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RNC Highlights; Melania Trump Speech Controversy; IOC May Ban Russia from Rio; Erdogan Supporters Rally after Failed Coup; John Kerry to Hold Press Conference in London. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired July 19, 2016 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Ahead on the INTERNATIONAL DESK: she said it well.
But who said it first?
Controversy over Melania Trump's speech.
Will Russia go to Rio?
The IOC weighs Team Russia's fate.
And Britain's controversial top diplomat works to bring peace to Syria.
NEWTON: Hello and welcome. I'm Paula Newton.
We begin with the big show in politics. The Republican National Convention, now, Donald Trump's intensely private wife stepped into the
spotlight Monday, the campaign is bringing Trump's family on to the stage this week, saying they want to give delegates and voters a glimpse of the
But Melania Trump also gave voters a glimpse into another candidate and a whole other speech. Our Phil Mattingly has more.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The similarities are startling.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: You work hard for what you want in life.
MELANIA TRUMP, DONALD'S WIFE: That you work hard for what you want in life.
MICHELLE OBAMA: That your word is your bond, that you do what you say you're going to do.
MELANIA TRUMP: That your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep you promise.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Melania Trump's big moment on the national stage overshadowed by an unexpected moment: Trump delivering a speech with
plagiarized passages of Michelle Obama's speech from the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
MICHELLE OBAMA: We want our children and all children in this nation to know.
MELANIA TRUMP: Because we want our children in this nation to know.
MICHELLE OBAMA: -- that the only limits of the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.
MELANIA TRUMP: -- that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): And that's not all.
MICHELLE OBAMA: -- that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them and even if you don't agree with them.
MELANIA TRUMP: -- that you treat people with respect.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Under a firestorm of criticism online, the Trump campaign issuing this statement overnight, saying, quote, "Melania's team
of writers took notes on her life's inspirations and, in some instances, included fragments that reflected her own thinking."
But the statement doesn't acknowledge the allegations of plagiarism, mention who helped Ms. Trump write her speech or explain where those
fragments came from.
In an interview shot before her big speech, Melania seems to take most of the credit for the content of her remarks.
MELANIA TRUMP: I wrote it and with as little help as possible.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Donald Trump's "Apprentice"-like entrance to introduce his wife on stage, yet another moment that has everyone talking
about this unconventional convention.
NEWTON: Now the campaign is standing by the speech. Sources say an aide to Trump's campaign chair, Paul Manafort, oversaw the speech. Here's what
he told "NEW DAY" earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech. These were common words and values that she cares about
her family, that -- things like that.
I mean, she was speaking in front of 35 million people last night. She knew that. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is
crazy. I mean and so this is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks out to demean her and take her down.
It's not going to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Now it's interesting, just a few moments ago, he had another press conference again, again was questioned, repeated the same thing,
essentially blaming Hillary Clinton for what happened there.
He is, as we say, Donald Trump's top adviser. And he's blaming all that scrutiny of Melania Trump and that speech on Hillary Clinton and the
Now Trump's rival was the focus of the convention, as you can imagine, on Monday. Our Manu Raju takes us through what was an incredibly exciting and
controversial day on that convention floor in Cleveland.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NYC: Hillary Clinton's experience is the basis for her campaign. Hillary Clinton's experience is exactly the reason
she should not be President of the United States.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Republican Party, uniting on day one of the Cleveland convention, behind one goal:
taking down Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I did a 10th of what she did, I would be in jail today. So Crooked Hillary Clinton --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- leave this race now.
RAJU (voice-over): At least three speakers explicitly calling for the presumptive Democratic nominee to be jailed for using a private e-mail
server when she was secretary of state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all know she loves her pantsuits. But we should send her an e-mail and tell her that she deserves a bright orange jumpsuit.
RAJU (voice-over): Including the mother of Sean Smith, one of the Americans killed in the Benghazi attack.
MOTHER OF SEAN SMITH: I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son. Hillary for prison. She deserves to be in stripes.
RAJU (voice-over): One after another, painting Clinton as someone who can't be trusted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clinton and the Obama administration for political reasons lied about the purpose of the attacks, including Hillary Clinton
lying directly to the families of the people who were killed right to their face.
RAJU (voice-over): GOP leaders, TV stars past and present and rising stars of the Republican Party jumped at the chance to discredit Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be nice to have a commander in chief who could be trusted to handle classified information.
RAJU (voice-over): The opening night of the convention, coming one day after a second deadly ambush on police in less than two weeks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to make something very clear. Blue lives matter in America.
RAJU (voice-over): With the nation on edge, the divide between police and the black community playing out on the convention floor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they come to save your life, they don't ask if you are black or white. They just come to save you.
RAJU (voice-over): Including former presidential candidate and New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who delivered a fiery speech on behalf of his
long-time friend, Donald Trump.
GIULIANI: What happened to there is no black America, there is no white America, there is just America?
What happened to it?
Where did it go?
How has it flown away?
RAJU (voice-over): Trump himself drawing attention away from his own convention by calling in for an interview on FOX News, blaming Black Lives
Matter for instigating the recent police killing.
DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you're calling death to police and kill the police essentially, which is what they said, that's
a real problem, Bill, that's a real big problem.
NEWTON: Our Hala Gorani is in Cleveland to sort this all out for us.
Now, Hala, I expected this would be an easy handoff to you today, not controversial. We can all feel for Melania Trump. And yet it seems that
the campaign is just exacerbating things right now.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And, of course, the Trump campaign wanted day one to be about the theme of the day, make America safe
again. They had, as you saw in those pieces, many of high profile speakers like Rudy Giuliani, you had as well some politicians, who were telling the
assembled Republican and Trump supporters here that they should be very worried, that Trump is a candidate of law and order and that they don't
want four more years of Obama policies.
However, this was all overshadowed after this controversy surrounding Melania Trump's speech, that there was a passage clearly similar, in some
cases, word for word, to a 2008 Michelle Obama speech. I'm joined now by the editor in chief of "The Daily Beast," John Avlon; Brian Stelter's our
senior media correspondent and the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."
Thanks to both of you.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala.
GORANI: All right.
So here we have it this -- and we, by the way, sources are telling CNN Donald Trump, John, is furious, quote-unquote.
AVLON: And he should be. Look, this -- she gave a speech that was very well received in the room; it's the opening night of the convention and yet
everything with the Trump team is a metaphor.
They stepped on their message and this is now a major distraction and it's really uncomfortable because here you have his third wife, who is really
passionate about -- she's featured heavily in his biography and it looks like either she or whoever wrote this speech lifted a speech, a paragraph
from a Michelle Obama speech and edited a few words and now it's out there. And they can spin it, they can deflect it but there it is.
GORANI: They're basically saying there was no plagiarism.
AVLON: And that's a lie.
GORANI: And that is not factually correct.
So let me ask you, though, Brian -- yes --
BRIAN STELTER, CNNMONEY SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: -- deny and reality various times. (INAUDIBLE) this a post-fact, post-truth election.
But I hope not. It doesn't have to be. We can be honest about this.
This was plagiarism. It's not necessarily Melania Trump's fault. She was clearly given these words by speechwriters. I feel sympathetic for her for
what she's going through right now. But the campaign has to address it.
GORANI: But would it be, Brian, less of an issue if she hadn't told Matt Lauer of NBC News, "I don't really need to practice that much because
basically I wrote this speech as much as it was possible for me to write?"
STELTER: You know, I might have said the same thing on the plane on the way over here to Cleveland. But that's the kind of fib that gets you in
trouble in a situation like this.
The question is what will she say and what will Donald Trump say? We know he's privately furious. But he hasn't addressed it publicly yet. He could
make this into a great --
STELTER: -- TV moment tonight at the convention. After all, he's known for two words, "You're fired."
So why doesn't he have that moment from "The Apprentice" here?
GORANI: They've named names. Someone -- and I have to confess, I did not know -- but at Paul Manafort, the campaign manager, deputy, Rick Gates, was
Is someone getting fired today?
AVLON: Well, no, he was asked about it and has now, just moments ago, flatly denied it, saying he absolutely did not oversee that speech.
STELTER: (INAUDIBLE) failure --
AVLON: He's an orphan. And it's true.
The other universal truth, though, is the tone comes to the top in every organization. And the fact that Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, this
morning, when confronted on this question by CNN's Chris Cuomo, his immediate impulse was to lie, say there was no plagiarism and then to blame
it somehow on Hillary Clinton for attacking strong women.
GORANI: It's a conspiracy essentially. They want to make us look bad. If you attack Hillary Clinton, this is what you get; you get these attacks on
our campaign that are unfair.
STELTER: And it's crazy to think that there is plagiarism. But the side- by-side video, reading the transcript, watching the words, that speaks for itself. The campaign can deny it and it has denied other basic truths as
well in the past. And that's a challenge for journalists coverage this convention.
GORANI: OK. Let's talk about this convention. It's been very unorthodox, very unconventional in fact.
GORANI: But great for that reason. But at the same time, it's deflecting from the Donald Trump message, the campaign message, make America safe
again. They had speaker after speaker, essentially telling Americans, are you in mortal danger every minute of every day of your life.
And then she was meant to humanize Donald Trump, she was meant to make him appear -- you know, present him as a family man and a loyal companion.
AVLON: Yes. And I think, most notably, the speech failed to do that. Right? I mean, Americans know Donald Trump from television; they know him
from this primary campaign.
What they don't have a sense of him is a husband and a father --
GORANI: But did they get that sense of --
AVLON: -- they didn't, because she didn't offer any personal anecdotes. It was all boilerplate. And look, we've been also told that Trump is
taking notes from Richard Nixon's 1968 campaign. One of Richard Nixon's truism was, people are motivated by fear, not love. They don't tell you
that in Sunday school but it's true.
Last night's safety night was also fear night. I think that's actually indicative of the Trump campaign's fear plus celebrity.
GORANI: And tonight we're expecting Paul Ryan; Chris Christie; Tiffany Trump; his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., as well.
Thanks to both of you, John Avlon and Brian Stelter, always a pleasure.
All right, there you have it, Paula. We'll have a lot more coverage from Cleveland, the Republican National Convention, day two, with all the
unpredictable twists and turns that we've come to expect at this stage. Back to you.
NEWTON: Yes, underscore unpredictable. Thanks, Hala, appreciate that.
GORANI: Thank you.
NEWTON: You're at the INTERNATIONAL DESK here.
Still ahead, the Olympics are just weeks away.
But will any of Russia's athletes be participating?
What Olympic officials are considering after new doping allegations.
Also Turkey's crackdown, after a weekend coup attempt, stretches to the United States. President Erdogan wants this man turned over to face
accusations that he's responsible for the failed government overthrow. Stay with us.
NEWTON: Now another big story we've been following here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, at this hour, the International Olympic Committee is
deciding whether to ban Russian athletes from the upcoming Rio games. Now it comes just a day after a report found state-supported doping in Russian
sports at the 2014 Winter Games.
Joining us now from Moscow is Jill Dougherty, she's a researcher at the International Center for Defense and Security.
And also here with me in studio is "WORLD SPORT's" Patrick Snell.
Jill, to you first. We did get that Russian reaction. Vladimir Putin, unfortunately here, really bringing politics, geopolitics, in fact, into
this sports equation and this huge doping controversy.
JILL DOUGHERTY, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR DEFENSE AND SECURITY: Yes, you have two things that he's saying. Essentially he's saying this is all
about politics but it's a serious issue and we have got to look into it and we will take some steps. And he actually did.
He did not temporarily suspend or fire the head of the Russian sports federation but he did -- sorry, the deputy -- the minister of sports -- but
he did temporarily -- or actually they have decided to temporarily -- yes, I'm losing my English -- to temporarily suspend -- the deputy head of the
sports ministry is going to be temporarily set aside for a while until this investigation goes on.
So what, Paula, I think you'd have to say seriously, that they are -- that the president is acknowledging the seriousness because, internationally, he
really has to do that.
But domestically, he is hanging pretty tough and saying, but, ultimately, this is all about politics and politics means making it embarrassing for
Russia. And the United States and England and other Western countries trying to control the international sports system, that's essentially the
message that you're getting from the president and from other officials here in Russia.
NEWTON: Yes. And Jill, I don't blame you to losing your English, because you're impeccably fluent in Russian and I can think of no better person to
really interpret this message from Russia because you know, again, he's bringing in all the political controversy and doing it strategically.
Patrick, I want to go to you now.
In terms -- if we take the Russian reaction, we have spoken to athletes, Russian athletes, right now in the middle of training, trying to figure
out, am I going to Rio or aren't I go to Rio?
And we have to say, some of these athletes are completely clean.
PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And I spoke to one of them a couple of weeks ago, Dalia Kashina (ph) and he's a long jumper
competition. She's crucially based outside of Russia, outside of the Russian system in the U.S. state of Florida. She's undergone -- I think
she told me five anti-doping tests, all clean from her point of view.
So she's in the state of limbo, so she's trying to compete un der the neutral flag as well. But this is a crucial, crucial developments here.
We're still waiting -- just to remind our viewers -- waiting to hear from the International Olympic Committee. They are meeting at this hour, we
understand, just what sanctions, if any, will be imposed.
And the other strand to this story, if you like, Paula, is the fact that just to remind our viewers again, as this highly complex story evolves,
that Russia's track and field athletes are already banned, serving a worldwide ban. This was imposed by the IAAF, athletics' world governing
They, though, are taking their case to the court of arbitration for sport. We're due to get a ruling on that on Thursday. The outcome of that one is
really crucial as well because if there is a finding on their favor, then how can a blanket ban on all Russian athletes be imposed?
So, again, there's all kinds of strands here. Then you have the other issue of do you punish one, do you punish them all?
And remember, Russia is 2018. Russia's going to be hosting the FIFA World Cup of football as well. So there's all kinds of things in play here. It's
intriguing, to say the least.
NEWTON: Yes, it's good that you put on the table because we're still at a point where we could have all the Russian athletes competing or no Russian
athletes competing. I mean, that is still kind of what's at stake here.
In terms of the IOC, how far they will go, given IOC comments -- and they kind of knew where this whole investigation was going to end up even before
the announcement yesterday, it doesn't seem as if they're likely to put on that complete ban.
Or do you think they will say once and for all, we need to send a tough message?
SNELL: It's certainly what I will say is this, there is growing pressure, there is a lot of pressure from former athletes as well, particularly now
retired stars, saying, yes, absolutely, a lot of columnists, a lot of people are saying that.
But this is the point I want to make. This is legacy defining for the current IOC president, Thomas Bach himself. On this, will he be judged.
There's no question about that. I can see, I can fully see why the IOC are locked in talks for --
SNELL: -- many hours this day, Tuesday.
When will they release that statement?
What will it be exactly?
Thomas Bach, big decision; he has got to get it right. The world is watching closer than ever before.
NEWTON: Yes, absolutely, a lot at stake. As you say, 2.5 weeks to those Rio games opening. Patrick, thanks so much. We'll continue to follow the
story through the coming hours.
In the meantime, investigators are sorting out Monday's shocking ax attack on a train in Southern Germany that left at least four people seriously
wounded. Details are emerging about the teenager who went on the rampage before being shot dead by police.
We want to go straight to Berlin and to CNN's Atika Shubert.
Atika, in terms of the reaction to this right now, we have to remind our viewers Germany has taken in a excess of 1 million refugees. And it's put
a burden on the social system there.
What are people saying about this suspect and what could have gone wrong?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is exactly what many people here fear. There was a lot of concern about a
possible rise in crime rates, a possible risk of more -- of Germany becoming a target for terror.
And so this attack plays into those fears. We're actually just hearing from the Bavarian prosecutor now, getting some more details of the attack
itself and who the attacker was.
We know that he's a 17-year-old Afghan refugee that came into Germany last year, along with thousands of others; in fact, more than 1 million over the
last year have come through.
And he was living in temporary refugee housing up until two weeks ago, when he was then taken in by a host family. On Saturday, according to the
prosecutor, he received word that one of his very good friends in Afghanistan had recently died. Now we don't know how this factored into
his state of mind, what happened.
But it does appear that this, what's described as a quiet teenager by many -- unremarkable, not linked to extremism in any way -- seems to somehow
have triggered this violent attack.
Now we also have -- at the same time, we know this information. ISIS has put out two messages through its news channel, Amaq, one claiming that he
is a -- that the attacker was a soldier of the Islamic State. They have also put out a video of what they allege is the attacker making threats.
Now we do not know if that video is the attacker. We are trying to get confirmation from police and prosecutors. But obviously very concerning
that ISIS has put out these messages.
Now at this point, police and prosecutors have not classified it as a terror attack but now that this video is out, that may change things --
NEWTON: Yes, and that will, of course, change the way people perceive this attack and certainly everything they're doing to try and socially integrate
a lot of those refugees in the coming months.
Our Atika Shubert there, live for us in Berlin.
Now the Turkish government's ongoing purge in the wake of last weekend's failed military coup is widening far past its borders. It is seeking the
extradition of a cleric living in the United States.
CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon joins me now live from Istanbul
And you know, Arwa, they're not showing any measure of error here. They're trying to say to the United States, look, this is clear; you can extradite
him if we want him extradited.
And the person we're talking about is, of course, Mr. Gulen, who they accuse -- who is sitting in Pennsylvania right now -- and they accuse of
playing a part in this attempted coup.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not just playing a part, Paula, they're actually accusing him of being the mastermind of
this most recent attempted coup.
And prior to that, the Turks say that they have all sorts of intelligence relating to what they claim is his role in trying to put together an armed
terrorist organization. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, in self-imposed exile in the United States and Turkey is basically saying that they have, at this
stage, four files of evidence against him, that they believe firmly make their case.
And they do view this as being a test of the friendship between the U.S. and Turkey, at what is most certainly a very crucial point.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not been as shy -- he rarely is -- in coming out and blankly saying that the U.S. has to hand him over, otherwise
alluding to the fact that there might potentially be consequences between the relations of these two key NATO allies.
And this is all really adding pressure onto that relationship but also adding to this growing pressure and discontent that exists here right now,
because, yes, this attempted coup did fail.
But there is a fair amount of concern amongst Erdogan's opponents as to how widespread the net is being cast, in terms of how many people are either
being suspended from their positions or brought into custody, accused of having ties to this attempted coup.
There are great concerns that Erdogan is going to be using this to go after all voices of dissent. Of course this is something that the president
But that being said, this an unprecedented chapter in Turkey's history. It has not dealt with a violent attempt at a coup in the past. Historically,
all of the coups that have taken place here have been fairly peaceful --
DAMON: -- but this is a coup that took place against a president, who does have a significant amount of people power that he can wield. He is highly
divisive, yes, but he does have a fairly strong support base.
This is on of top of all of the other challenges that the country is facing right now with the ongoing threat from ISIS, the ongoing threat and clashes
that are taking place with the Kurdish group, the separatist group, the PKK.
So it's really thrown this nation into territory that it is unfamiliar with and it's really jarred the population in a way that we have not seen
NEWTON: Yes, and definitely spurred the government to act against thousands, literally thousands now, under some kind of what they're calling
legal implication for being linked to this attempted coup someway, somehow.
Arwa Damon there, live in Istanbul, continues to cover those developments for us.
Now in Northern India, a 21-year-old college student says she suffered the same horrific crime twice. She was gang-raped allegedly by the same men
who raped her three years ago.
CNN's Sumnima Udas has more.
SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a virtual media lockdown, so authorities are not the allowing journalists to talk to the victim or the
family members at the moment.
But what's happened is a group of activists managed to barge their way in and they're protesting right the outside the room where the victim has been
for the past few days.
The 21-year-old student was gang-raped just last week and she was gang- raped allegedly by the same five men three years ago back in 2013. Now that's the version coming from the victim and her family members.
Now, according to the police, the story is slightly different. There were two men who raped the victim back in 2013 in a span of four days. And
those two men met in prison and then they kept threatening her and her family to withdraw the case.
And then as a sort of revenge, they ended up gang-raping her with three other men, so five men in total, just last week.
So stories are a little bit complicated, investigators are looking into it. There's been no arrests so far. But what we know is that the victim comes
from a lower caste Dalit community. The perpetrators come from a higher caste community. So the victim and her family have been alleging that the
perpetrators had been offering a lot of money, asking them to withdraw the case but they refused to.
A lot of people here are completely shocked that had this could happen in spite of the fact that laws have changed, there is so much more awareness,
there's more security after that very high-profile rape back in 2012.
The fact that these perpetrators were allowed out on bail, the fact that the victim was not given any security, even though the perpetrators, the
suspects had been threatening the family for all this time, the fact that this can happen with such impunity, is really what sent shockwaves across
the country -- Sumnima Udas, CNN, Haryana, India.
NEWTON: Still ahead, the top diplomats of the U.S. and the U.K. are sitting down together right now in London. We're expecting to hear from
them shortly and we'll tell you what is high on their agenda.
NEWTON: Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Paula Newton.
Britain's new foreign secretary is hosting his first major event and meeting on resolving the crisis in Syria. That starts in just under an
But right now Boris Johnson is meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry. You are seeing live pictures there right now. We do
expect them to come out shortly. We are on standby now.
Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, joins us from London, where that meeting is taking place.
Nick, can you do us a favor here?
If we take a step back and let's lay the groundwork, set the stage for what is actually going on in Syria and how what is going on in Aleppo right now
sets the stage for these peace, talks such as they are.
They've had fits and starts to these peace talks, that have obviously gone nowhere for literally years. But at the same time, the dynamic continually
changes on the ground.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, but most of the time, it seems, at this current stage, in the Assad regime's favor. Now
the Aleppo area to its east of Aleppo city itself, said to have about 200,000 civilians. And it is under intense pressure while potentially
One of the key supply routes in and out is under intense threat from regime forces. There the rebels intermittently break access through that area and
manage to free it up again.
But U.N. aid agencies very concerned about the capacity of that to be properly besieged. That could be a enormous humanitarian crisis. That
could lead to a lot of loss of lives and then also to potentially, if the regime is successful in prosecuting that through to the end, a substantial
symbolic victory, in that they would regain much of what was the commercial hub, largest city of Syria, before the war began.
That's what we're seeing on the ground here along with ISIS on its back foot territorially; the Kurds in the north advancing as well, U.S.-backed
rebels under intense pressure, too.
The situation currently is complicated also by the fact there have been plenty of reports suggesting the U.S. is looking to make some sort of
accommodation with Russia on the ground there now, to perhaps share targeting information, to allow them to focus more on the Al Qaeda
affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, as well as ISIS and in exchange perhaps get the Russian and the Assad jets to back off U.S.-backed rebels
A pretty big ask, frankly, requiring a lot more trust than seems to be anywhere in evidence on the battlefield for the past five years or so. But
that is the scene we find Boris Johnson, the man who headed the Brexit campaign, known for his outspoken, at times humorous, perhaps too humorous
approach towards politics and policy.
Now dealing with the most thorny issue frankly of the past 10 years when it comes to foreign policy, the intractable mess of Syria, having to reverse
frankly what we've seen of his own personal statement in those newspaper columns in the past years also suggesting perhaps a friendlier approach
toward Bashar al-Assad, a deal with a devil, to paraphrase himself.
He was in fact forced in just the last 24 hours to say making clear my view that the suffering of the Syrian people will not end while Assad remains in
power. That is the British government's policy and that is now, of course, what he has to vocally state.
But we have two very different men meeting here in very complicated circumstances; Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, a raconteur columnist;
John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran with a phenomenal Rolodex of international contacts after years on Capitol Hill, then secretary of state.
So very different individuals meeting in that particular room; Brexit or what Brexit may end up being, obviously top of the agenda here, without a
doubt, while, of course, Syria, the most pressing issue, one that has eluded a solution diplomatically and militarily for over five years here
We're about 50 days short of the 2,000th day of the Syrian conflict here and it's that situation of course which is pressing at the top of the
agenda this afternoon. European ministers meeting as well. It is very hard, frankly, to see exactly what they can again in the umpteenth round of
talks about this conflict actually engender in terms of progress.
But it is a definite test of Boris Johnson, no more serious issue at hand in foreign policy here, no more complex a situation, requiring a phenomenal
background of knowledge. It will, of course, be interesting to see whether he reflects that in his conversation with John Kerry, who has been,
frankly, plagued by the Syria conflict --
WALSH: -- since he took the role of secretary of state.
NEWTON: Yes, absolutely, no doubt Boris Johnson will have to be a quick study on all of these issues. And one thing he will be studying closely is
how to bring Russia on side so that they are a positive influence on these talks.
What opening do they see now, in terms of the regime itself and the fact that Russia is obviously backing the regime?
Bashar al-Assad has been incredibly consistent in saying, I'm not going anywhere. In recent media interview, he seemed more confident than ever.
WALSH: Well, absolutely. In recent interviews he said actually he's never even discussed the idea of him stepping aside with Russia. Look, I think
the notion that they can somehow magic the solution which gets Bashar al- Assad to step aside has been on the table for so many months now, it seems increasingly unfeasible.
The danger now, many perhaps perceive is that the U.S. sees getting Russia to assist or become closer to them militarily, may engender some sort of
win for them, perhaps, so they can at least get the Russians to lay off U.S.-backed rebels. Perhaps U.S.-backed rebels can become strong enough
that they can in fact create a stalemate which pushes the regime towards some sort of diplomatic solution.
But everyone is looking at a completely different clock here and that is the remaining time Barack Obama has in office here. There are some who
interpret that situation as perhaps a limited clock under which Damascus and Moscow would be wise to seek a diplomatic solution before perhaps
Barack Obama's successor is tougher on the Syrian conflict.
And the myriad of other issues, there's been a cause of and there are others who say, well, frankly, nothing really can be struck before Barack
Obama leaves office because it just will be undone by his successor.
So a very complicated time, a very bad time inside Syria for those caught in the middle of this conflict. ISIS now mutating from what was really
what they describe as a caliphate with inside the country, that now under intense pressure territorially into something which is much more of a
deeply troubling franchise across the West here.
So many of these attackers seeming not to necessarily have had much direction from ISIS but instead just chosen to latch themselves onto the
ideology, perhaps during or after some degree the fact of the attack.
So deeply concerned, I think, for what this means for European security but quite exactly what could be done in the months ahead to slow down the
extent of violence inside Syria and Iraq, very hard to see -- Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, and interesting that John Kerry continues to stand on that line. It means ISIS is on the run and that's why we're seeing more of
Nick, as we sit here and wait for the live press conference -- they're running a little late -- but considering they have to get into meetings
within the hour on those Syria talks, we do expect them to come out soon -- in terms of the humanitarian crisis that continues to unfold in Syria,
right now, Aleppo humanitarian agencies saying 300,000 civilians, that things could get much worse for them in the coming days.
Is there any hope that what is going on in London will have any impact on that whatsoever?
Or really are these poor civilians just going to have to wait and see how this faceoff between the rebels and the regime comes off?
WALSH: I think, to some degree, yes, civilians will be entirely dependent upon that military faceoff there. I think it will be difficult to get the
Assad regime to back off from the notion that they can influence the eastern side of Aleppo, which is still held by rebels. This is a city
which is a skeleton, frankly. It is staggering, frankly, having seen it myself, that 200,000 people can still live in that particular mess.
I think that shows the resilience of so many Syrians there and, frankly, the lack of options they have, too, the Turkish border now to some degree
so intensely closed and reports continuing of Turkish border patrols shooting at civilian Syrians, as they try and cross into Turkey for safe
The major issue, too, being that aid agencies are wary of a potential problem ahead and have begun to ration food supplies in that particular
area as well.
So, yes, I think potentially one thing that could come from this meeting is some cohesive desire to better equip those rebels fighting the regime in
that area and then that pushes the issue back into the military sphere and the (INAUDIBLE).
We have constantly heard from the West as well, they are backing militarily some rebels. There is no military solution to this. But Bashar al-Assad
has made it clear that he would like to potentially reclaim all of Syria from what he refers to as terrorists, a very lofty ambition, frankly
destined to (INAUDIBLE) this day, particularly given the volume of territory held by Kurdish forces in the northeast here.
But a very difficult time here, I think. But you have to bear in mind this conversation behind closed doors I think will be a lot about addressing
Syria policy in its finer details, too, but also about two men on very different paths getting to know each other and dealing with a broader
topic, frankly, the sort of thing that follow everyone's agenda here, Brexit. What does it mean?
Boris Johnson was the key advocate of that. Many accused him of not entirely sticking to the truth in selling that particular case; now he's
very much beholden to the facts of life as the foreign secretary and will be dealing with the man, John Kerry, who of course, has been troubled by
the idea of a Brexit here.
So I'm sure a very interesting exchange occurring behind closed doors there.
NEWTON: Yes, and that interesting --
WALSH: -- exchange continues. They are late for their press conference. We will continue to stand by. Thank you, Nic. We'll bring you back in as
soon as that press conference starts to happen in London.
In the meantime, though, we want to bring you some breaking news here, that the International Olympic Committee has decided to explore legal options
over the possibility of banning Russia from next month's Olympic Games.
The IOC also says it will initiate retesting of all Russian athletes from the Sochi games. The announcement comes just a day after a report found
state-sponsored doping in Russian sports ahead of those 2014 Winter Games.
A lot going on here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. We will bring you much more after a short break.
NEWTON: Back to Britain now, where we can actually report something on a lighter note.
The young royals are celebrating an engagement. The sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, Pippa Middleton, is engaged to James Matthews. He's a hedge
fund millionaire and he reportedly proposed on a walk in the countryside. Kensington Palace says the duke and duchess are delighted at the news and
the couple plan to marry next year.
And that does it here on a very busy news day at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Paula Newton. Please stay with us for breaking news. In the meantime,
though, "WORLD SPORT" is up next.