50 killed and eight it did in a gun attack at florida's fort lauderdale airport. the alleged gunman — said to be carrying us military id — is now in police custody. russia tried to boost donald trump's election campaign — and discredit hillary clinton — according to a report by us intelligence officials. and — tears and cheers as michelle obama gives her final speech as first lady. she said the role of first lady had been the greatest honour of her life. now on bbc news, it is time for hardtalk with stephen sackur. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. after six years of terrible bloodshed, could 2017 dramatically shift the dynamic of the syria conflict? change is in the air. aleppo has fallen to the assad regime, and a ceasefire deal
brokered by russia and turkey is just about folding. moscow's dominant role in the diplomatic endgame is now undisputed, with ankara playing a pivotal role as well. my guest is bassma kodmani of the negotiating team of the syrian opposition. is it time for the moderate rebels to accept their de facto defeat? bassma kodmani, in paris, welcome to hardtalk. hello, stephen. thank you.
it's a pleasure to have you on the programme. let me start with a question that comes directly from the new year. do you see 2017 bringing with it better prospects for an end to the conflict in syria than we have seen at any time in the previous, almost, six years? i do, carefully optimistic, but i do. i do hope, and we are working towards making 2017 the end of the disaster of the tragedy and the beginning of a political transition. that is what we are hoping for and the coming weeks will tell us whether we are moving in that direction but there is certainly a turning point and certainly something to build on at the moment with the new players that have asserted themselves, and i think there is space for diplomacy now if the signals
coming out from moscow and from turkey as well as, very carefully, from tehran, if these signals are sincere, then we have some hope for a political settlement, yes. i want to talk about the key players and their signals in a minute butjust taking up your phrase about a turning point — would it be fair to say that the defeat of the anti—assad forces in aleppo was a fundamental turning point? certainly, the military confrontation has turned to the advantage of the assad regime. why? simply because it had the full and massive support of russian air force on one hand and pro—iranian militia, sectarian militias on the ground as ground forces. very little was done by assad's forces, it was by one key regional power and one key international power, so it was obvious the outcome
was not going to be in favour of the opposition. but one needs to look back five years ago 01’ even six years ago when the uprising started. those who rose up against assad had no arms, no military means at all, so we are looking at a confrontation that is ending militarily, but the ingredients for a conflict and the confrontation is still there. if we are going to build on the military balance of forces, i don't think we will go very far in either defeating terrorism in syria or in ending the conflict and having a satisfactory political transition. the people of syria and goodness knows that they
have suffered so much, they have seen well over 300,000 of their people killed, they have seen 12 million and more displaced including 5 million who have left the country altogether. with that in mind, is this the right time for you in the so—called moderate anti—assad opposition who have been aligned with the united states and the saudis in particular, would it be the right time to acknowledge that you have lost out here? you wanted assad to go and those who have prevailed, the russians in particular and the iranians as well, they are the people who are insistent that assad need not and will not go? to be fair to the opposition, it has sought support from democratic countries, it has received very little support and obviously the assad regime has received massive support. russia has decided syria would be the place where it would signal its international power, stature and military might. we have seen it happen on our territory. it is not because we chose
to align ourselves with this or that party. we as syrians are asking for dignity, rights, freedom and security and the right to life today for every syrian, and for that to happen, we will be working with any country serious about organising and facilitating a political transition. we have tried it with assad himself directly for ten years, then the population rose against assad for six years. did not receive any concession, none whatsoever. we look to all the powers in this world and if russia is serious about brokering a settlement in syria, it will find a partner among the moderate opposition, both military and political. these are people who the moderate political opposition is very clear about.
the state needs to remain. there has to be continuity of governance, we need to restore security to syria because we know the international community is worried about international terrorism coming out of syria. if i may, let me read between the lines. you acknowledge the russians are driving the process, no question. the americans with obama in his final days as president, with donald trump singing a very different tune, the americans aren't really in this game at the moment and as far as you're concerned, you are now ready, are you, to undertake the peace negotiations the russians want, to be, they say, hosted in astana, kazakhstan, with the turks and the iranians playing key roles with no sign of the americans? are you with your team in the high negotiations council of the opposition prepared to participate in that process? look, i believe if these talks were to take place in astana or geneva or any other place, if they are placed under the terms of reference, if the terms for the talks are clear,
if they refer to un resolutions which russia has voted for, there is no problem in participating in such a process. russia is brokering a cessation of hostilities on the ground. if this holds, the parties will be ready to go whether they are military or political. what we would like to see is certainly the new us administration step in and take some responsibility in brokering this political arrangement. we have russia telling us it is serious about political settlement. we have turkey playing a positive role but so far we have not had a positive role from iran. let us admit that iran has been the key spoiler. sectarian militias on the ground are our key problem today in syria.
they are fuelling jihadis on the opposition side. what we need as a priority is a coalition of countries, and the trump administration should be part of that, to push out those sectarian militias who are poisoning the ground inside syria. i will push you on this a little bit. you can say what should happen and what you would like to happen, but let's deal with reality, what is happening. the us is not playing a role and the un, frankly, has been sidetracked as well. the russians are dominating the diplomacy right now, and i want a simple yes or no answer. are you prepared to go to peace talks that are brokered and controlled by russia? the russians, who don't see a reason to insist that assad be removed from power. are you prepared to undertake and participate in those talks under russian auspices?
the russians are referring to the un resolutions. if that is clearly the case, there is no problem in participating. the opposition can go. what i'm saying is the trump administration, the us congress, are clearly coming out against iranian behaviour across the middle east because it has really destabilised the region. that is where we can expect the trump administration will play a role in pressuring iran to limit its presence across the region. it's iraq, syria, lebanon, yemen, everywhere in the region, and we have a real problem there with the shia militias on the ground. we cannot get rid of sunni jihadis whether it is daesh, al nusra, radical groups, if we have this poisonous presence of shia militias on the side of the regime. this is where iran needs to come to terms with what needs to happen on the ground in order for syria
to see a peaceful settlement. on one point of detail, yesterday a coalition of 12 or so different anti—assad forces on the ground said they were going to reject any further diplomacy under the russian—astana tent because of what they described as systematic violations of the ceasefire agreement by assad forces on the ground. is that your position or are you prepared to say that the ceasefire is holding in a satisfactory way? unfortunately the ceasefire is not holding. these groups are the ones who signed with russia, and russia signed on behalf of the regime, an agreement for cessation of hostilities. the groups abided by the ceasefire and the syrian regime is notabiding. what the groups are asking is for russia to get the assad regime to behave, to comply
and enforce the cessation of hostilities. if it is credible, a political negotiation can happen. these groups are willing to go to astana, they signed, they said they were going, and now we see the other side is not respecting any of that. we need russia to put pressure needed, and it can do so, on iran as well as the syrian regime if it wants a political settlement. i personally believe that russia today has an interest in finding an exit strategy through a political settlement. i would expect it will do so. we have spoken a lot about the russians in this interview. have you and other negotiators who have aimed your efforts mostly at the un, in geneva, have you reached out privately or maybe covertly with key russian officials? through the united nations we have contacts with everyone involved in this crisis.
with respect, i don't mean through the un track. the financial times reported last month that some moderate leaders had covert and secret talks with russian officials hosted by the turks in ankara. have you been involved in that? the turks have hosted talks with military groups and lots of political figures from the opposition have also been in touch directly with russia. some have gone to moscow and some have met them elsewhere. there are many messages passed on to the russians and they know exactly where the opposition stands and what it is willing to negotiate. really, the problem today is not so much russia and the opposition. they know each other, or they understand each other‘s position. we are willing to operate and negotiate under the political transition, fine, we can go to a negotiation on political transition...
if i may say, we have talked before and you have always in the past said, you know what, it's quite simple, the removal of assad, no role for us in the transition. that is a dealbreaker dealbreakerfor us. we cannot sign anything or engage in any process that involves assad. it seems to me that you must be changing your mind. if you say you believe in russia's good faith and believe in their desire to see the conflict ended, we know the russians don't feel that assad has to go, so presumably, you have given ground on that, have you? look, can i say very simply, we read the international equation. here's the balance of forces on the ground, here is what russia is seeking to achieve, a political settlement, fine, along the lines of resolutions in the un, to talk about political transition. that is fine for us.
what assad becomes is how he behaves in these negotiations. is he in a position to make concessions, to yield some of his prerogatives, a lot of his prerogatives, most of his prerogatives, any of his prerogatives, to a transition government? if that is the case, then the discussion changes, but do you think the opposition... he might be leading the transition. he cannot lead it. what? he obviously cannot lead it. he is not showing any indication other than destroying communities and starving people. we need to see some behaviour that is positive on the other side, then we will have a partnerfor peace. if we don't, i think russia will come to terms with the fact that it doesn't have a party on the other side and cannot ask the opposition to do much to work with assad if assad doesn't want to work with the opposition. the equation is fairly easy, you know. we are not asking for assad to go
away the day we enter negotiations. we are talking about negotiations in which there are give and take. we need prisoners out, we need women and children to be safe and to be released also from prisons. we need the disappeared, to have news about them. we need to have the bombings stop and barrel bombs stop being thrown at civilians. i'm sorry to repeat myself. i don't want to get stuck on this issue, but one last time, it does seem to me that you have given ground on the role of assad. you are now acknowledging to me that assad will be a key figure in the negotiations. he won'tjust be removed, it will be assad in many ways who is the figure deciding what he can give. look, the power of assad is very little. he has nuisance power, yes, but those who are negotiating, the decision—making power
is in moscow and tehran. unfortunately there is no syrian regime that can still decide on a yes or no. that is why we are talking to russia. we will be talking to the countries and parties that support the assad regime, not so much the regime itself. we need to find some reasonable voices over there, we have not seen them so far, he has prevented them from rising and if negotiations can bring those reasonable voices out and if we can talk to them and have them safely talk to us without being themselves punished for showing some reasonable behaviour, then we will have a negotiated process. otherwise i think russia will understand, iran is more difficult, but russia will understand that it doesn't have a helpful partner out there and needs to work differently with the opposition. everything we are talking about is couched in terms of moscow, putin, russia.
let's reflect on how we got to where we are today. do you feel desperately let down, maybe even betrayed by the obama administration? i think the obama administration has opted out. it should have played the role that was what a us role should be in this region. 0pting out of this region is abandoning certain responsibilities vis—a—vis syria but also vis—a—vis the whole region, iraq, the gulf countries. we are in a region where the us was a key player. it cannotjust pull out as it did and in the case of syria, it is the syrian population, yes, that is paying the price. yes, we are disappointed. obama, he steered away from obviously any significant military action against assad. it looked possible for a while, he walked away from it. he talked, or at least hillary clinton talked
for a while about some sort of aerial intervention to establish safe havens. they walked very long, long way from that. they talked about training moderate forces on the ground. well, the training programme turned out to be pitiful. actually farcical. so when you look at all of those elements of what the administration talked about and didn't deliver, give me your final verdict as obama is about to leave office. well, i believe he should have thought of where security, how to restore security in syria and today that is our concern. the obama administration has decided that there was no possibility to challenge russia. he certainly should have challenged russia at some point and at those turning points, he failed us, he certainly did. but what we are looking at today is can we bring back security to syria? because this is the concern of the international community. unfortunately, no one is thinking of assad. assad can sit there, they don't see the risk
and they don't see the link between terrorism rising and assad staying in power. fine, but what we are seeing today is if you want to bring an alternative to the horrible, criminal system that we have in syria, then we have to have a security plan for this country and we need the cooperation of every country. we need the us, we need russia. your message to donald trump then, donald trump the man who says vladimir putin is very smart and who also says that when it comes to analysing the serious situation, his objective and his overriding concern is smashing the jihadists in so—called islamic state. it doesn't seem to be in getting rid of assad whatsoever. so your message to trump? the message to trump is get the foreign fighters out of syria. shia militias, pro—iranian, they are iraqis, they are afghans, they are iranians, they are not syrians and on the other side, there are jihadis who are foreigners
and we want them out of the country. this is what the international community needs to help the reasonable syrians in order to achieve the coming weeks and months. that's when we can have the ground for a political settlement. we don't have much time left and i just want you now to reflect on the six years that have brought us here. you have been actively involved with the opposition throughout that six—year period and here we are with russia in the ascendancy, with the americans opted out and with donald trump singing a tune that doesn't sound like it is going to suit you very well, and on the ground, the opposition forces defeated in aleppo and on the defensive in those pockets of territory they still retain. is it time for you to quit, for the opposition to say, we tried, we failed, the country has been ruined and the best thing now is to walk away and accept defeat because that is the only way we can save further life? this is our country.
we cannot give up. giving up makes no sense. what we are looking to achieve... well, it makes sense when you are saving lives. well, no, it is not, because coming under assad's control tomorrow morning, if that is to happen, is also under shia militias. again, assad has no capacity to control the country, to govern it. neither the legitimacy nor the capacity, the military capacity. he needs those foreign troops to be on the ground, so it is too late to imagine a scenario of assad returning and retaking control of the whole country. that is not going to happen because he cannot do it. even if russia wants him to do it, he cannot achieve it. quickly, what russia seems to want, as best as we can understand, it is that they want a much
more federal system, assad to still be president, much more autonomy to the different regions of syria, which would then recognise the rights of all of the different ethnic groupings within the country, a looser system but one in which still has assad at its federal centre. could you imagine accepting that? i think the russians will themselves realise that that is not going to work with assad. we want decentralisation, we want a loose control from the centre, we want obviously a democratic, participative system, so we are not disagreeing here and we are saving we need security and fighting terrorism. we are on the side of the international community on this. is assad on the side of the international community? that is the real question to ask. is he willing to fight those jihadi groups because the shia groups arejust asjihadi as daesh group, so that is what we need to achieve. is assad a partner in doing that? i don't believe he has shown any indication of that and this is where we believe the opposition
is showing every sign that it is part of the solution and that with it builds security capacity and governance capacity for a future syria. do you think we will be having this conversation again at the beginning of 2018, with syria still at war or will it be over by then? i think war will be over by then. i think the parties are exhausted and i do believe that in 2018, we will be talking about what we have reconstructed so far and how we have brought legitimate governance to the different areas of syria. that is my belief and that is what we are fighting for. we will end on that positive note. bassma kodmani, thank you very much forjoining me from paris. hello there.
compared with some other parts of europe our part is very quiet indeed. we had some rain and drizzle pushing southwards during the day yesterday. some breaks in the cloud later, perhaps in scotland, so here it could be a little bit chilly to start the weekend but on the whole, it will be milder. we don't really need to worry about frost. there will be a lot of cloud around and probably not much rain. most of the rain we will be seeing overnight across the southern parts of the uk. that's keeping the temperatures up. it could turn chilly across the glens of scotland where skies are clear. central and eastern scotland will see sunshine and a bit more cloud in the west. a pretty cloudy start and maybe a bit misty too across the northern ireland and for most of england and wales that's the way it will be as well. a lot of low cloud, it's quite low cloud sitting on the hills. there will still be some rain and drizzle left over from overnight along the south coast and into the south—west of england.
that's going to dawdle in the south—west corner through much of saturday in actualfact. one or two heavy bursts perhaps first thing. away from here a lot of dry weather, a few spots of drizzle around some western hills, maybe getting a bit more sunshine in the north of england, especially over in the east of the pennines, possibly the best of blue skies across central and eastern scotland. pretty cloudy elsewhere but we may get temperatures in double figures. and again, no realfrost problems overnight because there's too much cloud saturday night into sunday morning. again some mist and some hill fog. the odd spot of rain still towards the south—west perhaps and around some of these western coasts and hills. it may mean that sunday is going to be another cloudy sort of day. if you see a glimpse of sunshine that may be it. any more than that and you're doing very well indeed. we could see some more persistent rain coming into the west of scotland later on, otherwise, again, a lot of dry weather and pretty mild too. those temperature in glasgow nine degrees, the same as the temperature in london on sunday afternoon. we've got some milder air here but across eastern parts of europe it's been
really, really cold. these are the maximum temperatures on sunday. it's staying very cold right the way through the weekend. there have been some blizzards and maybe the worst of the weather heading into the eastern mediterranean. here at home, though, for the start of the new week an american subject by the name of este ba n an american subject by the name of esteban fond iago landed in fort lauderdale airport on a flight from minnesota, a delta flight from minnesota, a delta flight from minnesota to fort lauderdale. he eventually retrieved a firearm and began indiscriminately shooting. this cowardly heinous act resulted in the deaths of five people. there we re in the deaths of five people. there were eight more people injured by way of gunshot. they were transported to local hospital was a mess. there were at least 30 or a0 more people who went to hospitals
for various injuries— rogan bones, confusions, sprains, strains, things of that nature. the subject was immediately ta ken into of that nature. the subject was immediately taken into custody by deputies without incident. the subject was interviewed extensively bya subject was interviewed extensively by a team of fbi agents and deputies. the subject is now in federal custody and we will be speaking about that in a few moments. the subject at this point, asi moments. the subject at this point, as i said is an american citizen and the investigation continues. we have taken the investigation continues. we have ta ken thousands of the investigation continues. we have taken thousands of people off air planes, from baggage, waiting in lines to the port. terminal for at the port. the red cross and many other agencies are coming together
to assist these people. as tragic as this incident is, it continues to be, i have never been so proud of local, state and federal law enforcement. the fbi, the florida department of loren enforcement and many local public safety agencies came together and it worked with com plete came together and it worked with complete cohesion. the entire law enforcement and public safety community worked tirelessly today and continues to work tirelessly as we continue this investigation at this time i will bring you up. thank you, sheriff. iam this time i will bring you up. thank you, sheriff. i am the airport director. first i would like to again say on behalf of the county administration, our mayor, the of the county, we express our condolences and sympathies and keep oui’ condolences and sympathies and keep our thoughts and prayers with those who lost their lives here today as
well as the family and friends. an horrific incident. as the sheriff said we had a number of individuals that were not only stuck on a planes, planes that had landed, as well some were on the gates who were not allowed to leave right after the incident occurred. a number of individuals who evacuated out of the terminal onto the apron areas, we have been working most of the date to ensure that everybody was safe and secure. 0nce to ensure that everybody was safe and secure. once we receive the word from our law enforcement partners, there has been a process of transporting those individuals over to port everglades at terminal a.