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tv   News  Al Jazeera  October 1, 2015 11:00am-12:01pm EDT

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♪ >> we are awaiting a news conference right now from sergei lavrov at the united nations. he is the russian minister of foreign affairs, and according to syrian state tv, russia has carried out 30 air strikes in syria over the last two days. russian officials released video of some of the air strikes a short time ago. u.s. officials say at least some of those bombs have targeted u.s.-backed rebels. >> it is one thing, obviously, to be targeting isil. we're concerned obviously if that is not what is happening. >> we all want syria democratic,
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united, secular, syria which is a home for all ethnic and confessional groups who's rights are guaranteed, but we have some differences as for the details on how to get there. >> russia says its air campaign is aimed at isil, but as mike viqueira suspects, russia is in syria to bolster president bashar al-assad. >> reporter: u.s. officials were again taken by surprise by russia's swift and aggressive moves in syria. >> this is not the kind of behavior we should expect professionally from the russian military. >> reporter: the u.s. was informed at the last minute, a russian officer delivering a blunt message to the american embassy in baghdad.
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it's not just when, but who was targeted that has angered the administration. u.s. officials say russian bombs hit areas where there were no known russian fighters. russia is bombing groups that is fighting on the side of the u.s. and its allies. secretary of state john kerry issued ae warning. >> we shall have grave concerns if they are targeting areas where isil is not operating. >> reporter: president obama and vladimir putin pledged to avoid accidental conflict in the skies above syria, but before those talks got off of the ground, russia launched its strikes. president obama insists that assad has no role in syria's future. wednesday his spokesman said
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vladimir putin was playing a losing geopolitical gain, by trying to rescue russia's last ally in the middle east. >> they are not going to be successful, and they will be no more successful than the united states was in imposing military solution in iraq in the last decade, and no more successful than russia's efforts to impose military intervention on afghanistan. >> we'll talk more about what to expect from sergei lavrov. he has a lot to respond to, guys. let's start with the fact that russia is now denying that any civilian casualties were killed. we heard those same denials when we talked about yushg. >> exactly. the syrian observatory for human rights said there were 30
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civilian casualties, including six women and six children. of course russia has come out and denied that. russian president vladimir putin said there were reports of civilian casualties before our planes even got off of the ground. but this is par for the course, if you will. as long as you cannot independently verify what is going on. it always leaves a big question mark. >> but is it all spin, and courtney, i want to bring you in on this conversation, because you have seen these videos, saying they are striking isil targets. is there evidence that they are not striking isil targets; that they may be striking at cia-trained rebels, and pentagon-trained rebels. >> the u.s. doesn't have a lot of rebels there. we don't have an ally or group in this state. if they were bombing baghdad, it
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could have been along with the iraqi government that could be a problem. >> but if they are bombing free syrian army guys -- >> technically. but we're five years into a conflict, they haven't received that much support. you have much more support going on in northern iraq and iraq. you also have a lot of these groups changing ally againsts to al-nusra, a destitute area that has been going back and forth between assad and different militant groups over the last four years. these are opening up supply lines from damascus, to latakia, and aleppo down to damascus. and russian officials did admit today that they are hitting other targets not just isil. >> so when we look -- and again, this is sergei lavrov, we are awaiting his comments in response to this he said she said -- in fact let's listen in
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now to what he had to say. >> conflict response to global threats, and streamlined positions, [ inaudible ] russia is one of the founders of the united nations. it is a permanent member of the security council, and we're responsible in implementing its chairmanship functions. we're trying to forth a positive [ inaudible ] and steps based on the u.n. charter principles. our presidency as the situation in the region kept on degrading, as a result of the extremism and activities the so-called isil. we have proposed now to comprehensive assessment of the situation aimed at streamlining the efforts aimed at settling conflicts there, and conquering
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this threat. a meeting yesterday at the security council took place. as a result of this meeting various views were expressed. you probably managed to watch the discussions, although we are united in the fact that the threat of terrorism is imminent, it is threatening not only the region itself, but other countries adjacent to it, and even though who are far from the middle east and north africa, and in these circumstances, i believe it was in the interest of everybody to welcome the -- putin's initiative to create a brood anti-terrorist front, based on the nation law, and the u.n. charter. we would act in coordination in
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confronting terrorists and extremists. yesterday he presented to members, as a formal base for further discussions in order to development a come non-understanding of approaching to fight against terrorism. [ inaudible ] this month will organize all necessary activity in order to implement this project. in september special [ inaudible ] was attached to the migration process, whichen gel fed middle east, north africa, and [ inaudible ] draft resolution is being discussed which would provide for the first measures needed to neutralize these threats, this challenge. [ inaudible ] draft resolution as it is present in this form as
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a result of various negotiations has become appropriate in terms of respecting international law and its wordings to allow excessive interpretation of the mandate, hopeful other security council members will be able to agree upon all of the outstanding issues. we're the cosponsors of the resolution, and it will be adopted in the future. we are working actively on so-called syrian [ inaudible ] and a joint mechanism was established in participation of the organization on the prohibition of chemical weapons in the u.n. and this includes the development of the fact-finding mission.
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we are going to spread this mechanism to the territory of iraq where there are a number of substantiated attacks of the use of poisonous substances by isil and terrorist organizations. there are special means developed as a rut of the syrian crisis, as well as discuss the situation of other countries in the region, including yemen. a couple of talks took place on this issue. it is our common view that we need to stop immediately. violence -- there can be no alternative to settlement including negotiation of the united nations. [ inaudible ] was made in september condemning terrorist attacks which took place in sana'a, and the killings of the members of the international red cross organization. unfortunately we failed to agreement on the common statement on the 21st of september as a result of the
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escalating violence and destruction resulting from shelling in the residential areas. a resolution was adopted which extended for a year, u.n. mission in liberia. and there is a common understanding that we would incrementally choose this motion and bring it to the conclusion. the solution was adopted which expanded the [ inaudible ] of another u.n. mission for libya. the situation in the country which is characterized by the split between two confronts camps, and isil gained more ground, that requires more efficient measures made by the international community to find political solution to this crisis. we actively support [ inaudible ] in his activities and we hope that his attempts
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aimed at political settlement would be a success. we described the situation in sudan and south sudan [ inaudible ]. the huge prospects for the normalize of the situation in the area, could be achieved in the settlement of the [ inaudible ] region remembers of the council, a number of them welcomed active efforts undertaken by russia in order to contribute to the settlement of those conflicts. as you know in moscow, for the first time a consultation took place with the foreign ministers of sudan, south sudan, on the settlement and -- of outstanding issues between the two countries. this was implemented in support of the efforts undertaken by the african union and special mediators. there was an expanded meeting on
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afghanistan that noted an unprecedented outburst of terrorist activities with huge casualties as a result of the terrorist activities, so we believe that the prospects for the settlement of the conflict in afghanistan are [ inaudible ] regarding the situation on the border between [ inaudible ] and afghanistan where terrorists including those from isil are very active. we're concerned about the ongoing drug trafficking coming from the territory of [ inaudible ]. similar concerns were expressed during the closed meeting dedicated to -- to the work of the u.n. regional center for the [ inaudible ] diplomacy for central asia. so the agenda of the council continues to be a very
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extensive. i believe that in september all discussions were very fruitful, at least we managed to understand each other better, at least in terms of the understanding of the terrorist threats, i believe that that's the call [ inaudible ] would continue discussing those challenges, aiming at reaching new agreements. thank you. i'm ready to answer your questions. >> i want to give the first question to [ inaudible ] association president. mr. president, the floor is yours. >> mr. lavrov on behalf of [ inaudible ] thank you very much for this press conference. it was very needed at this point. and the -- my question is this, you said create a resolution that practically says that the state attacked by the terrorists must be part of the anti-terrorism resolution.
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do you think this will have a chance to fly soon? >> translator: you know, we are in a diplomatic process. there are many resolutions, which were initiated and have turned out to be unrealistic, but i don't know how can you dispute this very simple sentence if a state is an object of terrorist threat? how can you leave this state aside from collective efforts aimed at curbing the threat. this contradicts the international law, the u.n. charter principles, and this is not practical from the pragmatic point of view. if you want to fight the same militant who carries out these attacks, you need to cooperate with all that confront them.
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>> reporter: [ inaudible ] how would russia [ inaudible ] are we likely to see a russian push [ inaudible ] realizing the solution, [ inaudible ]? >> translator: you are asking as if russia is now the only country who is not seeking a two-state solution. this is our consistent position since soviet times in the late 1980s. soviet union recognized the palestine state and our position remains unchanged, and i think no one has any doubt that these problem remains unsolved, not because of russia. we just met with the minister of foreign affairs with the gulf
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states, they all express their special gratitude for the consistent and unchanged russian position on the palestinian, israeli issue. >> reporter: foreign minister, james bayes from al jazeera. the u.s. coalition says it is fighting isil. with your air strikes you now say your military is targeting terrorists. can you be specific for us. in addition to isil which specific groups in syria do you believe to be terrorists? >> well, if it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it's a terrorist, right? i would recall that we always were saying that we are going to fight isil and other terrorist groups. this is the same, the same position which the americans are taking. the representatives of the
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coalition command have always been saying that their targets are isil, al-nusra, and other terrorist groups. this is basically our position as well. we see eye to eye with the coalition on this one. >> joseph cline of canada free press -- >> excuse me [ inaudible ]. >> i'm sorry. jonathan [ inaudible ] with fax news. are you saying mr. foreign minister that russia is now in complete synchronized military action with the west in combatting terrorism? and is russia going to take a lead role in the battle now as we're seeing now it's quite active? >> don't put words in my mouth. i said what i said. i said and i repeat it once again. as regards what are the targets of the coalition, and what are the targets announced by russia? we have the same approach. it's isil, nusra, and other terrorist groups.
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>> [ inaudible ], please. >> reporter: you just said -- you mentioned you met with the gcc and arab countries and ministers. i'm sure you heard some reservations on their part on -- on your position vis-a-vis bashar al-assad if he stays, when does he go in is it in the beginning or the end? so why are you allying yourself with iran and hezbollah and that regime in damascus, and creating this impression that you are entering a civil war on their side, whereas all of the gulf states are trying to build new relationships with you, and trying to work with you on a transition out of the situation? are you spear heading the fight against isil? >> this is a very disported and perverted perception. we stated bluntly that the goal
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of our [ inaudible ] in response to the request of president assad, and on the basis of the decision of the russian parliament in accordance with the russian constitution, the goal is terrorism. and we are not supporting anyone against their own people. we fight terrorism. as far as i understand, the coalition announced isil and other associated groups as the enemy. as the coalition does the same as russia do. somehow, some people try to present the coalition action as leading to a political settlement, and russia fighting the same people is being perceived or presented like defending the regime. that's absolutely untrue. and i believe honest journalism is require interested in this situation, and that the analysis that you do, must not exnor
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repeated statements made by myself and other russian leaders. >> what did you hear from the gcc countries in your meeting? did you agree on anything? >> we agreed on many things. including on the need to fight terrorism. including on the need to promote political settlement in syria, in strict compliance with the geneva communique. transition on mutual consent between the government and the brood spectrum of society. >> nick brown from the bbc. russia has dropped bombs on opposition groups who have received backing from the cia. do you regard them as terrorists? >> you stated this as a fact? do you know something i don't know? >> reporter: [ inaudible ]. >> many things have been widely reported, for example, during the phase of the crisis in
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ukraine some respected tv channels were showing images as if this was happening in ukraine. and later they apologized and said those images were taken a few years ago in iraq. the russian minister of defense reported on what we hit. we targeted isil depots, armories and sites. >> reporter: associated press. >> reporter: thank you very much minister lavrov, and for those of us who remember you from your days here, welcome back to the united nations. two questions. first, is russia coordinating its air strikes with the united states? i know you mentioned this with
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secretary kerry yesterday, but also with the french, and is there any kind of giant military and diplomatic strategy? and as a second question, since you are trying to clear the air of all of these possible misperceptions, how do you answer those -- those people who are saying that the military action that russia is taking now is a diversionary strategy to take attention away from ukraine and what was going on there? >> i cannot speak about something which sick minds are presenting to the media. it's always possible, you know, to find some absurd interpretation of what is going on. i hope you don't share these views, and i hope no one in this room believes that in order not
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to -- not to distract attention from ukraine, you should not fight terrorism. i hope this is not the case. and some -- some governments, some -- you know, politicians cannot handle more than one situation at a time. but situation in middle east and north africa is requiring urgent, urgent response. everyone is saying that isil is expanding, one year more than one year after the coalition started its war, the -- the isil territory has expanded, and they want to grab more and more. on the coordination, i don't know why you highlighted the -- the french participation, they are part of the coalition as far as i understand, and we -- we have many questions as regards the explanations of their activities, and their strikes on syrian territory.
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they say that they enjoy the right of preventive self-defense in accordance with article 51 of the charter. what they did, and i believe the brits did the same, they said we hit the target, we killed a couple of people who were contemplating bad things on our territory from syria. no proof, nothing. and i think you cannot avoid the impression that the legal basis of the coalition activities in syria is really flawed. you cannot operate without security council mandate or without the consent of the country in question. we said from we the beginning that it was a mistake not to go to the security council, and a mistake not to engage the syrian
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government. had they come to the security council, i believe we would be able to agree to a concept which would be acceptable to all, and the -- the -- the words about ill legitimacy of the syrian regime, you know, against the background on what we did on chemical [ inaudible ]. i believe this is very hypocritical. the syrian regime was perfectly legitimate, when we all agreed to deprive syria of its chemical weapons. we welcomed the decision of the government to join. and everything was fine with everybody. >> you have been listening to russian foreign minister sergei lavrov address reporters questions regarding the russian air strikes that began yesterday and continue. the dispute is whether russia beyond striking isil targets have always been striking targets of moderate syrian rebels backed by the
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united states, trained by the cia. i want to go to jamie mcintyre who joins us from washington over the phone. jamie, as you listen to lavrov's explanations, do we have any evidence at this point that cia or u.s.-trained moderate rebels in syria have been targeted? >> reporter: well, you know, minister lavrov mounted a very effective argument in advancing russia's position that they are battling isil rebels, but one of the things that the pentagon would point to, if you look at the location of where these air strikes took place. they are in areas that isil does not have control. if you take a look at the big swathes of area that isil is in control, they are not in these areas north of homs. in addition, you know, the pentagon has been concerned about this since really last week. i talked to an official last
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week before russia had conducted any air strikes, and they pointed out to me that all of the drone surveillance that russia was doing as a familiarization with the area, was reconnaissance in the area where u.s.-backed rebels were operating. so there were red flags raised even then. the question was why are they doing these drone surveillance over areas where isil was not a significant factor? so, you know, as for the direct evidence on the ground, there are a lot of reports from people on the ground at the -- that the people who were hit in these strikes were not affiliated with isil, and that is going to be something that is going to be difficult to sort out. one of the things that this whole episode has underscored is while the pentagon has had this disastrously failed policy of trying to train syrian rebels and equip them, the cia has always been mounting a sort of
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parallel operation much more quietly, and it has trained and equipped quite a large number of fighters covertly, and one of the things that we're discovering as some of these forces are hit, is that some u.s. officials are now admitting that that training has been going on. you may recall that when -- when the first syrian rebels were sent into russia -- i'm sorry, into syria, the first u.s.-trained syrian rebels they sort of melted away after they were attacked by al-nusra. and the pentagon made a big point of saying that some of the people who defected were not part of a u.s. military training program, while some of the people on the ground said they were, and that disconnect was partly because some of the people were not trained by the cia. the main thing i think the united states will point to today is the fact that these air strikes are not in areas
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controlled by isil. so even if there was an isil member targeted in these strikes, the question is these look like strikes to protect the regime of bashar al-assad. they don't look like isil -- anti-isil strikes, and as minister lavrov responded when he was asked, how do you define a terrorist? when you say you are attacking terrorists how do you define them, he said if they look and act like a terrorist, they are a terrorist. i think the united states would use that same argument saying if this looks like strikes against moderate opposition and not isil then that probably is not what it is. and the u.s. would point to various statements that russia made during the incursion in ukraine when it said that russian was not acting there. so i think you have to look at the statements of minister
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lavrov with a high degree of skepticism and factors in russia's statements from the past of what it says and what it is doing. >> and it only admitted to sending troops into crimea off it annexed it. we're going to take a quick break and have much more coverage from the united states general assembly coming up after the break. >> which breeds extremism . . .
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>> translator: although we're united in the fact that the threat of terrorism is imminent, it is threatening not only the region itself, but other countries adjacent to it, and those far from the middle east and north africa, and in these circumstances, i believe it was in the interests of everybody to welcome the -- putin's initiative to create a brood anti-terrorist front based on international law and the u.n. charter. >> you russia's moves in syria are being closely watched in washington. i want to go back out to jamie mcintyre who joins by phone from washington. how concerned is washington by what they are seeing as far as russian action in these air strikes and who they are targeting in syria? >> reporter: i think there is a
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high degree of concern at the pentagon, because this vastly complicated what the u.s. is trying to do. they keep trying to put on the best face, saying the u.s. is going to deconflict with russia on these air strikes. but this eliminates a couple of options. when the former cia director testified before congress last week, he suggested a couple of things the united states really should consider without having to put troops on the ground, and those were, one, to ground bashar al-assad's air force if it continued to use barrel bombs and chlorine gas against his own citizens, and also to set up a safe area protected by air power where not only refugees, but also moderate opposition could feel safe in the north. if the russian air force is now operating essentially with impunity and under the -- you know, the authority of the
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government of bashar al-assad, that vastly complicates that and basically takes away those options. i have to say there wasn't a big appetite for those options, but there was a feeling at the pentagon that something had to be done, particularly because of the refugee flow, and creating a safe area and stopping bashar al-assad from using those barrel bombs. the reports include reports that syrian aircraft also continued to drop these barrel bombs of chlorine gas, which technically under the chemical weapons treaties aren't a chemical weapon, but they are in fact a very deadly chemical weapon has that been used against the citizens of syria, and as many have pointed out, while isil is a dangerous threat, and something that the united states is confronting, the number of people killed in syria by the government of bashar al-assad
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vastly outnumbers the people killed by isil militants in -- in both iraq and syria. so it vastly complicates things. it makes it -- it gives -- it puts russia in the driver's seat, and from the actions they have seen so far, this clearly seems to be a large focus of it seems to be to prop up the government of bashar al-assad and maintain moscow's foothold in the region. it's really the only place that moscow has a foothold in that region. so it -- it -- it's -- it's a worrisome development. the u.s. already feels that the -- the effort that they had to try to train, equip, moderate opposition forces to battle isil was already a very, very troubled program that wasn't working at all. they were just going back to the drawing board to figure out if there was a better way to do
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that, and now with russia being in the driver's seat it makes it much more complicated. and what the pentagon fears is the result is simply going to be -- it's going to be much more difficult to bring a resolution to what is happening in syria, much more difficult to bring about a solution that would include evolvement of the government, and it doesn't make the outlook for syria and the residents and citizens of syria look any better than it did a month or so ago. >> jamie given all that you have just said and that analysis that somehow the russians are now in the driver's seat is there pressure on the obama administration to get drawn deeper into the syrian conflict with ground troops? is that back on the table? >> i don't think so. the last thing the u.s. wants to
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get involved in a proxy war where the u.s. is backing the rebels, and russia is backing the government of bashar al-assad. in that aversion is one of the reasons that the united states has not been more involved now, and ruled out ground troops, and insisted from the beginning that all of its efforts in syria were directed against isil not the government of bashar al-assad. the u.s. has said many times it's not at war with bashar al-assad even as the administration has consistently said he has to go at some point for peace to come to syria. so rather than make an impetus for ground troops, i think this takes that option completely off of the table, because the united states is not going toing want to get in a shooting war with russian forces in syria. it's just that would -- you know, that would be an outcome that would be even less
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desirable, and that's the problem when you have these -- if you have russian forces bombing on the ground, if you had u.s. troops on the ground, what happens if russia either intentionally or accidentally bombed u.s. troops on the grown. you know, the -- the problems that would come from that, would be a very, very difficult situation. so i think you're going to see the united states try to continue to stick to its policy, it is going to try to put more pressure on russia, and i think it hopes that overtime that russia gets bogged down in this war. this is not an easy thing, the united states and coalition partners have been bombing in iraq and syria for over a year, and the results have been minimal. i guess the most optimistic assessment is it's a satalemate.
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and russia may find that it can bomb a lot too, and still have a stalemate. the problem is a stalemate is a loss for the people of syria. >> jamie mcintyre thank you. foreign minister sergei lavrov continues his press conference. i want to go back to that live now. >> -- this event, and we are interested in big powers to be in consent with each other, to resolve differences by negotiations, by meeting of minds, we do the same with our partners in the west and in the east and of course our chinese friends briefed us about their impressions about this visit. >> let's move to the back row. excuse me the gentlemen over
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there. >> reporter: yes. first of all gasoline is a much better word than inconfliction. [ inaudible ] of "new york post" right now. on that quartet statement that you made before, this was the first time that the quartet failed to call for a direct negotiation between the two sides. could you explain why? >> the quartet referenced all of the basic resolutions and principles on which the settlement must be achieved. and the quartet agreed that the envoysover the quartet would continue working with both sides. i don't believe we need to bluntly reiterate the obvious every time. >> yes, the lady over there. >> reporter: thank you. [ inaudible ] from the "new york
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times." just to clarify, are you, or are you not targeting with your air strikes any groups supported by the u.s.-lead coalition? and secondly, are you planning to expand your air strikes to iraq? and would you do that only with security council authorization? thank you. >> no, we're not planning to expand our air strikes to iraq. we were not invited. we were not asked, and we are polite people, as you know. we don't come if not invited. [ laughter ] >> and on the first one -- well, you know, i don't know whether the -- if the united states-lead coalition, targets only terrorist groups, then we do the same. >> yes, please. >> reporter: thanks your briefing. [ inaudible ] from al jazeera. the u.s.-lead coalition -- >> you are also from al jazeera?
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>> yes. >> and you? >> yes. >> it's a big media coalition. they speak about degrading and destroying isil over an extended period of time possibly years, with the russian addition of the military involvement, what are your military objectives in terms of destroying the group, and how long do you expect it to take? >> well, i cannot speak for the military planners. i can only say that the difference which we believe we can make is explained by the fact that we would be coordinating with the syrian army, and it is, i think, common place, recognized everywhere, that air strikes alone would not resolve the problem. >> yes, please. >> reporter: thank you mr. lavrov, my name is
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[ inaudible ] from [ inaudible ] newspaper in lebanon. we all know that you are a master of diplomacy, and you like to praise your u.s. counterparts. you talked about nice things when you -- >> no, we talk about bad things nicely. >> please. [ laughter ] >> reporter: would you please -- would you please, as journalists you giving us kindly this press conference, tell us what are your differences? what are your worries about how deep the differences are between the united states and russia? and are you just as a master of diplomacy are you and mr. kerry
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trying to contain this spillover. >> i will reiterate president putin's speech at the general assembly. it's partly a philosophical question, partially practical. we believe in collect [ inaudible ] we believe in the effort which is based on international law, on the agreements reached, and never broken, and we also believe in the need for serious countries to respect legitimate interests of others. that's basic approach of russia, and our -- not only american, but some other western colleagues are not always reciprocate. there are plenty of examples of broken promises, of broken
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deals, including in the midst of the ukrainian crisis two years ago. some other situations. i don't want to get into those details unless you ask me -- >> syria, please what are the major difference -- >> but you said about diffusing the differences, and when presidents putin and obama met, i can assure you that it was a very constructive atmosphere. very friendly, and they discussed things in a very open way. and they understand each other. for some reasons not this -- i believe they completely understand each other. but for some reason this complete understanding cannot be translated in complete joint action. in complete cooperation. and on syria, well, it is -- it is the reading of the geneva communique, if you want to be bureaucratic. it says transitional governing
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organ, and that's what the americans say must be done -- >> all right. you have been listening to russian foreign minister sergei lavrov. we're now going to go back to the general assembly haul where prime minister alexis tsipras of greece has taken the stage. let's listen in to what he has to say. >> in the wake of this war, the under's noble declarations raised hopes for a common peaceful future based on universal values, social justice, and respect of human rights. much has been sensitive, but regrettably, the vision of the founders of the organization is far from being fulfilled. we witnessed today a large humanitarian crisis, unprecedented movements of
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displaced people, and -- and an increase of poverty, violence, extremism, and human rights abuses. nevertheless, the big question for us, is not to identify the challenges we face. the people of this world know very well what they face every day. the big question that this great organization was set up to answer is how do we deal with these challenges on the basis of our shared values on the united nations charter? importantly as years go by, we seem to be turning not only to the same problems, but to the same old failed recipes that fostered these problems in the
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first place. this is why the biggest challenge we face today is an existential one, whether to continue with the same old recipes of social exclusion, politic politic politic political, if ragmentation, or proceed with confidence with the ability to learn from our mistakes. allow me to refer to my own country in confronting this crisis in the last few years. as many other countries, greece was hit hard by the 2008 economic crisis due to the structural weaknesses of its economy and its high debt and budgetary deficits.
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we and other european countries were called to implement changes that came at devastating social cost, and contributed to deepening the economic and financial crisis, include of curing it. we lost 25% of our gdp. our debt to [ inaudible ] ratio grew, and the migration of [ inaudible ] to european countries accelerated. what we faced was a firm commitment of some to the idea that greece must exit the euro zone, or that the [ inaudible ] and reforms that we need had to be combined with tough austerity measures and welfare and wage
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cuts. after many months of negotiation, greece agreed to a new program that includes reforms in our systems, and gives us the opportunity to stabilize our economy by setting the foundation for a necessary reprofiling of our debt. importantly at the same time [ inaudible ] both society and the economy, these measures should have been avoided, we needed and still need to struggle step by step to claim a growth rather than an austerity agenda, to protect the most vulnerable members of society, and redistribute tax burdens
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justly. to [ inaudible ] the development of the economy and restoration of confidence to the need for a structuring of our debt. how familiar does this sound to others in the assembly? how many times since the '70s, have countries in the developed and more recently in the developing world, struggled to face exactly these problems that concern not just their weaknesses, but the recipes they are given to deal with them? we need to realize -- we have to realize that we need a global financial and economic system oriented to fostering national growth strategies and our post 2015 development agenda. we have to discuss the issue of debt restructuring in all
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government forums, including this one, in connection to developing growth and not austerity strategies. another regional european crisis where greece is at the forefront concerns recent unprecedented migration flows. since the beginning of the year, over 300,000 people mostly from syria, iraq, and afghanistan, have entered the country with the aim of transiting to western european countries. greece, like all other european countries was taken aback by this development. nevertheless, the people of greece showed their solidarity in providing food and shelter to the refugees. in cooperation with the european union and other national organizations who are doing all we can to manage these flows in
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an effective and humane way by improving reception facilities and identification procedures, as well as setting up hot spots to facilitate relocation. nevertheless for some the only way to deal with this challenge is to build walls higher, to repeal migrants by force, or to ensure that they remain someone else responsibility as far away as possible. we do not believe that the future of europe or the future of our world, can be built on ever-higher walls, or children dying at our doorsteps. neither can we forget that many of our ancestors were refugees and migrants. we cannot allow [ inaudible ]
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and xenophobia to destroy our principals. we have to build the necessary resettleme resettlement mechanism for countries bordering syria. these resettlement mechanisms together will give hope to these people, discouraging them from trusting traffickers. furthermore, we have to increase support for front-line european states, such as greece, in their effort to manage these flows. greece is also at the center of a security crisis that is caused because of this refugee crisis. we are at the heart of the
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[ inaudible ] destabilization with [ inaudible ] to the north, and the conflicts in libya and the middle east, and southwest, and southeast. located in this unstable environment, greece has been striving to bolster regional security and supports all efforts promoting peace and stability. never the less again, we feel [ inaudible ] insisting that we should embark on unilateral initiatives without considering the prospects and [ inaudible ] or leave the conflicts to be settled by themselves without contributing to stabilization or reconstruction. yet, these are exactly the mistakes that brought us here in the first place. we do not have the luxury to make foreign policy choices without exam mining in advance
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what the consequences will be. in syria, we must act divisively in favor of reconciliation, and the political solution that would lay the ground for the democratic transition foreseen in the geneva communique. in regard we support initiatives aiming at engaging with all actors. in libya, we fully support united nations efforts, and we welcome the successful completion of negotiations and political dialogue last week. furthermore, we believe that the middle east peace process is of key importance for the region. a new momentum for a solution must be promoted with a view to the creation of a state of palestine on the basis of the
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pre-1967 borders with east jerusalem as its capitol that coexists peacefully with israel. concerning ukraine, we support its territorial integrity. we appreciate the efforts of the normandy group and their conciliatory role of the osce, to avoid a visual battle of militarization in the region, and we call on the minsk agreement signatories to implement the agreements in full. we are also deeply concerned about the rise of jihadism, which must be dealt with decisively and comprehensively. beyond the crises i mentioned, greece attentions particular importance to engagement with
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its immediate neighborhood. and also it's important to foster new initiatives rather than remain trapped in the events of the ambassador. i spoke of the needs to avoid con instructing walls, and truly, it is shameful that for the last 41 years, the same number as my age, cyprus remains divided. today more than ever, and in light of the instability in our region, it's important that the momentum is grasped for a mutually acceptable, just, viable, and comprehensive solution to the situation based on the relevant united nations resolution, and on membership to the european union. so the benefit of all of the people of cyprus, greek and [ inaudible ] as well as all
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other communities. in this context, i would like to underline greece's full support to talks had under the leadership of president [ inaudible ] and the head of the turkish community. i firmly believe any real and lasting situation will have to deal with the international issue of security. the consolation of the treaties of alliance and guarantees, and the withdrawal of all foreign troops, including the troops occupying the northern part of this island. as the original plan on promoting security in the area, greece has been making steady efforts to improve cooperation with turkey. we have done so through a wide