubble of his home, destroyed by an airstrike. His rescuers tell CNN they worked for an hour to release him

and he and his father survived.

But this boy's mother, brother and sister are now dead.

When Russian and Syrian airstrikes hit rebel-held areas in Syria, the White Helmets begin their race to find survivors. Today, they say their task is

tougher than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Every day that passes since the Russian intervention in Syria, the situation gets worse. Every day, it

cannot be imagined that a small village for example, like Damah (ph), can be exposed to 80 to 90 rockets during just three hours.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): This footage was all shot in the past three weeks, the White Helmets say, some of it on body-mounted cameras. It gives you an

eye view of their work.

Syrian activist groups tell CNN more than 600 civilians have been killed by these strikes since the year began, many of the victims children. But

there is no way to independently confirm the death toll.

There used to be a kindergarten in this Aleppo neighborhood, the White Helmets say. They report three children killed in this strike.

Their work is getting more dangerous. They say, since September, 11 of their ambulances have been destroyed in bombings. A common bombing tactic,

they say, is the double tap: striking, waiting for rescue workers to arrive and then striking again.

Here they anxiously scan the skies, hoping there won't be a second hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Honestly, it is the biggest threat for us and the biggest reason we are killed doing our work. The number of

lives lost from the Syria civil defense has now reached 100.

Why do they target us?

Because they don't just target us to target us directly. They target us as a policy of collective punishment in Syria for foreign nations who support

the regime so our societies cannot build an alternative civil society and so the regime can continue to say they are the only institution in Syria.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Russia strongly denies these claims, saying it's not targeting civilians during its military operations inside Syria.

No matter how bad it gets, the White Helmets' work will continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have a slogan that we've used from the start. It says that "Whoever saves one life, it is like saving

all of humanity."


AMANPOUR: So as I said, according to latest reports, the Russian airstrikes are helping the Assad forces gain more territory around Aleppo.

And there are dueling comments about these airstrikes by the U.S. and Russian foreign ministers.

Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday, quote, "My hope is that Russia will immediately start to implement a genuine cease-fire. A cease-

fire should be doable, folks. The Russians can control the Russian planes," to which Foreign Minister Lavrov responded today, "Russian

airstrikes will not cease until we truly win over terrorist groups. I see no reason to stop these airstrikes."

So joining me now from Moscow to discuss this is Sergei Markov. He's a former MP in President Putin's United Russia Party and he is an adviser to

the Kremlin on an unofficial basis.

Sergei Markov, welcome back to the program. Let me first ask you about these airstrikes.

Why does Russia continue with these airstrikes at the same time as trying to be present, backing the peace talks?

MARKOV: I think Russia continue airstrikes to support to the destroy Islamic State. Everybody know when United States attacked -- makes these

airstrikes, Islamic State have been increasing.

And when Russians started their airstrikes, now we see defeating of Islamic State. And we will continue our -- to help to the Syrian army and Syrian

opposition to fight against Islamic State.

My prediction is that Islamic State is real military threat will be almost disappear to the middle of this year, some think about summer. But for the

political solution, we need political negotiation. We need some political preparation for such negotiation.


MARKOV: Now we have period talk such kind of preparation. As you may know, a position coalition based by -- supplemented by area at, now not so

much ready to the real negotiation. I think few months as Saudi needs to see the Syrian army taking to more and more territory and their allies in

Syria will have to sit down on the table with some Assad envoys.

AMANPOUR: You know, Mr. Markov, you've just explained Russia's strategy so that Syria and Assad can take more and more territory and get to the

bargaining table in a stronger fashion.

So I guess the question is, are you all -- is your backing for the talks, then, a smokescreen?

Do you genuinely believe that these talks, which, anyway, have come unstuck tonight, have any chance?

Or are you waiting simply to see Assad, backed by Russian airstrikes, taking more territory?

MARKOV: I think already or did not enforceable to have a strong authoritarian regime or for Bashar al-Assad as is had been in past. And

new political solution of Syria should include some kind of federal country with representation of the different religious and ethnic groups, including

Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and not only allied recent fees (ph).

But it should be prepared. Now as we know, before taking part in negotiation, Saudi-backed and Houthi (ph) backed political and military

coalition, first of all, a demand from Damascus first of all to stop its attack and can gassed (ph) some of the cities which was occupied by

opposition. It's, of course, not realistic.

I think it should be time needed for Ankara and area to understand that they will have to go to foreign negotiation. Anyway Bashar al-Assad will

take control of the all territory of Islamic State because, in fact, only Syrian army really fighting against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra,

which is Al Qaeda.

AMANPOUR: OK. Just very quickly, as you know, most of the world says that actually Russia has been bombing opposition to Assad and not ISIS so much.

But here's a question that I want to ask you.

Did Russia, did President Putin try to get President Assad to step down?

Can you confirm to me reports in the "Financial Times" from a couple of weeks ago that Col. General Igor Sergun (ph), directing Russia's GRU

military intelligence, was sent to Damascus on this delicate mission to ask Assad to step down?

MARKOV: I think no sense now to talk about Bashar al-Assad to step down because Bashar al-Assad not only the president of the Syria but just of

all he's chief commander. And now the main goal for Syrian army to go forward and to destroy Al Qaeda and Islamic State.

And without chief commander, soldiers doesn't fight really. That's why before victory over the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, even no reason to

discuss any possibility for Bashar al-Assad to step down. That's why we suggested to the Washington, London, Riyadh, Ankara just to stop talking

even about this and go to the negotiation.

But after the victory over the terrorist groups, which is Al Qaeda and Islamic State, for Russia, then negotiations would happen and we don't know

if -- probably Bashar al-Assad would like to go away to allow political process to go forward.

Maybe he's going to stay because he will be mostly victorious. And I would say more ariak (ph) and kara (ph) and Washington is waiting having no real

negotiation. More Bashar al-Assad will be champion from this war.

AMANPOUR: All right. Mr. Markov, thank you for so transparently laying out the Kremlin's policy currently.


AMANPOUR: Thank you very much indeed for joining us from Moscow.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, an inspiring story of survival: 20,000 leagues around the sea, imagine a world of eat, sleep, row and repeat.

That's next.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world rowing with the flow.

We told you last week about the six intrepid British women, who rowed 9,200 miles across the Pacific Ocean in a 29-foot boat named Doris. They rowed

and they rowed and they rowed all the way from San Francisco to Cairns on the northeast coast of Australia.

It took them nearly nine months and now they're back on home ground, promoting their charities for breast cancer and wounded vets and by talking

about their incredible journey. We reached out to one of the rowers by phone. Natalia Cohen told us how they survived and how they stayed sane.



COHEN: Every day really was very, very similar. We would eat, sleep, row, repeat, as we say. We would row for two hours and then rest for two hours.

And that would be repeated over a 24 -hour period. Most of the rest shifts, we would try and sleep as much as we could, which was normally

about a 90-minute sleep by the time you sort of got your head down.

And then there was two awake shifts, where we would have to eat, wash, blog and do everything else that needed to be done. All of our hands are fairly

callused. I think the sores and pressure sores, especially on our bums, that was definitely the most challenging for everybody, I think.

There was quite a lot of ways that we stayed sort of mentally stimulated. We had music, we had audio books. We told each other our life stories.

Just sort of staring out at the ocean, as well. It was ever-changing in the sea state and the 360-degree horizon and the wildlife.

Just being surrounded and immersed in Mother Nature and just having to literally go with the flow. We worked with performance enhancing

strategies, conflict management. When an issue arose, we'd sort of bring it up with each other straightaway and then move on really quickly. And I

think that was a key to our success, was our ability to let things go.

One of the things I missed the most was having a bubble bath. I think fresh fruits and vegetables as well because all of our food was freeze-

dried. So it was so good coming back and actually having fresh produce. Now we're dedicating the next six months to really pushing the fundraising.

And although we chose of course our literal Pacific, obviously there are just so many --


COHEN: -- people out there that have their own Pacific to cross and their own challenges. But they don't choose to happen. So we're just trying to

create as much awareness as we can.


AMANPOUR: And you can see online their specific charities. That was Natalia Cohen on their incredible journey.

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

Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.