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What Chance of Peace in Syria?; Iran Disinvite; Imagine a World

Aired January 23, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

It hasn't happened in three years. The Syrian regime and the opposition together for peace talks, but this week they are doing just that. In Geneva, hoping to end the civil war that's torn the country apart.

Sky-high expectations that only the most optimistic believe have a even remote chance of succeeding. Even the long-suffering U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who's shuttling back and forth as we speak between the two sides, making sure they really do sit down tomorrow, because that's when the real negotiations will start.

And we still don't know whether they'll agree to be in the same room together.

The opening session yesterday, mostly speeches and posturing, got off to an openly hostile start, with accusations being hurled from side to side in public.

And these crucial talks come as yet more chilling photos come to light, more evidence to support allegations that the regime is systematically torturing and killing prisoners.

From the start, Turkey was Assad's biggest critic, calling for him to go. And supporting the opposition. In return, Syria told the conference that Turkey supports terrorists, prompting this response from Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.


AHMET DAVUTOGLU, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER: I met a baby girl named Nour. She was born just a day ago, in Kokenli container city, away from homeland.

These girls were among the 700,000 "terrorists" we are hosting in our country and 8,500 children "terrorists" born on our territories.

We all know who are the terrorists in Syria. I wonder how the representatives of the regime think that they can deceive the entire international community with their lies?


AMANPOUR: So all sides have staked out their very hard positions and I spoke to the foreign minister just after that impassioned speech about the best hopes that he can see for Geneva 2 peace talks.


AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Davutoglu, thank you so much for joining me from Davos. Welcome to the program.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Let me start by asking you about how you judge the success or otherwise of the Geneva 2 conference that has already started. You have said what's happened in Syria is a shame upon humanity.

Do you think that there really is a possibility of any kind of resolution or progress at Geneva 2?

DAVUTOGLU: There has been a very high expectation regarding this meeting. The meeting itself was a positive step forward.

But if you ask me about the general performance of two sides, to be frank, the regime side came here with a decision to accuse others rather than to start a serious negotiation.

AMANPOUR: Well, what is your reaction? Because if Turkey hadn't been involved, they said, none of this would have happened

DAVUTOGLU: I responded in a very clear manner. Two -- three days ago there was no single terrorist activity in Syria. Why did this start? Because of oppression of the regime against peaceful demonstrators.

Even on through the end of 2011, there was not any armed resistance. Armed resistance did emerge when several Syrian officers, generals, had to defect from the army because of these massacres and oppression of the regime.

And in last three years around 2.5 million people became refugees, 700,000 of them are in Turkey. As I said in the meeting, are these all 700,000 refugees in Turkey, are they terrorists? The children, the women, everywhere in the region escape from this regime cannot be called as terrorists.

All the cities of Syria having been destructed by a bombardment, by Scud missiles, by barrel bombs, by chemical attacks and only the regime has that capacity.

So it is -- if there is one party to be blamed for what happened in Syria, it is the regime and its atrocities, its destruction and massacres.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about atrocities. You know that CNN broke a story earlier this week showing, according to a defector who was inside the Syrian regime and according to senior top-level international jurists, what looked to be evidence of systematic killing and torture of prisoners.

The U.S. has now called for an investigation and others have called for this to be fully, fully investigated.

What is your reaction to that?

Do you think anybody will be held accountable?

DAVUTOGLU: These photo evidences, authenticized (sic) and verified by very objective professional international experts, should change -- should change the --everything on the -- on the ground as well as everything on -- in this negotiating table.

All of those who committed this crime must be accountable. We didn't -- we should not be doing the same mistake like what happened in Srebrenica; in Srebrenica, some people tried to turn their eye and they didn't -- some tried to ignore Srebrenica for some time.

But Srebrenica has happened and it was a shame for international community.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, clearly that was the call today among other calls to the Syrian regime.

Do you have any belief that they will agree to an international investigation? They've already denied these allegations.

DAVUTOGLU: Militaries did not agree for an international investigation. And all those who committed this type of crimes in the past did not agree. If you ask them, I am sure they will not agree.

But if there is an international community, if there is a U.N. Security Council responsible for the international peace and stability, we have to find other ways in order to protect basic right -- basic values of human dignity and in order to protect international order.

AMANPOUR: You refer back to Srebrenica, which of course, was in Bosnia; you talk about Milosevic, who was the president of Yugoslavia and Serbia. But, remember, he was indicted by a U.N. tribunal.

Are you suggesting that President Assad should be indicted by a tribunal, by the ICC?

DAVUTOGLU: Yes, the -- all these photo evidences made this -- made it very clear that there are crimes against humanity.

There are two ways now for this -- for the regime. Either they will be serious in these negotiations in Geneva and a political transition will start through establishing a transitioning governing body with true executive power or the alternative is International Criminal Court and all the other international -- all the other steps of international law against the regime.

They must decide what to do.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Davutoglu, let me please move on to another big issue at home in Turkey, which was on display again on the foreign stage in Brussels this week; I guess yourself and prime minister were in Brussels. And let me read you something from "The Economist" regarding the current situation inside Turkey.

"Over the past year, Turkey has seen a crackdown on protests, corruption scandals, a purge of the police and judiciary, paranoid talk of foreign plots, an economic slowdown and more attempts to Islamicize the society."

Are you concerned that all your efforts, you know, to try to, you know, join the E.U. are going to be for naught, that they could act on your membership because of what's going on with the judiciary?

DAVUTOGLU: First of all, let me say our meetings yesterday in Brussels were very, very successful and fruitful. For us, membership to E.U. is a strategic objective and yesterday we -- the meetings in this direction, we took many important decisions, together with E.U. leaders, President Van Rompuy, President Barroso and all other E.U. leaders. (CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: But they said that the rule of law had to be paramount.

DAVUTOGLU: (INAUDIBLE) in our ambassador's conference last week.

There is no doubt that there is rule of law in Turkey. There are three basic principles of the success of Turkey in last 10 years, very strong democracy and democratization process, a very dynamic economy and very active and efficient diplomacy.

So we are self-confident; our democracy will be stronger. Our economy will be much more dynamic in the future. And our foreign policy will be much more efficient.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Foreign Minister, there seems to be a really strange diplomatic mess over inviting Iran and then disinviting Iran to the Geneva 2.

Can you tell me what happened? Iran says one thing; the U.N. says another thing.

DAVUTOGLU: Yes, in fact, as Turkey, we were in favor of participation of all important players to Geneva 2 in order to make it a success. I personally spoke with Javad Zarif, minister of foreign affairs of Iran, in order to agree on the basic parameters of Geneva 1 or at least to respond to the invitation letter of secretary-general in a positive way.

But later I understand there were -- either there was some misunderstanding or maybe there was a change of positions. I don't know the background in that sense. But there was not such a statement from Iranian side and the invitation was withdrawn.

But at the end of the day, Iran is an important region country, can contribute to this process as part of a solution.

AMANPOUR: What is your best hope, your best hope for Geneva 2?

DAVUTOGLU: There will be two here, two criteria, of the success of Geneva 2.

One is improving humanitarian situation on the ground and preventing similar massacres or atrocities in the future.

Second is forming a transitional governing body. At the end of the day, these two objectives should be achieved. What I hope is maybe at the beginning, it will be a tough negotiation. Today we have seen this.

If Syrian regime is serious and if there's a political will by the Syrian -- the side of the Syrian regime in the sense of committing themselves to Geneva 1 communique, we can make progress.

But at the end of the day, Syrian people will decide for their own future. What we are trying to do is to open the way for such a -- such an outcome, a decision by Syrian people. But we have to agree on the basic principle that those who have blood in their hand should not be having any role in the future of Syria.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Davutoglu, thank you very much for joining me.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: We talked about other issues as well, including Turkish relations with the United States and some tensions that have arrived over issues like Syria and indeed Egypt. And you can see the transcript of my full interview with the foreign minister online at

And the cultural struggle taking place inside Turkey between secularists and Islamists is embodied in the architectural wonder that has dominated the landscape of Istanbul for over 1,500 years, the Hagia Sophia, which means Holy Wisdom, was first built in 360 A.D. as a Christian basilica, following the conquest of the Emperor Constantine who gave the city its former name, Constantinople.

Then in 1453, Ottoman conquerors renamed the city Istanbul and made it a mosque. And so it remained until the 1930s when Kamal Ataturk, the founder of Turkey's secular republic made it a museum, said to be the only place on Earth where Christianity and Islam coexist peacefully under one roof.

But that may be changing as members of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, are calling for the Hagia Sophia to become a mosque again, and so it goes.

Now the Royal Ballet's principal dancer, novelist and proud son of Cuba, Carlos Acosta, takes center stage when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

At the top of the dance world sits Britain's Royal Ballet and the top of that sits principal dancer Carlos Acosta from Cuba, the first Cuban to ascend such heights. I first met him when he joined back in 1997 and he has since gone on to take his sensational athleticism and classical moves to every major ballet company in the world.

But for how much longer? Carlos Acosta tells me the time has now come for him to hang up those ballet slippers after a career that started in the slums of Havana, where his father enrolled him in dance school when he was 9 years old just to keep him out of trouble and off the street.

He's a family man now with an infant daughter and soon-to-be wife. And he has just written his first novel, "Pig's Foot," about a dysfunctional dynasty in Cuba which debuted to great reviews.


AMANPOUR: Carlos Acosta, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: It's been a long, long time since we first met. I met you when you first came here to the Royal Ballet. You've done everything since then.

How do you feel about where you are today?

ACOSTA: I think I'm in a great place right now. I think I've done everything with most companies and I really had a great international career, where I performed with the Bolshoi, with the Paris Opera House, with the American Ballet Theater. And now I am in a place that I could just either relax. I don't think classical I'm going to dance so much longer than this.


ACOSTA: So but I --


AMANPOUR: You're making some news for me, Carlos.

ACOSTA: I think so, hopefully. I mean, it's a little bit -- it's been decided basically that I'm going to just maybe perform one more season.


ACOSTA: And then we have for the Royal Ballet creation, hopefully. And then that will be it in the classical repertoire, meaning Romeo and (INAUDIBLE) --

AMANPOUR: Giselle, which you're playing right now --

ACOSTA: -- (INAUDIBLE) exactly. I -- I'd like to --

AMANPOUR: (INAUDIBLE) doing that anymore?

ACOSTA: Not anymore. I think at this point, the classical ballet injures me. Every time I do these leaps I feel like my body, it's really taking its toll. And I think, you know, I don't want to be a 70-year-old man in a wheelchair or, you know, with --


ACOSTA: -- (INAUDIBLE) because that's what it leads to.

AMANPOUR: I want to take you back to when you were much, much younger, when we first met, in Cuba, when I did a big report on your emergence into the ballet world. Let's take a look at this.


AMANPOUR: Carlos, here we are outside your childhood home. Do you still think of this as home?

ACOSTA: In a way, this is part of my life, you know. I did a lot of memories. It's melancholic, you know, in a way.

AMANPOUR: You had to share a bed, right?

ACOSTA: Yes. Yes, I shared a bed with my two sisters. The mattress -- the mattress was -- the mattress was sinking, I remember, was sinking in the middle. And the springs were coming up.

AMANPOUR: The springs were coming through?

ACOSTA: Yes, they were coming through it. And it used to hurt your skin. So (INAUDIBLE) you will need to learn by memory where the springs were, you know, it was quite an adventure, you know.




AMANPOUR: You have now feathered down beds and there's so much in the world, riches. No more sharing a bed with your brothers and sisters and bare springs.

Can you believe how far you've come, even from that interview, from a very poor childhood in Cuba?

ACOSTA: It's unbelievable journey. And that also prompt me to write my autobiography because I think the journey is very inspirational. It could help others and I think it's a great story.

There is a lot of, as you know, is a lot of bad things in the world. But this story is a story that could lead the way, that could show things, you know, that you could actually make it through your craft without resorting to do any other (INAUDIBLE).


AMANPOUR: Now we look at you and it looks like a fairy tale story, poor boy from the barrio in Cuba, Communist Cuba, comes to the free world and becomes a major ballet sensation.

But it wasn't that easy, was it? You had some very dark and black years.

ACOSTA: I think nothing is easy in the -- in your life, you know. You always have to pay prices for that. I mean, the price is that I leave and leave the family behind, although I never disconnected from Cuba. I was always -- I was allowed to go back and see them and everything.

And at the same time, you know, I was lucky enough to be able to have companies who were interested in my dancing and so therefore I could go to Houston and then arrangement to the Royal Ballet.

But, yes, the -- I had a lot of loneliness --

AMANPOUR: When you came here to England?

ACOSTA: -- (INAUDIBLE) here, I -- actually, after that segment of "60 Minutes," that you did on me, well, follow after that was years of depression. And I was just another dancer of the so many stars in the pond.

And so there was not many shows to go around. And I began to question myself whether if I did good to leave the Houston Ballet to -- for the Royal Ballet. And that, you know, it made me very depressed.

AMANPOUR: And let's talk a little bit about what you left, because people look at Cuba through very particular lenses. There is very little freedom in Cuba.

But didn't it incubate your talents?

ACOSTA: In Cuba, I think the revolution allow people, poor people like myself, to have an international career like dancing. Everywhere else it would be more complicated if you had to pay. So it means that a son of a truck driver like myself would never afford it.

So I am a product of that system and many like me as well. Of course, you know, politics, what is politics? Politics, if we're going to talk about politics here, you know, I mean, it's -- you can't understand it because there's a lot of downsides to it and good things. So what I do, what I can tell you is that I love my country.

And I love my country. I try to help my country doing what I do best. What it is that I do best? Dancing for everybody who never had the access to go.

And that's what I do, try to alleviate through my dancing and produce an escapism to help humans' life and human condition. And that's what I do and what I'm going to keep doing.

AMANPOUR: Well, you bring a lot of joy, whether it's your writing or your dancing, the multitalented Carlos Acosta, thank you very much indeed for being with me.

ACOSTA: Thank you. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And Acosta would probably get a kick out of this little bit of diplomatic choreography, a pas de deux, not between dancers, but between rival nations, albeit just airplanes on a tarmac, a Davos duet, exceptional because of who the principle tails represent. Imagine an adagio at the airport, a grand finale when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, peace talks in Geneva this week and across the Alps, the annual festival of the rich and powerful at Davos, where the most interesting sighting was of two aircraft, and not just any aircraft. No, we're not planespotters here, but we had to imagine a world where diplomacy may be possible not at the conference table but on the tarmac.

This remarkable photograph has been doing the rounds since the planes of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the Davos airport on Wednesday for the World Economic Forum.

But while the jets were parked side-by-side, the two leaders remained miles apart. Today, President Rouhani addressed the forum and the international community beyond, stressing the limits of Iran's nuclear ambitions and making the case once again for an end to Western sanctions.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I strongly and clearly declare that nuclear weapons have no place in our security strategy and that Iran has no motivation to move in that direction.

A look at history also clearly shows that Iran has in the past centuries never launched any invasions or aggression and only engaged in active defense against threat and direct and indirect invasion.


AMANPOUR: But when it was his turn to speak, Prime Minister Netanyahu would have none of it.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: They say they oppose nuclear weapons. Why do they insist on maintaining the ballistic missiles and the plutonium and the advanced centrifuges that are only used for the production of nuclear weapons?

So it sounds good; I wish it was real. It isn't real. I think the world has a mission to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.


AMANPOUR: And so the war of words and the turbulence continue with no smooth landing in sight.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.