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Crimean Tatars Speak Out; Egypt: To Democracy and Back?; Can Sisi Turn around Egypt?; Imagine a World

Aired March 31, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


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

Crimea, Ukraine, Russia and the West, actors in an ongoing geopolitical drama whose ending has yet to be written. But was there one small step towards calming the situation today? A phone call between President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel produced a promise that some Russian troops are being pulled back from that tense Ukrainian border.

But a U.S. official promptly declared that it is too early to tell whether they're just being moved around.

There was another phone call today between the U.S. secretary of state and the Russian foreign minister after their weekend meeting in Paris failed to produce a solution. And while the West insists that the annexation of Crimea will never be recognized, the Russian prime minister was there in the province today trying to win hearts and minds with pledges of higher salaries, improved education and health care as well as a special economic zone. And Crimeans had better hope that they end up better off than South Ossetia, where expectations were raised and then rudely dashed by what proved to be empty Russian promises after it wrestled away that region from Georgia in the 2008 war.

And as pro-Russian Crimeans celebrated moving their clocks to Moscow time this weekend, the rest of the region shuddered, fearful the Big Bear could take a bite out of their independence next.

As Dmitry Medvedev promised never to give back Crimea, the province's Muslim minority Tatars are deeply concerned. Seventy years ago during World War II, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin forcibly deported them all. They started coming back to Crimea after the USSR collapsed and later they voted to be part of independent Ukraine, not Russia.

As the world is now forced to grapple with a new post-Cold War order after the annexation, the Crimean Tatar leader, Mustafa Dzhemilev, is taking a plea and a warning to the United Nations, "Don't set a dangerous precedent. Don't stand international order on its head," he told us in an exclusive interview just before his address in New York."


AMANPOUR: Mustafa Dzhemilev, welcome to the program.

MUSTAFA DZHEMILEV, UKRAINIAN MP (via translator): Good afternoon.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you first, have the Crimean Tatars decided to accept Russia's annexation or do something different to resist?

What is your decision?

DZHEMILEV (via translator): We can't actually oppose Russian military. There are only 300,000 of us. We're only 14 percent of the population of the peninsula.

We have traditionally fighting for our rights in a democratic way, not applying any violence. Naturally we don't accept this occupation. We insist as -- on the integrity of our country, of Ukraine.

But the thing is that referendum which were held -- executed by occupational forces on the 16th of March, we didn't participate in that. We boycotted it. Not only us boycotted it, but many others also.

I think Ukrainians and ethnic Russians, though the official authorities claim that officially 82 percent of Crimean population voted, but in fact we do have evidence that only 32.4 percent of Crimean people voted.

According to our data, which is quite precise, only 0.5 percent of Crimean Tatars took part in that referendum.

AMANPOUR: So what is happening to Tatars in Crimea right now?

Are they being respected?

DZHEMILEV (via translator): This situation is very -- is very concerned -- we're very concerned, because the local government created so- called paramilitary units, Cossacks, others patrolling the streets. They're quite blunt and they talk about a second deportation of Crimean Tatars.

Moreover then, from time to time, some symbols appearing on Crimean Tatar houses where they live, and it's -- we take it as a signal that some violence could start.

AMANPOUR: Have you spoken to President Putin and what has he told you about the rights of Tatars under what he claims now Russian Crimea?

DZHEMILEV (via translator): We had a half an hour talk. I told Mr. Putin that we do not accept this plan for coming the referendum, because it's an absurd referendum under an occupational regime. And this regime contradicts some elementary basic norms.

But still President Putin was insisting that the opinion of Crimean people should be consulted.

AMANPOUR: So just to be clear, you would rather be part of Ukraine or part of Russia?

DZHEMILEV (via translator): Twenty three years ago, when we -- when Ukraine declared its independence, at our national congress, stated we see our future as a national territorial autonomy within the framework of Ukrainian state.

Any claims on the territory of Ukraine, with any references to any referendums, we won't accept them.

And as general, annexation of any part of Ukraine will contradict, will violate, international laws and will result in large-scale conflicts. That's why we believe that Russia should pull out its troops as soon as possible and respect the territorial integrity of our country.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that Putin will go any further in taking or occupying or annexing any other parts of Ukraine?

DZHEMILEV (via translator): As far as the -- whether the Russians move further, I would believe that would be very unreasonable from the side of Russia, because there's a decision by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, no matter how weak we were in military in comparison to Russia, but we'll start fire.

We'll open fire if army will move further. And it's hardly within Russia's interests or President Putin's interests.

But we can't exclude anything. But all this will result in bloodshed.

AMANPOUR: What are you asking the United Nations for today? What is your message?

DZHEMILEV (via translator): I want to raise concerns about the -- in connection with talks of politicians, of others, that Crimea has been already lost and measures should be taken for Russian troops not to move any further.

From our point of view, that would be a direct violation of Budapest agreement, so for 1994 when great powers guaranteed our territorial integrity.

And would be -- it would be a great tragedy for all Crimean people, not only for Crimean Tatars but also for ethnic Ukrainians and tens of thousands of ethnic Russians who do not accept the Russian citizenship.

In addition to that, I would like to raise my concern that those sanctions applied so far, they feel like some pin touches.

AMANPOUR: What do you make of the Western response to the annexation of Crimea?

DZHEMILEV (via translator): In the United Nations, I met Mr. Erdogan, the leader of the Turkish Republic. The Turkish position is about -- that they're ready to take any measures, but as NATO member they will not go -- they will not take these measures on their own independently.

I would like to say that our largest, biggest concern is about the possibility of clashes, of large-scale bloodshed in Crimea

That's why the Majlis of the Crimean Tatar people requested for United Nations troops to be dispersed and on the Crimean. But we believe that this should be done.

AMANPOUR: And finally, as part of the agreement that guaranteed Ukrainian territorial integrity in 1994, Ukraine gave up its huge stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Do you think Russia would have entered Crimea if Ukraine was still a nuclear power?

DZHEMILEV (via translator): Of course not, because it's very dangerous to act lawless against nuclear powers. That's why these, all these talks, that we can put up with a loss of territory of Ukraine. This is as cheating of Ukrainian people.

If it happens that way, there won't be any trust towards international agreements, and now there's a talk in the parliament in order to apply all efforts for Ukraine to become, again, nuclear power, no matter how much is needed. I'm confident that if we're nuclear power, that wouldn't have happened.

AMANPOUR: Mustafa Dzhemilev, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

DZHEMILEV: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And some Crimeans are saying they're worried that the autocratic rule of President Putin could bleed over into Crimea. And also in Turkey, under pressure over an increasingly autocratic streak, the ruling Justice and Development Party or AKP of the prime minister, Erdogan, emerged the big winner in municipal elections, with giant flags waving and a firm grip on power. The prime minister vows revenge on his enemies.

And speaking of democracies morphing into autocracies, after a break, we'll turn to Egypt who just announced a date for presidential elections in May and the expected winner will have removed his uniform.

But military rule will continue.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the military leader who is most likely to be Egypt's next president hit the ground running in his first political campaign. He's changed uniforms -- that track suit there is a radically new look for the former field marshal, who first got his job from Mohammed Morsy and then spearheaded Morsy's fall from democratically elected president to prisoner.

Now with presidential elections set for May 26th, Sisi is all but a shoo-in to win. Would a Sisi presidency mark the birth of a new democratic Egypt or a return to the days when the military had a stranglehold on Egypt's government and its economy?

The dire state of that economy will be the real challenge for any president. High unemployment was the fuse that helped fire off the first Tahrir Square uprisings and the intervening years of political chaos have only made the situation worse.

Dr. Samir Radwan was Egypt's finance minister after the fall of President Mubarak and he joins me now from Cairo.

Dr. Radwan, welcome to the program. Obviously General Sisi enjoys a great deal of support from the status quo, from the business people, from a big segment of the -- of the population. What do you think is the main challenge ahead? Is it just the economy?

Oh, Dr. Radwan.

Can you hear me, Dr. Radwan?



AMANPOUR: You can hear me now, OK.

I just want to know what is the first top challenge for the next president? Everybody expects it to be General Sisi, who's going to win.

RADWAN: I think there are several challenges because the situation, as you quite rightly pointed out, has been really declining. The economic situation has been declining. But I think basically the first challenge is the political stability of the country, to regain the political stability of the country. This is a very daunting task because certainly the Muslim Brotherhood who lost the power are not willing to come to terms with that loss. And they continue to raise a big fight, using -- resorting to violence.

So now, what is the way out? We cannot -- Egypt cannot continue like that. We must find a way out. There are different experiences in the world like in Ireland, like in South Africa with Mandela, like Spain after the civil war. There are hundreds of experiences we can benefit from. And in fact, what I liked about the speech of General Sisi declaring that he's running for president is that he has opened the door for an inclusive society.


AMANPOUR: That's obviously, as you've pointed out, really necessary to be able to move forward. In fact, you told us last year that the faltering economy could only be reformed if Egypt's divides were bridged. And you said -- we're talking about nearly half the population being in a state of poverty.

Now, look, I understand what you're saying about the Muslim Brotherhood and we'll talk about that.

But let me ask you from the interim government's point of view, do you believe that there has been a serious significant sufficient attempt to reach out and bridge these divides?

Do you think the government, Mr. -- Dr. Radwan, has the government done enough to bridge the divides?

RADWAN: I think there has been several attempts to cross the divides between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood. And even recently some members of the Muslim Brotherhood -- prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood have declared that they are willing to go one or two steps backward in order to reach a settlement.

But I think it takes much more than that. It takes much more than that to get out of this violent situation and to include every shade of opinion and conviction and to the democratic process. The road map is very clear. We started by the constitution. It was, in my view, a brilliant success and now the election of the president and then the parliament. And the parliamentary elections provide a very good opportunity for everybody to join in the -- in the political process. I think this is -- this is really the main rallying point.

AMANPOUR: But let me ask you about the economy, since you were the finance minister.

Things have simply gotten worse. So the economy, you've got labor unrest; you've got workers who are challenging General Sisi, trade union activists, all of those people are -- you've got labor strikes. You've got industrial production, which has contracted 20 percent since last year, that huge 100 percent of GDP, electricity rationing, on and on and on and on, really bad, no tourists and very little foreign investment.

What is it that General Sisi can do to improve that in the kind of timeframe that satisfies the people of Egypt?

RADWAN: Well, I don't think -- I don't think it's a question of one person. It is a question of a whole new system, a whole new regime that has the vision to relaunch the Egyptian economy. The Egyptian economy, as you quite rightly pointed out, has been going down the drain for the last three years.

Now the rate of growth is 1 percent this year. It was about 1.9 percent last year, now down to 1 percent. Unemployment at 15 percent, that is 3.6 million people with -- for youth, it is 25 percent. The deficit of the budget is 14 percent of the GDP and the public debt is about 100 percent of GDP.

So the situation is bad. But is it hopeless? Not at all, because the Egyptian economy is intact, has not been destroyed like in Syria and in Libya. It is intact. Once there is political stability, the economy can relaunch very quickly indeed.

So what we need is a strong government. It's not a question of the president alone, but he has to have a group of very efficient and capable people around him in the government. So that they can relaunch the Egyptian economy and it is doable.


AMANPOUR: All right, well, I hear you -- I hear you saying that you need the president to lead a strong team; obviously many people in Egypt put a huge amount of faith in the ability of the military.

But I do actually want to turn your attention to some other issues because for instance, for instance, you talk about the Muslim Brotherhood. I guess my question to you is, Dr. Radwan, does Egypt want to be known going forward as the kind of place that in one fell swoop announces a death sentence on more than 500 people as you did last week?

Biggest anywhere any time in recent memory, is that the kind of Egypt you want to see going forward?

RADWAN: Not at all. Certainly no Egypt would wish to see that this is the type of Egypt that they would like to live in. But I think it should be put in context. I am not commenting on a judgment of the -- of the -- of the course. But it should be put into context.


AMANPOUR: I know. You say that --

RADWAN: -- a lot of violence has been --

AMANPOUR: -- yes, yes, you --

RADWAN: -- and if you -- if you ask the people, if you see the perception of the average person in the street, they will tell you we are fed up. Our livelihood has been threatened. I mean only two days ago a woman who was going to do charity in a poor area was dragged out of her car, pulled out, killed simply because she has a cross dangling from her car.

AMANPOUR: All right, Dr. Radwan, let me -- let me just interject there, because I understand what you're saying and rightly people are very fed up of instability and crime and all of that.

But as you know, the interim government has basically determined that everything that is a protest or anything it doesn't like is put into the terrorist segment. For instance -- and I'll read you about this.

Five leaders -- again, this is labor unrest -- of the striking post office union were taken away from their homes by police. They were being held in Alexandria on charges of forming a terrorist cell in the police office.

Now does that really sound credible when you're, you know, putting journalists away for being terrorists, when you're doing all of this -- it just seems that you're not actually addressing the problem; you're just putting everything in one big terrorist basket.

Is that sustainable going forward?

RADWAN: It is not sustainable and I would be the last -- and I would be the last person to condone such behavior if it is an extralegal behavior.

But I think, you know, there are -- there are signs of violence. I mean, you can see it in the streets of Cairo.

AMANPOUR: Right, we know that.

RADWAN: And everywhere else in the country there is a very widespread violence which is threatening the livelihood, the nature of the country, Egypt was one of the most peaceful countries you know. And now violence is the name of the game. Every day, every minute, there is some violent action here and there.

Now my question is what is the future? I don't think I want to go on and on about what's going on now and who has done what. My interest is in the future. I think the success of the road would give an opportunity to set up a regime which is inclusive, which is open for everybody to participate. We should set the rules of the game and the Muslim Brotherhood should really take the initiative as the white minority in South Africa took the initiative and started by repenting what they did under apartheid.

AMANPOUR: All right. I'm sorry, Dr. Radwan. I've run out of time. I fully appreciate what you're saying. But I'm afraid the last word has to be that the whites in South Africa were not declared illegal. Therefore, there was a reconciliation process. Unfortunately, for your idea, the Muslim Brotherhood has now been declared an outlaw organization.

We will continue this conversation another time, and thank you very much for joining me from Cairo.

RADWAN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And we'll be back very shortly with a final thought.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as freedom and democracy are being contested as we see from Crimea to Cairo, imagine a world where liberte, egalite, fraternite are written in iron on two continents. The Eiffel Tower in Paris has 20,000 light bulbs that sparkle every night in the City of Light, and today it also has 125 candles on its birthday cake.

Back in the 1880s, a French engineer named Gustav Eiffel won a competition to create a memorial to the French Revolution. For two years, two months and five days, his metal latticework took shape, eventually rising almost 1,000 feet above the city. At the time, it was the tallest manmade structure on Earth.

When it was unveiled at the Paris Exhibition of 1889, it was only meant to stand for 20 years, if that long, given the blistering criticism it received from the cognoscenti of Parisian culture. And yet it survived them all plus two world wars to become not only one of the most visited tourist attractions on the planet but also a rallying point for freedom lovers everywhere, as it was earlier this month, when it marked the third anniversary of Syria's civil war with the words, "Avec Les Syrians," "We are with the Syrian people."

As for Gustav Eiffel, he also lent his genius to create the metal framework for the Statue of Liberty, France's gift to the United States and a guarantee of freedom, which, like the Eiffel Tower, remains iron-clad.

That's it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.