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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  October 16, 2019 12:30am-1:01am BST

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our top story: as turkey's military offensive in syria continues, russia says it will not allow clashes between turkish and syrian troops. russia's envoy to syria says turkey has no right to deploy its troops permanently there and should not go more than 10 km over the border. russian military police are patrolling the lines between syrian and kurdish forces. bulgaria's football chief has resigned following racist behaviour against england players. uefa says it will hold an inquiry into the incident. and this video story is trending on bbc.com. a royal visit to pakistan as the duke and duchess of cambridge are welcomed by imran khan. prince william's mother, princess diana, was a hugely popular figure in pakistan. that's all, stay with bbc world news.
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now on bbc news, hardtalk, with stephen sackur. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. donald trump doesn't seem to do regret, but maybe even he will come to rue his abrupt decision to pull us troops out of northern syria. his move prompted a turkish military invasion of territory held by syria's kurds. the kurds are now looking to president assad for military help. the region, once a playground for so—called islamic state, has been plunged back into chaos. my guest is alan semo, representative of the syrian kurdish democratic union party in london. what are his people's options now?
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alan semo, welcome to hardtalk. thank you, great pleasure to be here. you represent the democratic union party of syrian kurds. should you and your people have seen donald trump's dramatic decision to withdraw us forces from your region coming? no, we haven't seen it. but should you have seen it coming? because donald trump, if one looks at the record, as long ago as last december declared that the us had won its war with islamic state, and therefore, he said, were going to withdraw our forces from northern syria.
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so, in that sense, you had some warning that this might happen. that's correct, but not in that extent — that we leave suddenly and without any replacement of the forces. there are people in your region talking of betrayal. is that a word you are using? it's more than that, and beyond betrayal. these people have honoured their promises and defeated the common, the global threat to the — the global threat to their society, the western society, mostly the kurds. and now they have been abandoned on their own to face their — face the brutal face of turkish aggression, invading on 5 million civilians in north—eastern syria. what are you hearing as you try to make contact
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with your family and friends in northern syria about what they are facing today? unfortunately, the shelling and bombardment have been now continuously for five days, night and day, 2a hours. about 200,000 people have been displaced already, according to un reports. there are — all the towns on the border with turkey, people have been displaced. many facilities of hospitals, schools, have been bombarded, and people have to seek somewhere else east of syria to get away, escape from this bombardment. much of your family is from near to the town of kobane, which is close to the turkish border, was once held by so—called islamic state fighters,
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but then of course was taken by the syrian democratic force militia. how are your family today? have they fled, or are they still in their home? no, they stay home. and most of the people, they're staying home, but they're very, very concerned, and they‘ re following the development. there is some infiltration of the turkish military and their proxies, which are mercenaries who have been allied with turkey. but there are still people there, and the defence — people defending themself, for security. what do you say to them when you talk to them on the telephone, and i guess they discuss with you whether it is wise, safe, to stay at home, or whether they should flee? what do you believe they should do? they're trying to defend themselves. they said, we have seen the worst of isis, and turkey is attacking the civilians, and we have
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to be very, very careful. but we all have nowhere, no option safer than this, our home. we're going to stay and we're going to defend ourselves. so they will fight, will they? members of your family are going to fight? my family, all the society, all the people in northern syria, even civilians now, they're preparing for themselves. students, all teachers, all parts of the communities, members of communities, because they have realised, as you mentioned before now, there is no option. where are we going to go? you tell me that your family and everybody in kobane and other syrian—kurdish towns will fight, but the truth is it is a military mismatch, isn't it? i mean, the firepower, whether it be by air,
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artillery, tanks, all of the firepower is on the side of turkey. you have very little to respond with. no, we have the will. and this we have proven before — 2014, 2015. we have been defeating. we have a history of victory. we have defeated the most brutal isis, which no forces, military forces, stood against them. with respect, mr semo, you represent a party, but you are in london, and perhaps it is easier to discuss these things from a party in london than from a place like kobane. of course your forces fought, and we know they fought a very tough battle against islamic state fighters. but islamic state fighters do not have an air force. they do not have tanks. they do not have all of the military equipment the turkish army and its airforce have. you cannot expect your forces on the ground to be able to put up meaningful resistance against turkey. but we are not going to give it up easily. we're going to defend on the ground. and i totally agree
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with you that the airspace is most dangerous for north—eastern forces now, the military forces. i'm nota military man, i know, but this is the fact, as you mentioned it — the airspace. and now, therefore, the north—eastern syrian people now are seeking to have airspace blocked for turkey. therefore we have been calling for a no—fly zone. and now, when america decided yesterday they will withdraw all theirforces, and the russians and the regime called and agreed to come to the border, military only, and this is agreement to prevent the turkish airspace to breach the syrian airspace. well, we'll get to what the assad government and russians want to do and will do in a moment. but let's go through this piece by piece.
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for one more moment, let's stick on what your military forces in the so—called ypg are doing on the ground. they are your sort of militia, syrian—kurdish militia. in response to the turks occupying syrian—kurdish towns and villages, they are — that is, your forces, have been firing shells into turkish towns just across the border in turkey, indeed, killing a number of civilians. do you think that is the right response? it is — you have to defend yourself. so you think the civilians who have been killed in akcakale, and you know that several have been killed, you think that is legitimate, do you? it is defence. you declared the war. turkish government has declared the war and waged war against these forces, and these forces, they are all in their territory, and they have a legitimate right to defend themselves.
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everybody has a legitimate right to defend themselves. but we're not talking about attacking the turkish military forces who are attacking towns. we're talking about lobbing shells across the border into turkey? what about these 200 people who have been killed, civilians, even the political party leaders? the syrian future party leader, the co—chair, she has been, yeah, assassinated. you're talking about hevrin khalaf, and she was brutally murdered. yes, what about her? she has no defence to herself. where will she go — run away? that raises a question, because she wasn't actually affiliated to the ypg or to the syrian defence forces. she was an independent politician. do you think that there are now militias at work in northern syria who are specifically targeting kurdish politicians? there are.
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mostly they‘ re proxy forces which are backed by turkey. do you have proof that this is a specific, targeted policy? yes, this is the video saying they are not turkish soldiers, they are syrian. they are ahrar al—sharqiya, and they are backed by turkey, and they are saying in arabic that they are linked to ahrar al—sharqiya. that is one of the jihadist islamist groups. so let us talk about the jihadist islamists, who of course had a very strong presence in northern syria for some time,
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and then your kurdish forces took them on and beat them in a series of confrontations. is it your belief that the turkish move into northern syria is going to see a revival of the jihadist groups in northern syria? this is a fact. this is a fact, and this is the proof of that. as assad mentioned it, jarabulus, azaz, in northern syria have been fighting back. so yes. are you in the kurdish—syrian movement in a sense using the threat of a revival of so—called islamic state as leverage to try to change the mind of washington, or other western powers, not to abandon you? i wish — i wish we could use it, but we are not able. and this is not our view. we are not using it as leverage. we have been calling for the international community, including all european countries, to take responsibility, to take their citizens,
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to have prosecutions. we want justice. as you mentioned, if we do that, the iraqi government would have killed all of them, isis fighters. we have them. you have, and i believe there are 4,000. 11,500 iraqis. we did not, because we didn't want to force them. we treated them humanely. all we wanted, we wanted justice for them, for the crimes they... well, let's talk the numbers. it seems there are almost 12,000 is fighters. 4,000, it seems, are foreign fighters. they have come to the region to fight with islamic state. there have been suggestions that there have already been escapes. we know that one camp for displaced is—related people, mostly women and children, one of the camps near ain issa, was hit, and as a result there was chaos and we believe several hundred foreign nationals escaped. not necessarily fighters, it seems they were family members. but is your message to the outside
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world today that thousands of islamic state fighters will be freed, one way or another, if this war continues? if you're not going to support, to make them secure, right. but see, that does sound like a threat. no, it's not. i am keeping them. i have kept them for six months now. i have fed them. i understand that. no, i understand, you have fed them, you have kept them, you have kept them detained. but, if you are serious about keeping them detained, why don't you, right now, before the turks arrive in some of those camps, move them to safer areas, so that they cannot escape? ain issa is far away. it's 45 miles from the border. where are you going to move them?
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we wish — we ask the international community, please find a space we can move them, to a safer space. as you said, this is not the leverage. mr trump has for our beatles, from that area to a secure area which we're expecting is in iraq. yes, but you mentioned these two individuals the so—called beatles, they're british prisoners they were fighters with the islamic state, they are believed to have committed crimes, the united states has removed them in the middle of all of this crisis in the recent days, the us took these two prisoners, as you say, we belive they're in iraq. but the point is there were at least 50 other prisoners on an american list of high—value ias suspects. and according to a report
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in the new york times when the americans approached the syrian defence force, that is the kurdish syrian force, to get access to these other prisoners, high—value prisoners, that access was denied and they remain in your custody. why were you not prepared to give them up to the americans? it's not true. we have been giving them to the americans. but now, because of the bombardments, now you cannot move them. this is not we allow them to escape, this is absolutely not true. we tried and we try now as well. yesterday's statement, the isis fighters in prison will be secured and kept safe. but the turkey bombardment, and isis come. turkey bombardment, and it will be kept there and they make it to escape. it's not us, it is turkey's aim now to rescue them. but you, the kurdish syrians, are now paying the price for your decision to link yourselves so closely to the to the pkk,
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the insurgent group inside turkey. the reason the turks have moved in to northern syria is because they say they have to act against a terrorist group, ie your group, which is a close intimate relationship with the pkk. you are one and the same thing. this is a pretext of turkey. but it's actually true, isn't it. it's not true and it's not reality. in 2016, the krg, the kurdish region in northern iraq tried to do independence. and mr barzani, president barzani, is a close ally to turkey. and is a close ally to the west, as you know. why turkey was attacking him and preventing him? he's not the pkk. he's against the pkk. he's a close ally and he's working
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with turkey and relying on turkey's economy so that means turkey is not genuine. well, it doesn't necessarily mean that, it means that turkey and iraq may be different. crosstalk. let's be clear at this point, clearly, we kurds, pyd and all the kurdish political movement, in syria, we are a syrian, we have our own relationship, we have equal relationship with kdp, kurdish regional government, we have the same kurdish talibani and barzani and we consider all of the other kurdish political parties and different parts of iraq, iran, turkey, as kurdish movements.
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mr semo, here are some facts. the facts are that the ypg that is the military wing of your own party, the ypg group inside kurdish syria has in the past unfurled banners and posters during its operations, showing abdullah 0calan, the imprisoned founder of the pkk. here is another fact, of the director of national intelligence in the united states back in 2018 said of your ypg, he said, "the ypg is a syrian militia wing of the kurdistan workers party, that is the pkk." the united states regards the ypg as a terrorist organisation, so does the uk and the europeans. that's not true. this is the reality. it's a reality that you always deny, but it's the reason why the turkish military is on your territory today. these aren't reasonable reasons. these are not facts. so if i'm supporting... imagine a kurd living in iran as he is a kurd.
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and he likes 0calan. does that mean he is 0calani? no, but if one looks at the evidence, there is clear evidence of a command structure, the organisation of the ypg is intimately connected to the pkk. this is not true. the us made it clear that it's not true. yes, and uk make it clear it is not true. is it also... 0k you've said it's not true. let's just move on to other aspects — troubling aspects of the ypg. is it true that ypg uses child soldiers? no, they have been declared, the syrian democratic forces... so why do you think the united nations, human rights watch and other independent human rights groups have all said that there's clear evidence that the ypg uses, recruits and sometimes kidnaps children to serve in your military forces? it was some individual cases and since they have signed the agreement, geneva agreement
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for now recruiting underage, but it was some individuals, not in the front line. there was some young, under 18, or 16, 17s. and then they stopped it, since the agreement of the geneva convention. so you acknowledge that as of august 2018 the latest human rights report, you acknowledge that there has been recruiting of children, including girls, using some inhostilties despite pledges to stop? it was individuals, individual cases and it stopped. let's finish because we have to finish in a moment, let's finish with what is going to happen now, because as a result of the turkish invasion of your territory, you have reached out to president assad, you have asked the syrian army to take positions on the border. indeed to retake towns that were held by you but you seem to want the syrian army to move in now. do you really believe that president assad and his forces
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are going to be reliable protectors of the syrian kurds? it is their duty. it's not believing or not believing. this is the fact. this is not only kurds and syrians that have to defend the border of syria. but... the point is, mr semo, for the last six, seven years, the kurds in north and north—east syria have esentially run their own affairs. still running of these affairs. but if you're inviting assad and his regime and the military to take over, you will no longer be running... iam. ..it is the end. this is not true agreement. the compromise was that the russian, mediated by the russians on friday, they come, the russian delegation,the agreement is that
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syrian military forces in order to defend the airspace, the russian and the syrian military will move to only towns. this is a military agreement and has no regards to the autonomous administration. the administration is running, they willjust come to the border. they will not even enter the cities and towns. you really — so you've now described how you feel the americans have utterly betrayed you. and now you are telling me that you really trust president assad to keep to an agreement. which sounds to me... it's nothing with trust or not trust. it's a fact. this is the your duty of syria regime as my duty. i'm protecting the border, and you have to protect your border. if you're not able to protect your border then i have to look
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for somewhere else to project my border. —— protect. so you think that the syrians — the syrian army under the command of president assad is now going to fight the turkish army, do you? this is supposed to. do you really believe that's going to happen? hopefully will happen, why not? let me just end by reading to you a quote from the commander in chief of the sdf, that is your militia armed force in north—east syria, he said: "for us kurds there are going to be painful compromises with the assad government and with the russians. we don't trust their promises, to be honest it's hard to know who to trust. but if we have to choose between compromise and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people." is that what it's come to? that's right. this is the correct position. and therefore i'm saying — the people, yes, we don't trust but this is theit duty. i'm calling for you to do your duty and i will do my duty, i honour my duty, but i wanted you to share with me your
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duty as well. do you think the survival of your people is at stake? it is, very seriously at stake. and the international community has ought to do something to prevent this genocide. we have to end there, but alan semo, i thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you. hello. we've got some fine weather heading our way. wednesday is expected to be a sunny and fresh day with clean air
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coming off the atlantic. but in the short term we have the overnight rain so early in the morning would be cloudy and wet and quite windy as well. this is the big picture with the satellite. you can see the weather front here approaching ireland earlier on moving into western parts of the uk, all linked to the low pressure sitting out on the atlantic. this low pressure will be right on top of us during the course of thursday, friday and saturday and sunday and that means the outlook is showery and blustery. but in the short term it is the weather front bringing the rainfall and breezy conditions as well. this is the rain through the early hours of the morning, through the centre of the british isles. at times the rain will be heavy. not a particularly cold night, 11 in the south and eight degrees in the north. that weather front will eventually reach eastern parts of the uk early in the morning so you are most likely to catch the rainfall from east anglia, lincolnshire in the north—east of england and eastern scotland early in the morning and then it is out of the way in the afternoon.
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you can see it's clear with pleasant conditions on the way. a little on the nippy side in scotland and northern ireland, around 13 degrees, but the winds will be light so not a bad day overall. with the fine and to wednesday on the way. this is thursday ‘s weather map with the low pressure from earlier edging closer. starting to roll into ireland and the wind will be strong as well. early on wednesday there will be a lot of sunshine around, particularly across central and eastern areas but quickly out towards the west, the winds will strengthen and the showers will rattle in. some will be heavy so steady with the umbrella. thunder is a possibility as well so it will feel chillier particularly across the west where the wind will strengthen. winds will then get stronger as we had through friday. the low pressure here has not moved a lot. with the showers turning around at the overall weather pattern will not change. again, showers are expected, frequent across western
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and southern areas and along the south coast of england, winds could be in excess of 50 mile an hour and gustss, so a blustery end to the week on the way. through the weekend the wind ease but the showers will continue. i don't want to write the weekend off because there will be sunshine around as well, it will be just changeable.
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i'm rico hizon in singapore. the headlines: as turkey's invasion of northern syria continues, russia warns it will not allow syrian troops to be attacked. is it a done deal? negotiations continue between the eu and the uk. there are reports they could be on the brink of a breakthrough. i'm lewis vaughanjones in london. also in the programme: a difficult moment for hong kong's chief executive, carrie lam, as she gives her annual policy address, with protests rocking the territory. oh, my god! and tourists at this hanoi hotspot
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have their plans derailed

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