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UK ambassador to the UN on Iran, North Korea; Gustavo Dudamel on Venezuela and the power of music. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 3, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, I discuss the world's biggest diplomatic challenges with the new British ambassador to the UN
Karen Pierce. From racing to save the Iran nuclear deal to the impending nuclear summit between the United States and North Korea.
Also ahead, Venezuela's musical protege and superstar conductor at the LA Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel joins me.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London where today the UN General Secretary General Antonio
Gutierrez warned President Trump that if he pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal, the whole region will become much more dangerous.
My first guest tonight is a vocal proponent of the deal. She's Karen Pierce, the UK's new ambassador to the UN. And, of course, Britain was one
of the main architects along with the United States, China, France, Russia and Germany before it was enshrined in a UN resolution.
Last night, the Iranian ambassador here told this program that if the US pulls out, the deal is dead.
And today, from his office in Tehran, the Foreign Minister Javad Zarif seemed to put it in terms that President Trump might appreciate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN MINISTER OF IRAN: In real estate term, when you buy a house and move your family in or demolish it to build a skyscraper, you
cannot come back two years later and try to renegotiate the price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Ambassador Pierce joins me here in London to discuss the fears of more, not less, nuclear proliferation if the deal goes south.
Ambassador Pierce, welcome to the program.
KAREN PIERCE, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: I mean, I think really very front and center on your plate must be what's going to happen with the Iran deal.
The United Kingdom is a main signatory. You are personally very committed to it. You believe that this is a deal that should remain in place. Just
sum up why given that it's so under assault by the Trump administration and, of course, by Israel.
PIERCE: I think it's centrally important for the non-proliferation regime as a whole.
The NPT has been under threat, at risk from countries who have pursued nuclear weapons outside it. North Korea left it. And here is one
agreement, the JCPOA, that has, if you like, reaffirmed the importance of global non-proliferation.
AMANPOUR: Sorry, the NPT is the non-proliferation treaty. President Macron famously went to Washington. I called it a touchy-feely summit,
trying to influence the president. Not sure that he succeeded. He's not sure that he succeeded.
What is the effect of coming out for the world?
PIERCE: If America comes out, I think the first question is, does she pull out and reimpose sanctions. If she reimposes sanctions to the same level
that were on Iran originally, then I think it's very hard to think the deal could survive because there becomes no benefit to the Iranians of staying
But she could come out and not reimpose sanctions, in which case, if the other five members said we will carry on, Iran would have a choice.
AMANPOUR: Wow! So, there is an option of America, as you called she, America, not re-imposing sanctions even if they withdraw from the deal.
PIERCE: My understanding is that they - sanctions do not come back automatically on withdrawal. But the president, of course, has a number of
instruments and mechanisms that he can use if he wants to have sanctions re-imposed.
AMANPOUR: Well, I spoke to the Iranian ambassador here to the UK. They're quite upset that the Europeans don't seem to have been able to intervene
with President Trump on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMID BAEIDINEJAD, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: We also shared with them the concern that we agree on the strategy, but not the
tactic. They should not be, in fact, waiting to see if they can appease President Trump by giving him more concessions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that's a pretty stark accusation. I mean, they feel that trying to have an additional deal or a side deal, as President Macron
proposed, is appeasing and would never work. They would never agree to a conditionality. How difficult does that make it?
[14:05:09] PIERCE: I mean, the issue is very difficult. I don't want to pretend it isn't. But there are a number of scenarios, not all of which, I
think, were addressed by the ambassador.
If the price is right for Iran, then my best estimate is that she would be prepared to negotiate a side deal, but it will critically depend on what is
on the table for Iran. And that, in my experience, is the way the Iranians tend to do business.
I don't think, if I may say so, they really understand the United States. There's a lot of wanting to stand up to the United States. They're a very
proud people, a very proud country. They want respect. I wouldn't necessarily take their advice on tactics.
AMANPOUR: What is the price being right?
PIERCE: Well, when you had the original nuclear deal, of course, one of the aspects of it, central aspects to the Iranians were the lifting of
economic sanctions, not all of them, but sanctions were lifted.
It is possible, but only possible, that one could have a conversation with the Iranians about the sort of sanctions that would need to be additionally
lifted to get a broader deal. But I don't want to give the impression this is in prospect. It might be a scenario in certain circumstances.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you because you are in the Security Council on a daily basis, it seems, these days with all the important global challenges? You
sit there, of course, with the US Ambassador Nikki Haley. You must have conversations with her.
Why is it so difficult for Europe and for China and Russia and all of those who signed on after these years of negotiation about what was then
considered the most serious challenge and problem, which was Iran's potential nuclear weapons breakout? Why is it that you haven't been able
to convince President Trump yet as far as you know?
PIERCE: I think that's quite a hard question because we do, as you know, the Europeans, do believe in the value of this deal, both in itself - it
Stops Iran getting a nuclear weapon - and in respect of the global non- proliferation regime.
The Americans see it very differently. I think the biggest difference perhaps is that we treat the nuclear agreement as a discrete entity. We
agree with President Trump on Iran's destabilizing behavior in the region and her use of ballistic missiles.
AMANPOUR: You have a really contentious relationship inside the Security Council right now, mostly Russia, which has vetoed endless resolutions to
deal with Syria and other such things.
AMANPOUR: Give me a sense of what it's like to be in the Security Council. And I ask you because, of course, we have this amazing video where we see
the Russian ambassador and the US ambassador holding hands, even kissing on the cheeks.
I mean, presumably, you have fairly decent - look, here we go. Look at this. And then, we hear the most pointed, almost violent verbiage coming
out of both of them. And I assume some of it - I hear you being very pointed as well about Russia's record. What is it like in the Security
Council trying to get these resolutions passed and having this sort of war of words?
PIERCE: Well, I can see that when you're not in the Security Council, from the outside, it looks frankly bizarre that one should go into battle. And
then off the pictures it were - have these sorts of relationships.
But on the whole, what happens at the Security Council table in the chamber is a professional exchange on behalf of your government. And what we do
outside of that is try and have the most productive relationships possible because although the council's blocked on Syria, on some other things, like
the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on indeed North Korea and the nuclear dossier -
AMANPOUR: On Iran.
PIERCE: And on Iran and, hopefully, also on Myanmar/Burma, the council can be united. And you want to keep your relationships in good repair for
those times when you can have a breakthrough.
AMANPOUR: How frustrating is it, though, to see the Russians vetoing resolutions that deal with basic humanitarian issues and indeed the use of
PIERCE: Well, it's appalling because these are people's lives. And there's no need to play these games with ordinary civilians' lives just to
prop up President Assad.
So, it's incredibly frustrating. It's disappointing. It makes the Security Council look bad in the eyes of the world. So, it doesn't do
anybody any good.
AMANPOUR: One of the really tense moments was, in fact, about nuclear war, accidental or whatever, between the United States and North Korea. I mean,
there was a lot of loose nuclear talk that was being flung around.
[14:10:02] And now, we've moved several months later to the possibility of a summit between the United States and North Korea. I just want to play
you a soundbite from President Trump when he was asked at a rally last week when the South and North were getting together, how did this come about?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the fake news groups this morning -
TRUMP: - now they were saying, what do you think President Trump had to do with it. I'll tell you what, like how about everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What do you make of that in the world of diplomacy?
PIERCE: I don't think President Trump is a diplomat and I don't think he'd mind me saying that.
The nuclear deal, if one is emerging, has been a really good example of American leadership. And the Security Council has followed that leadership
and helped pile up the pressure with the sanctions.
So, actually, I think it's a very good model of what can be achieved when the council is united and it unites behind American leadership.
AMANPOUR: You mentioned Myanmar and you've just come back from a trip to Myanmar with other members of the Security Council. I mean, truly, the
most heartbreaking situation. You saw the refugees in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Then, you went on to Myanmar.
How did you find, at this point, Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the country, who has come under enormous criticism for failing to stand up
for the rights of the Rohingya, the Muslim minority there?
PIERCE: Well, we had an hour's long meeting with her, the state controller as she is. She has now said that the Burmese government will allow in the
UN agencies because only they can really deal with the scale that's required and they also are very used to assessing what sort of things would
help the refugees go home, so that they can live safely, they can live securely and they can pursue their livelihoods. It's not something that
can be done without the UN.
AMANPOUR: Did you find her receptive? I ask you because we interviewed the former US ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, who was on the special
committee looking into this, and who basically resigned because he said he could not get through to her, that she wouldn't listen to any of the kind
of representations you're talking about. This is what he told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: What led to my resignation was a perception I had that Aung San Suu Kyi did not want to
listen to frank advice, that she needed moral leadership to show to the military and her government that these human rights abuses, these refugee
abuses were wrong. She's unwilling to speak out. She wants to be reelected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Has she changed in your view? Did she show different tone when you talked to her?
PIERCE: I would say she was more constructive. And I think the statement she just issued yesterday about letting the UN in and understanding that
violence has no place in Burmese society, that would seem to me an evolution of what Ambassador Richardson has just been showing saying.
AMANPOUR: She was one of these great democracy icons and, of course, an icon of female leadership. You are the first female British Ambassador to
the United Nations. What brought you to the diplomatic world?
When you were little, you always wanted to be a diplomat. How did you even decide to get to this point?
PIERCE: I think it sounds very strange if you've always wanted to be a diplomat. I went via the course of being a nuclear scientist and a jet
fighter pilot, but I was interested because I'd seen an article in the Sunday color supplement and it was actually of an American diplomat. And
it was of an African-American diplomat.
When I was 11 years old, and there was this fantastic photo of her, color wise wearing a white suit going onboard an aircraft carrier. And then, I
thought, well, that sounds like a great job for me.
AMANPOUR: And again, a personal question. When you joined the foreign office certainly in the 70s, there was a dictum that women, if they got
married, had to resign.
PIERCE: I can't remember whether that was still in force when I joined, but if it was it went very quickly afterwards. But it did mean that for a
while there were no married women in the pipeline.
But that's not the case now. We have some targets that we try and meet. We want 30 percent minimum of all our senior jobs to be women and we try
and expand that target every year.
It's not always easy because people have many motivations. They are not wanting to travel abroad, but we do try.
The UN told me that they thought we were the best diplomatic service around the world of the big players at the UN for employing senior women.
AMANPOUR: Wonderful. Ambassador Karen Pierce, thank you for joining us.
PIERCE: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: So, in a world of turmoil, music can often be a welcome relief from politics, an antidote if you like.
This is the core belief of my next guest, the classical music reigning maestro Gustavo Dudamel, leader of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
and selling out concert halls around the world.
AMANPOUR: Dudamel is also the product of an incredible experiment called El Sistema, Venezuela's famous orchestra program for disadvantaged youth.
For years, he walked a fine line refusing to get political about Venezuela's increasingly authoritarian regime, which funds El Sistema.
But, recently, with mass protests, deaths and Venezuelans on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, he has said that enough is enough. When I sat
down with him during a break in rehearsals here in London to discuss politics, prodigies and the redemptive power of music.
Gustavo Dudamel, welcome to our program.
DUDAMEL: Thank you very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: I just want to start at the beginning, both of your parents are musical.
AMANPOUR: And you - that was part of your DNA growing up?
DUDAMEL: Yes, yes. I think you know listening Latin music at home was my - the genesis of my love to the music. I was listening mostly salsa.
AMANPOUR: Mostly salsa.
DUDAMEL: Yes, because my father play in a salsa band and my mother was signing at the choir. So, I have that kind of combination.
AMANPOUR: And I heard, I read that actually - you actually used to line up your toys and pretend-conduct.
DUDAMEL: Yes, it was a very good orchestra.
AMANPOUR: It didn't answer back.
DUDAMEL: No, no. And it was such a serious and fun game for me because I took - I put my orchestra, I put their recordings and I was stopping,
rehearsing and I did my concerts for the family. So, it was serious. It was very -
AMANPOUR: Practicing with your toys?
DUDAMEL: Practicing with my toys.
AMANPOUR: All lined up.
DUDAMEL: All lined up. A beautiful orchestra. I was playing with my toys. I was playing baseball. I was playing soccer. I was doing - I was
swimming. I did everything. I was doing karate. And at the same time, I had the music.
But music was something very important for me. I remember telling my grandmother one day, I was in a karate class and I said, grandma, I want to
do music, this is what I want to do. I've done everything until now. I want to do music. And then, immediately, I became conductor of the youth
orchestra of my town. I was 11 years old.
AMANPOUR: So, then, describe how you came up through the system, literally El Sistema, which is a state-funded - obviously, Venezuelan state-funded
orchestra for disadvantaged children.
AMANPOUR: And the maestro, Mastero Abreu, who recently died, created something unique.
AMANPOUR: What did it do for you?
DUDAMEL: Everything. Everything. I started in El Sistema because my father was founder of a Sistema in our town in Barquisimeto. He was one of
the first musicians, young musicians that play in the orchestra.
And El Sistema is a family. It's this kind of educational system where you enjoy, you go, you have the discipline, but it's the discipline of joy and
you are creating, you are touching beauty.
DUDAMEL: I cannot see myself right now being an individual conducting even if it looks very individual because you are on the podium and looks like
you are the boss.
But, no, I grew up with my players, with my friends playing music and having fun doing that because that is the truth and that is why the
connection that I have with orchestras is so natural because I understand what they think. But also I - we spar each other. And that is what is the
When you go to out to a place with problems, it can be wherever, in my case, in Venezuela, it saved my life.
AMANPOUR: What is the philosophy behind it? Is it to raise the kids up? Is it to make them musicians for life? Is it to give them the idea of
belonging family? What is the philosophy behind El Sistema?
[14:20:00] DUDAMEL: It's access to beauty. Imagine classical music is very elitist. Let's say -
AMANPOUR: It's very elitist, yes.
DUDAMEL: Art. But what Maestro Abreu for? This have to part of the evolution of a child. It has to be part of their life as normal as it is
to eat or to go to the school or to breathe.
So, when you go to the orchestra, you have the chance to grow up, to get it with other children, creating beauty, having access to that. And you
cannot imagine how powerful it is because it's more than a language, it's more than telling something, playing Beethoven 5, playing the first notes -
pom, pom, pom, pom - nobody was telling us how to do. Only we were recreating or creating that moment. And that is the power of music.
Sometimes you don't you don't have to say anything. You only play and the message is there. So -
AMANPOUR: You just mentioned your country and it's been through many ups and downs. It's serious down right now. There is so much political
upheaval. People have been killed. There are protests. There is a lack of food, electricity, water, medicine everything.
And, in fact, in one of the recent protests, somebody who had come up through the El Sistema process was killed. What did that mean to you? Was
that a bit of a turning point?
DUDAMEL: Look, it is very difficult always to talk about politics, especially in my country, because it's so polarized.
Yes, it touched my life because I'm a father now and you know how painful it is - or how beautiful, at the same time, is to have your child, to take
care of them and then suddenly he gets killed.
The first contact that I have with the family was very - was - I don't know, it was very difficult. It was very difficult. But at the same time,
it was a moment to say, look, it's enough, it's enough, this fight. This is not taking us to anywhere.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you were very clear in the beginning because clearly Chavismo, the Chavistas, Hugo Chavez promoted El Sistema and it did a lot
of good for the people who came up through it and your position was that I don't need to be political. I work through my music, my music talks for
Now, you've become more political because of the death and the violence. And it's rebounded on you. I mean, Maduro has cancelled some of your
international tours and trips. You haven't been back for a long time. How does that affect you? And the music and your relationship with Venezuelan
DUDAMEL: My relation with the musicians is still the same. Last Saturday and tomorrow, I had a rehearsal with them through FaceTime. And, yes, for
two hours, we were working with the national children - the National Youth Orchestra.
And tomorrow, we'll have another one with the National Choir and the National Youth Orchestra. I keep and I have meetings every week with the
people working there.
So, my connection is still the same.
AMANPOUR: That's incredible. So, you are conducting the LA Philharmonic. You're touring and you're still training the musicians through FaceTime
because you can't get back to Venezuela.
DUDAMEL: Because that is my life. El Sistema is my life. I have - I made that commitment since the beginning, from the beginning I started in El
And when I did the statement about all of the situation, it was as a citizen. I have the right to say what I think, not being political.
Talking to politicians, yes; but being political, no. I didn't want to get in a fight. I was only making my opinion.
And I have the freedom to do that. That's it. And I said what I thought, what I think. And I think that the situation is unsustainable. But I
think also that the main key to get out of the situation to unite the people. That is my goal.
If you ask me what to do, what you will do to do something, to help. We have to build bridges because people keep building borders between us all
the time, all the time.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you a final question then because you've talked about soul, family, beauty, but there's something else that a lot of people are
talking about as well that music, perhaps more than any other art form, is really restorative for mental health issues, for all sorts of issues. Do
you agree with that? And why do you think that is?
DUDAMEL: Well, music has that power. Is this invisible beauty? Is this - this sounds, you cannot see the music, you see the musicians play, but you
don't see the music, this vibration, this energy. That harmony creates something.
I'm the most privileged guy in the world because I do music, but when I see another that doesn't have that same abilities, let's say, or the same
circumstance - not ability, circumstance, he developed better abilities to be a musician. And that is the most beautiful thing. When music
encouraged people to be better, and that is what the El Sistema does.
As a citizen, as a member of an orchestra and as a member of this world that we live, we make this because we want to serve beauty with the people
and we believe in the power of the music.
AMANPOUR: Well, Gustavo Dudamel, thank you for bringing the joy.
DUDAMEL: Thank you, Christiane. An honor.
AMANPOUR: And on that note, we end our program tonight. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.