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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 12, 2015 2:00am-4:01am EDT

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and the impact on the epa's new power plant emission rules. after that, a house hearing on the medicaid program. earlier this week, british foreign affairs secretary philip hammond answered questions at a parliament were ear hearing, combatting isis, syrian refugee crisis, and iran's nuclear program. this is 2 hours and 10 minutes. >> welcome to this session here foreign affairs committee. my thanks to foreign secretary
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for coming to join us this afternoon. we'll get straight into questions. inevitably isis, isil, whatever it is to be called heads the agenda. i thought we would start off there and with syria. in july, you indicated that our policy in attacking isil in iraq but not syria was in coherency. and the defense secretary has been extremely robust on this point the last couple of days. but isn't that british military in coherency trivial irrelevant when in the international
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policy. >> well, i think there are two issues here. the question of the international approach to the crisis in syria of which isil dash is a part but by no means the whole. and there's the question of isil in syria as part of the challenge of dealing with isil is the most extremism in iraq and as we now see it far beyond iraq. and the point, if i recall, in july that i was making was that there is a military in coherence to carrying out a campaign of air strikes against an enemy on the ground in iraq whose supply lines originate in the neighboring country.
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so there may be political arguments and indeed there are. these were in parliament on the 29th of august, 2013. but from a military point of view, it is in coherency. it is a single theater of conflict. and the supply runs run from rakka in syria to iraq where they sustain the isil forces that are attacking iraqi forces. >> what about the juxtaposition of the military in coherence operating in iraq and syria. isn't that very marginal when set against the widest of the
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international communities whole position towards syria and isil? the international community's response to isil is coherent. it would not be appropriate to put coalition ground forces into iraq. the coalition's activity is limited to the use of air power, to the provision of materials, sustainment, training, mentoring to the iraqi forces. that means that the objectives will take longer to achieve than they might have done if western forces had been injected into iraq. but the judgment is that the ensuing result will be more
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sustainable if it is delivered by iraqi forces acting on the ground in iraq. i think that is equally coheren. i understand entirely their frustration, people who are reluctant to contemplate what general allen from the beginning was indicating, that it could be taking years not months to resolve the isil problem in iraq. and frustrated because of the immense barbarity. but i think it is coherent. it is a different challenge and it is made complex by the fact that the two most important external players in iraq, the three most important external players, russia, iran, and turkey, all have very different
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agendas. and in the case of turkey an agenda which is clearly evolving even as we discuss this this afternoon. >> but i think you describe the international view towards isil is limited. >> it is limited in the fact that we have made a decision for better or worse that we are not putting ground forces into iraq. >> can isil be defeated without resolution of the syrian civil war? >> i think my view on that is, yes is, it could. if we were able to attack isil across its theater of operation from northern syria through eastern syria into iraq. it is is possible to defeat isil in that theater as a separate issue from the broader syrian civil war.
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>> the air strikes of the uk perhaps in the future to join in air strikes in syria, we will only defeat isil in iraq when there is ground force to inflict serious damage on them. and it is possible to envision a where that destruction of sighs ill will go on into syria. i'm not saying it's the ideal situation or the most likely situation. but i don't think it is a necessary condition of destroying isil in syria, the civil war in syria.
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>> yesterday we took evidence from some country's most distinguished academics and journalists who have followed this crisis. their confusion was isil won't be defeated until turkey, iran, saudi arabia hair in its power. it enables those states to focus other national priorities. in canada and the western powers. isn't our policy is and our action having the unsuspended consequence of relieving those of the need to cooperate in order to prioritize and enable isil's defeat? >> i already made reference to the fact that the complexity is
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the three external powers most directly involved and most influential have complex agenda. they in some cases are internally conflicting agendas. that is what makes the problem in syria so difficult to tackle. so i agree with you having turkey, iran, and russia pursuing separate agenda and in the case of turkey a shifting agenda makes it very difficult to move towards a point where we have a clear response to the clear agreed approach to moving forward in resolving the crisis in general. >> the fact that that is likely
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to continue is in the evidence we received yesterday. and part of of that is because iran and russia are unwilling to force removal of the sad. so isn't british and american policy actually contribute to go that stalemate? and the -- >> how is it contributing? >> because if our position, as suppressed by the prime minister this afternoon, so to equate assad and isil. and the removal of assad is the united kingdom's position. the rather uncomfortable truth is whilst iran and russia are not prepared to kphreu the force removed, is that we bear a share of responsibility for that stalemate. and therefore the continuing blood shed, the growing crisis and the in ability for the international coalition to
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actually put together a strategy to defeat isil in both syria and iraq. >> well, i think the responsibility for the bloodshed lies squarely with those who are perpetrating it. and we need to be clear about that. it's the areas they control and the assad regime and the areas they are bombing from the a air indiscriminately. but you have put your finger on of course what is precisely the problem. our analysis of the problem is that assad is a recruiting sergeant for isil. and any suggestion that western powers were prepared to work with assad in the defeat of isil would redouble that recruiting sergeant effect. and at the same time, two of the most influential powers in this
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equati equation, iran and russia, are not prepared to contemplate the removal of assad from power at this stage. our diplomacy is focused on persuading russia and iran that their priorities can be protected. that the future stability of syria could be best assured which did remove assad and the group around him who are manifestly responsible for the bloodshed and the atrocities that have been committed. >> the problem with that analysis is not shared by the expect commentators who gave us evidence yesterday. i want to approach you when the
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point was put to him by assad's behavior and whether it was possible to cooperate. he said this. don't confuse pragmatism without condoning the assad regime much the whole point is to put the syrian population first. i agree that the man has more blood on his hands than should ever make any of us shake his hand. because he is backed by russia and iran, the demands he must go are realistic. the question is, do you wish to stand on purity and damn the syrian people? >> i don't entirely agree with that analysis. because we also are being pragmatic. as i have just said, that any sense that the west was prepared to work with assad against isil would redouble the recruiting
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sergeant effect. we also have legal restraints around supporting or working with a regime which is committing crimes on this scale or any scale. and we are very acutely conscious of our legal obligations. even if it was convenient to us, and i don't think it is. but even if it was convenient to us, we to the floor the option of just working with assad. we would be -- >> but that's not what i would be inviting the british government to do. what i think the issue is that the start point, the western position of the american french and is that assad must go. and by starting in that place it means the geneva three process
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is blocked. the critical players are the regional powers, turkey, saudi arab arabia russia, iran, will not enable a process to happen. and therefore that's the voice of the government with assad. in a sense along with our western allies to stop the process -- stopping the process started by propping our objection to assad and go to language. that it is not possible to envision the assad in the future, which is strikes me as rather more sensible language than would enable a geneva 3 process to start, which is the
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situation we have put ourselves in. >> i don't think there's a difference between myself and margarini on this issue. by the way, i think the turks are also in the position that assad must go. the question is about timing. we are prepared to be pragmatic about the process of transition. and in our discussion with russians and now with the iranians, i have made that clear. we are not saying on day one assad and all of his cronies have to go on day one. if there was a process which was agreed, including with the russians and the iranians, which took a period of months and there was a transition out during that period of months, we could certainly discuss that. what i was not prepared to discuss is what i understand to be the russian and iranian position that we need to move to
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elections in syria and it will be for the syrian people to decide whether assad should remain as their president. that is not an acceptable position. the international community cannot, in my view, facilitate and oversee a set of elections in which somebody guilty of crimes on the scale that assad has committed is able to run for office. that has to be clear. you cannot be part of syria's future. and i think that was the point she was making. >> as a guarantor of the regime, they are the blue holding it together. >> that is from the russian playbook. assad is the glue holding it together. that is the iranian national security adviser's line to me
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word for word. sergei's line. >> does the fact that it's russian automatically that is it is wrong? >> no. but our analysis is one side of the story. of course assad plays a role in the regime structure. >> the committee of course will take evidence from experts. and it should of course do so. now you are asking me for my opinion and british government's position. and i'm giving you our political judgment that we cannot work with assad in anything other than a short-term of position. we indicated to the russians and iranians, if there is a sensible plan for transition that has assad remaining in some way involved in the process for a
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period of time, we will look at that and discuss it. we are not saying he must go on day one categorically. of course we will be pragmatic in a discussion with them. what we will not concede is he should be allowed to be a contender for a future major role in the new syria. >> just turn to the practicality of the policy there. is it correct that the number of free syrian army and loosely defined western aligned competence in the civil war a that ourselves and the united states and others are actually frighteningly small. we were given a number yesterday. 54 people were put into employment, some of which are now dead. >> i don't think that number is correct. it is a small number.
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but my recollection is that it is in the thousands. >> since you gave out in july, you were left with a strategy in syria. do you now accept this doesn't actually appear to execute an adequate policy for the scale of the challenges in syria? >> i think it's a long-term policy. it's taken us longer to get on off the ground than we would have liked to do. it is now under way. it requires the cooperation of turkey to be successful, i think. and as i said earlier, turkish policy on syria is evolving. we've seen over the last few months turkey being much more
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engaged in the syrian problem but in a way that is very particularly pursuing its own agendas. >> return to the international coalition. can you tell us what's actually happening to make the coalition more effective? 62 nations? how many nations? >> the counter isil coalition? >> yes. >> well, the process is the same as it was. there are a number of working groups dealing with different aspects. for example, countering the isil-propaganda machine which is beginning to work. that's co-led by the uk, the u.s. and the uae. there's another group working on isil finances, cutting off financial flows. and cutting off flows of foreign
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fighters. these are three strands of work. there's the military operation, which you're aware of, coordinated by general allen. and all of that is continuing. this is not going to happen overnight. we have always been clear about that. >> looking at the competing parties inside syria, with the success of al miss ra, anyone successful in the success of isil? >> let me answer the question a different way. we would not regard success by al misra as a satisfactory or successful outcome. if i was put on the spot to rank the horror of living under isil
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control al misra control, i would have to think quite hard about that. both would be unacceptable to us. we have made that clear to any of your partners in the coalition who have ever been inclined to think otherwise. >> so what's your view? this is given by saudi arabia and turkey. >> it includes other parties as well. we recognize the situation on the ground is not as we would like it to be. sometimes compromises have to be made on the ground, tactical compromises. and the history of warfare is that you have to make tactical compromises. but we would not require a strategic alliance with al musra as being an acceptable way forward at all. >> the complexity of the
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situation with everyone. isn't this an area where british diplomatic capability, our capacity to coordinate impaired with our limited power can't make a difference in isolation. that our soft power diplomacy is where the main effort in bringing others together using a coherency strategy ought to be where our main effort ought to be focused. >> i don't agree with the first part of your analysis there. in iraq, we have conducted more air strikes than any other coalition partner apart from the united states. our surveillance and intelligence-gathering assets since syria are making a very major contribution. again, i would hazard second only to that of the united states.
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in terms of working on financial flows, we have an expertise in financial flows, which again i would venture as second to none. we have an important role to play there. and we play through our intelligence and security agencies. very important role in cutting off the flow of foreign fighters. and actually, we also play a significant role in the counterpropaganda role. we like to think we have some experience and capability to deploy. >> on monday, the prime minister's justification for the british strikes was very narrowly withdrawn. it wouldn't change the situation under international law. what are the constraints in
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syria if we don't have an existing government to operate there and if there's no immediate threat to the united kingdom in the terms presented to the prime minister on monday? >> the coalition forces that are operating in syria are doing so on the basis of the collective defense of iraq and the challenge that the iraqi government is facing from isil and its base in syria. >> so there will be no justification for operations against the government of syria on that instance, which i presume is why they are not happening. >> not on that legal basis. different countries, of course, have a different approach to their analysis of legal basis for action. famously, the united states has its own legal approach to justifying action.
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>> i'm sure you're thinking about when you come to parliament to seek authority to operate in syria. it's been very heavily trailed. i'm waiting for the day you might be able to tell us when you are expected to ask for that authority. but why should parliament offer a wide involvement in wh the overall strategy is yet to be worked out. >> i don't think the overall strategy is yet to be worked out. again, we go back to the last question at the beginning. we would see authority to attack isil targets more widely in syria as being a part of the campaign against isil, which at the moment is confined to iraq. we would see it as being driven by military which says you look at the enemy holistically. you look at his supply lines, support base. lieu at his command and control
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notes. and those are the things you want to attack. and at the moment, we're able to attack some of them, those in iraq, but not all of them. because we don't have authority to attack those in syria. and i think the logic of extending our mandate to cover isil targets in syria would be very clearly a logic in support of the mandate we have in i'm ran for the collective defense of the country. >> can i ask you for an assessment of how successful the current policy of attacking isil in iraq is? particularly when mosul seems to be under isil control. we were given the impression the liberation also was fairly imminent. but it doesn't look like that. >> on the question of mosul,
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general allen, who i have a lot of time for, has always been very cautious about the timing of the retaking of mosul. people in the iraqi government has been shall we say more bullish. of course it's also true that the iraqis had their attention deflected by challenges in anbar province. but general allen always said it would be next year that mosul could sensibly be targeted for retaking. i'm going to ask simon to just say something about general allen's view. i know he met with him very recently. to answer your first general question, how successful do i assess the intervention in iraq as being? it stopped isil's advance dead.
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if we go back 15 months, 16 months, we were looking at an apparently unstoppable surge across iraq, down the river valleys, towards baghdad with baghdad appearing to be under imminent threat of falling to isil. coalition air power stopped that advance dead. it forced isil to change its tactics from acting like a conventional army to a guerrilla force operating in small cells, moving by night, making them far less effective and less able to control the territory they have taken in a conventional manner. and it is allowed a breathing space for the iraqi forces to be regrouped, retrained and rebuilt. that process hasn't gone as quickly as others would have liked. in the meantime, they are
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holding isil in check. we have always been very up front that the coalition aircraft will not roll isil back. it will merely hold them in check. it's got to be iraqi boots on the ground that do the hard slough of rolling them back and clearing and holding iraqi territory. simon? >> thank you. i just wanted to update. in terms of the emergency situation, there are areas of success. if you look at tikrit, where isil murdered about 1,000 people and where huge numbers of people were driven out of the city, you can see it now returning to something approaching nor malt. commercial life is resuming. attempts to clean up the streets and so forth. a substantial military operation to retake ramadi. they are making progress, albeit slowly. we know isil are expert at ieds,
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bobby traps, house-to-house fighting. in the north, of course, there is still fighting by eg, which is the extent of the conflict line. there is clearly a plan. but we have to make sure iraqi security forces are in a condition where they will be able to have success there. and the training of those forces is now leading on the battle field. without wishing to overstate the amount of success, it is certainly not an entirely negative picture in terms of retaking territory from isil. >> can you give us some idea how much of mosul is free of isil
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and how much it remains in the hands of isil. >> my understanding is the city itself is still under isil control. some of the areas particularly to the north will be under peshmerga control. nobody is complaining otherwise that it is still under isil control. >> a substantial tphanumber of iraqi army? >> it operates as a spret for . separate force. peshmerga will act in the area adjacent to mosul. it is not likely to take part in an attack on mosul itself. that will have to be carried out by iraqi forces.
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>> yesterday there was some discussion about the future for syria. there was some discussion where the point was made there should be a cease-fire agreed by all sides before no-fly zones are put in place? >> that would be great. a cease-fire would be fantastic. we would go with that. >> who is with you on that? what diplomatic efforts -- >> stefan, the u.n. special envoy has been working on the idea of a cease-fire. but these things are easy to sit in a room to talk b. they're a bit more difficult to implement on the ground when there are so many shifting alliances. they are referred to one such alliance earlier on. can frankly involve strange bedfellows coming together.
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towns or cities being defended or assaulted. it is a very fluid and complex situation. and i'm afraid the prospect of achieving a cease-fire i regard as being probably further away than the prospect of getting russia, iran, turkey, and the western powers to agree on a way forward. >> how do you think turkey's attack now on the kurdish groups in syria and also the iraqi kurds to qaa banny, the turkish attitude helpful? >> i think they have been in iraq, not in syria. but clearly this is an additional and very significant contemplation to the situation.
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the military people have always thought that the involvement of turkey would be key to resolving the situation in northern syria. and the fact that turkey has an agenda which is different frankly from the agenda of any of the other players because it is focused on their own intentions with the feds as much as it is with tension with isil and tension with the syrian regime, is a complicating factor. and it's just one more complicating factor. each one of the players, significant players here, has a different set of agendas. and we're only going to move forward when we can find common threads that all the players can sign up to. and we can act accordingly. >> i'll just ask about a
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statement in the house, there would be independent monitoring of drone strikes. who is going to be doing that? >> who made that statement? >> it came from your side of the house. >> we have a very robust process, as the prime minister made clear on monday. and then there is a whole set of rules of engagement once it moves to the military phase. a whole set of rules of engagement have to be complied with. there is a rigorous process for monitoring that and assessing outcomes. that's how it works in the
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ministry of defense. >> but indeed? >> i'm sorry. i'm not sure who said it, first of all. i'm not sure what was meant by independe independent. >> i'll try to find out who said it. i was there when it was said. >> yes, sir. where regards to -- i was very pleased to hear you say that you would not deal with president assad contradicting some of the evidence that we had yesterday from some experts. very disappointing to see the austrian foreign minister on a trip to terrain saying the direct opposite. and he is saying that we do need to engage with assad. my question is is two-fold. how united is the european union on this issue of whether or not we should deal with assad?
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i would be totally against any brutal involvement with this tyrant. >> if the russians and the iranians unlikely at the moment. but if the russians and iranians were to turn up tomorrow and say we are proud to countenance with international monitoring and in the meantime, there will be an interim regime and the existing players will continue to play a role in that regime, i wouldn't say we would accept it. we wouldn't rule it out up front. >> we wouldn't say we can't contemplate such an arrange. ment to ensure that the actions
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against the syrian population couldn't be continued. assad and his cronies couldn't use that power to continue that campaign against the syrian people. but there are two options here. there is a military solution. somebody or one force or another takes control of damascus. we believe a political solution would be the better of them. that would mean making comp mizes and perhaps do things we wouldn't ideally be comfortable with but get us to a better place. what i was trying to convey in answer to the chairman's questions is that we have not set our position as being so eye dee logically pure about the need for assad to go that we
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wouldn't be prepared to discussion with them under international supervision couldn't take place. >> thank you. >> secretary, you said that there are two ways of political solution and a transition. or military solution. and the overwhelming evidence today was each of the sides involved in the conflict basically wants victory and can concede. there have been results from iran, saudis, or wherever. so that is feeding the idea that there will be a victory by one or another of the groups. now to the original question about success. you said success in result syrian boots -- or iraqi boots on the ground.
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is the conflict, even though it is two countries, is success in syria not going to be measured by the same. dozens of free syrian army troops being trained. but thousands. can i ask how many thousands need to be trained up and by when for victory, for the side that we are bucking against a sadz. >> the premise of your question. we don't believe that a military solution is the way forward in syria. there has to be a political solution. there has to be an agreement to an inclusionive political entity to take syria forward into the
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future. and it may well be the case that some elements are believed military victory is still possible. frankly, on the regime side, i rather doubt it. the regime itself is said publicly its level of ambition is holding the areas that it currently holds. it no longer even aspires to control and governor the whole of the country. for the incumbent government, that doesn't sound like belief and victory. there may be groups among the extremists oppositionists. they believe they can achieve victory. but we don't think there will be a clean and clear-cut military solution. the involvement of the russians, iranians and now to some extent
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the turks. it suggests to me it would be unlikely that any one side will be allowed to gain a clear military victory. so the solution has to be political. the solution is how to deliver that. i agree with you we're not going to get that by talking nicely to the players in syria. this will have to be a decision made by the sponsors of the key players in syria. in particular, iran and russia deciding to call the shots, make it clear that it has to be changed. they can do that. they can make a phone call. russia and iran could have a discussion, make a phone call to damascus tomorrow and change the future of this.
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>> how much influence do you think it is going to make of the americans are already viewing at the moment? >> secondly, given the complex and fluid nature on the ground, how are our forces going to differentiate between the variety of groups on the ground at the moment? >> i am concerned by the repeated confusion between the challenge of dealing with isil in syria and the why the problem of the syrian civil war. if we seek parliament's approval to engage in targeting isil forces in syria, it will be as an adjunct. it will not be in orders to play a role in the syrian civil war. these are two different issues.
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of course isil is involved in both. but i don'tenvisage we would be wanting british forces, british air strikes to be getting involved in complex three-way fights in northwestern syria where regime forces and other syrian forces are involved. what we are looking at in particular is isil's command and control notes around iraqa where the organization is run from, the supply lines running from the north. we are unable to attack the lines at the moment. we are unable to attack the command and control. the military logic drives us to believe there could be utility in having greater freedom.
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>> the americans are able -- >> the americans are -- >> what if the americans don't? >> i think we had this discussion at the last meeting. we are currently flying operations in syria. and where we are identifying targets, for example, through our intelligence gathering missions we are having to task u.s. assets to take action. that's in efficient and sometimes leads to targets not being attacked, available target not being attacked. it just doesn't make sense to have it is self-evident that if you have a military force comprised of different components, some are able to act in one place but not another, that undermines the utility of the overall force. >> we look forward to the request to parliament.
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you didn't say when you were looking to do that. >> i think the prime minister has made clear we are continuing to look at this question. we do think there are arguments for it. but we are clear that we require parliamentary authority. we will only bring such a proposition when we are confident that the circumstances and the evidence that we can bring forward in support of our request is likely to fine favor in parliament. >> final question. the happy subject of the budget. >> so just to follow up on the question mr. hendrick asked there. you mentioned air strikes because you have had boots on the ground. you have had forces you couldn't rely on to make that effective.
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and the last time you were here to make the syrian strikes effective to have boots on the ground as well. i'm not clear where you see the boots on the ground coming from. i know this is a tricky issue. i'm wondering if you would commit to giving us an update, providing an update to parliament and where you see the boots on the ground coming from. >> again, we are confusing two issues. by the way, i didn't say air strikes in iraq have been successful because of boots on the ground. i said air strikes in iraq are only able to hold the line. it would require boots on the ground to roll back isil on the ground. and we have always recognized that fact. >> would you say that logic as well to syria? >> in the east of syria, in the isil strongholds in iraqa, the ability to attack from the air
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would, in our judgment, enhance the utilities of the military mission. and in the to defeat isil and that means we have to get to the controlling -- to the controlling brain, as it were. >> so will you bring something forward to parliament before finally in terms of the -- >> no, i can't commit to bring something forward to tell you where -- you know, how this campaign will play out in the long run. at the moment, we are attacking an enemy in iraq. and if we form the judgment that that air based military operation would be more effective if we were able to target in syria as well, we will ask payment for authority to do that. that is all i'll say at this stage. >> and we'll move on to the
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budget. i don't know why you need your tin hat on. this committee will be rather sympathetic to you, at least i hope we'll be ssympathetic. i think you might need your tin hat for -- >> and can i take us back to the previous report at the end of the last parliament where we said what was proposed between 2010 and 2015 had been severe and gone beyond just trimming fat and capacity now appears to be damaged. as i understand it, you are about to have a further round of cuts so there has been speculation and you may wish to confirm or deny it, that up to about 20% of your budget might get chopped. if that's the case, we are no longer talking about any fact at all. we are actually talking about
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priorities and very difficult choices. so could you update us, please, on the latest proposed figures of the cuts which you are likely to be experiencing over coming years? >> well, first of all, you'll forgive me, you'll indulge me, if i remind you of the background, that we inherited a budget deficit which itself was undermining our national credibility and influence in the world. so the idea that somehow we do nothing and maintain our influence is for the birds. we have to deal with this situation to remain credibility. we've regained credibility by putting in place a man that will eliminate the deficit before the end of this parliament but we have to act to do that and that requires further tough decisions, including departmental spending cuts. we have been asked, i don't think it is any secret, that we
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all nonprotected departments have been asked by the treasury to model cuts at 25% and 40% of our total budgets. and we, of course, are going through that exercise now. but that doesn't mean cuts of those amounts or any amount between them will be imposed. but it indicates that that is the range of options that the treasury wishes to consider. >> in the previous discussion, you talked about the importance of our diplomatic network and our diplomatic services and in the previous statement you've said it is the crown jewel of foreign office capability. our budget in this country, diplomatically, is already less than that spent by the french. we only spend one-tenth of the
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united states state department, a country which is certainly not ten times the population of the u.k., more like six times, maybe seven. can you give us some idea in detail how you can make further redestructions on the scale of 25% or perhaps 40%, the figures you've used, without significantly reducing the size of the diplomatic network. >> yes. first of all, let me make the point that we should be targeting efficience kwi first. i won't pretend we can take out those kind of percentages by being more efficient. we've already done a huge amount of efficiency gain. when you compare our budget with the budget of the french foreign ministry, we operate a network of roughly the same size as the
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french foreign ministry, we do it with fewer people and with a budget that is 25% lower and i think we should be proud of the fact, not be beating ourselves up that we have a smaller budget, which is proud of the fact that we're operating a similarly sized network, more efficiently with fewer assets and i would be prepared to argue for the effectiveness of our diplomacy anywhere, where we go head to head with the french. but let me deal with your specific question. there are further efficiencies that can be made. and i'm busy identifying them and my new permanent secretary will be focused in this area. there are more efficiencies you can ask. ask any organization. you go through this process and go through five years later and tule has changed and -- technology has changed the way you work has changed the world around you have changed and there are further efficiencies
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that you can make. but we also have to look at lower priority activity that we would be prepared to sacrifice without inflicting serious damage on the output of the organization. and this comes to a question of priorities. and to answer your specific question, i use the phrase crown jewel and i'll use it again today, the network, in my view -- there are two crown jewels. the network and there is the policy brain. the ability to maintain the network at its current level and sustain that in the future, and the ability to have a sufficient density of policy-making capacity here in london that we can lead the foreign policy making process across government and beyond is the key to the
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foreign office's debt. everything else is subordinate in my view to those priorities. and one of the things that we'll be doing is looking at how, in any given out come scenario of the spending view, we would manage the impact of that in a way that protected the network and protected the central policy keeping capabilities. >> in the recent years there is a reduction of the number of u.k. staff overseas and increasingly reliance on locally engaged staff. >> yeah. >> do you think that that could go much further. >> no. >> no? >> i don't believe there is much further scoping. in many of the small posts, we have two u.k. based foreign staff. you may have many more foreign office u.k. staff. but we are pretty closed to the
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reduced network on the staff. >> and you would agree then perhaps locally increasing the reliance on loathally engaged staff can't go much further particularly because you might harm the institutional knowledge and capacity to feed into the rehorses which you need -- resources which you need at the center. >> yes. i think the innovation of expanding the role of locally engaged staff was the right thing to do. i think it has been broadly successful. and engaged staff do make a huge contribution. but i should share with the committee and it is slightly counter intuitive and surprised me, when i heard the term locally engaged staff, i imagined we were talking about people from the local population of whatever country we were present in. what i discovered as i visit our posts abroad, a very significant proportion of locally engaged are actually british nationals
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who happen to be living in that country, perhaps because their family lives there or their spouse is working there or sometimes people have have gone there to be employed but not on london terms. >> we've met them all over the world and we know they work really hard for our country and less security. >> and many of them are british. >> now, on the question, if you try to make savings elsewhere, does that mean we're actually talking about reducing the number of posts to continue a process for example, we've reduced significantly the number of posts in europe over the recent years. is there a look at reducing the number of posts. if you have a limited number at certain places you clearly can't cut the numbers but you then have to make hard choices about not being represented in some countries. >> i would hope not.
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as i said, i would regard the network as being the crown jewel. we may wish to look at some of the subordinate posts in some countries. >> you mean consulates. >> and general and so on. and we've cut down on the number of consulates in europe because we found the 24-hour call center model works effectively. so we have to be flexible and o innovate ive about this. but the last place we want to go is reducing principal overseas posts. >> are you going to gather the evidence you need to make decisions of this kind? is there a special process that you are going through, a special unit? are you asking some particular individuals or groups to look at this, given that the international priorities shift, a country which is useful at this time might suddenly be a
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place receiving 20,000 refugees in three days or something like that. >> one of the things that we are already doing and have to do more of is theable to surge staff between posts and also between functions within the foreign office in london so that we have a more flexible structure is that can respond to reseissly sh -- reseissly the reality that priorities can change and change rapidly and we need to respond in a way that is appropriately agile. >> can i ask you about another area of your budget. at the present there is still an fco grant to the british council. is that one of the areas that you may well be getting rid of, and what are the implications to you do, for the branding of the british council and the sense of its identity with the soft power of our country. >> well the british council plays a vitally important role in projecting the u.k. soft power.
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but it has been generating an increasing proportion of the resources it needs to do that. i should -- i should have said earlier on, that of course the exercise that the treasury has asked us to do is in relation to non-order deposital resource budget. the ota resource budget is in a different category because of the amount of oda will increase as the economy grows in size because of the gdp. >> [ inaudible question ]. >> well some will be spent in support of refugees rehoused in the u.k. in the first year in accordance with the rules. but what this means is that what i am talking to the british council about is a further reduction in non-odo funding,
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granting aid, and looking at the options for the british council to spend more odda funding. and i think where we'll end up, and i don't know if it is in this spending preview or in a future spending review, in a british council that does not receive non-oda aid but which receives more grant in total from the foreign office but with a much larger proportion or more of it being oda. and that will mean that the british council will need to generation its non-oda spending from its own recyclable resources while using grant and aid and work in oda eligible countries. >> would you sense a danger of relying on overprotected funds
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such as oda and that steers the direction rather than having a strategic comprehensive view which you would have done if you had the resources that weren't targeted or protected in that way? >> i think what we have to recognize is that by making a decision to spend a percent of our gdp on oda, we have made a decision to focus on oda rellithible countries. >> but that affects -- but i'm not talking about the department for international spent, i'm talking about xeo spent. if the fco is relying on oda funding to fund certain things, does that not then shift the focus and the priorities of your department? >> well it clearly means we can only bid for oda funding to do things in oda eligible countries. it is a new stream of funding available to the foreign office
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to address priorities that we find in oda eligible countries. and many of the challenges that we're dealing with, mainly conflict and stability type challenges do present themselves in oda eligible countries. >> can i finally ask you about the bbc world service. from 2014, the funding of the world service was taken away from your budget and was given to the responsibility of the bbc. as a result of that, the license fee payer is now responsible for funding the world service. as you know, the bbc is going through a very difficult, long-term review. and i was struck that the new director general of the bbc, on monday, implied that he might be seeking public funding to
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support new services, including a korean land, north korea, russia, some arabic services. have you had any zwudiscussions with the treasury about whether or not the foreign office might go back into questioning the funding of the world service and so reversing the decision that was taken two years ago? >> no. >> is that likely? >> um, i don't think that that would be a discussion that we would be likely to have. it may be a discussion that the director general has had with the bbc with the culture secretary, i don't know. but i suspect that would be the correct channel such a -- >> so you wouldn't envision that part of the funding for the world service might come from the bbc and some come language services from a grant in aid from the fco as was the previous
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arrangeme arrangement. >> it is not inconceivable. but facing the challenges in the spending review, we're not exactly looking for new bids for grant in aid funding from the foreign office right at the moment. but it may be that the bbc has ideas to work up bids or proposals. it is certainly entitled to do so. but i think the way in which the world service is funding and perhaps as important the scope and extent and direction and alignment of the world service agenda is an important subject that we need to consider, and the bbc needs to consider. and i think the director general's intervention on monday was a helpful step in that, ahead of the renewal process next year. >> we've had evidence in the last parliament, we asked your
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predecessor about question of a korean language service to north korea and at that time we -- the view that we got was not a very positive one. there was thought to be comm committal cal problems or whether it wouldn't beective. do you have a view about whether the bbc should be broadcasting into north korea. >> if there was no resource, constraint, i think that the bbc, is generally speaking, around the world, a very highly valued resource. it is maintained the reputation impartiality in a way that has made it a very, very strong brand. and i would prefer to see a bbc service in a country, in a local language, rather than not be such -- >> so that is a yes, then. >> but in a resource constrained environment, if you thought whether i thought broadcasting
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to north korea was a top priority. >> would have some doubts because i suspect there are other channels of information being broadcast into north korea, including, i'm told, having just come back from there, widespread availability of south korean domestic broadcasting material, albeit it is illegal to receive it in north korea. i understand it is not unknown for people to illegally receive such broadcasts. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. just a quick question on my great favorite subject which is ukti. and i wrote a report in 2002 having interviewed literally hundreds of british sme's to get their perception of the service, the level of the service they are getting from the ukti and i will send you a copy of the report because there is a great
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deal of dissatisfaction amongst them about the traction they are getting from the ukti. with all of the issues of budget for the foreign office can i ask you for your evaluation of what changes, if any, will be made to ukti in terms of funding. it's structure and its accountability. i'm very much hoping you're going to be the foreign sect that will make the tough decisions needed to get an effective ukti going. >> well ukti now has a separate budget allocation. it's a body that answers to both the foreign secretary and the business secretary. the new trade ministers lord mort is conducting a review of how ukti operates and will be making recommendations for reform in the way ukti operates and we'll look at those and consider them across government.
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we recognize that there is a need to change the way that ukti operates. we look, i think it is properly fair to say that we look enviously of the models that some of our competitors have for supporting smaller businesses in foreign markets, which are often based not on central government machinery, but on chambers of commerce. >> exactly. >> this is a different model. we don't have statutory changes of commerce in the u.k., in the way for example that germany does, and therefore we don't have the level of affiliation. i think i was told something like only 10% of british businesses belong to a chamber of commerce, where of course 100% of german businesses belong to a chamber of commerce by necessity. but looking part at the work that lord mort has commissioned is a comparative study of how our competitors support their businesses, including small and
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medium enterprises and we're very much -- we very much recognize there needs to be a reform to make ukti work. in all its phases. in upstream, as we call it, in terms of encouraging u.k. enterprises to export and encouraging them to take the plunge into the market and downstream working effectively on the foreign office platforms around the world to roll the pitch for british business and to identify specific market opportunities that british companies can exploit. >> we encourage lord mortgage on his expertise. >> i'm sure he's aware of your report. >> and moving on to migrant and the refugee crisis. we'll ask steven gejis to lead us on this. >> i'm sure you would agree that the refugee crisis over the last days, weeks and even years is a
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european problem. i've been working with the european partners on these issues. in the coming days the european commission is holding a meeting to distribute 160,000 refugees. i think that builds on -- well it is 120,040,000 from previously. will the u.k. be taking part in that meeting and will you be traveling to that meeting? >> we will not -- we will not take part in the quota system that is being proposed. we've got the justice and home affairs -- this is more properly a question for the home secretary but i'll do my best to answer it. we've made clear that we, because of our justice and affairs, we will not take part in this quota allocation system. we have doubts about whether it's the best response. and we have, however, as you know, made a separate commitment
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to take a significant number of syrian refugees, 20,000. and to take them directly from the place where the most vulnerable are, the camps in and around syria. we are not convinced that simply reallocating the fit and the able who get through what is a pretty brutal filter of making their way from syria to europe, is the best way to deliver a humanitarian response. what we are proposing to do is to take 20,000 of the most vulnerable, those who perhaps are not able to make that highly risky journey to europe and to take them in and offer them a place of safety here. we still believe that for the majority of syrians and for the
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sake of the future of syria, the best response in most cases is to provide generously for the support and the security of those people as close to their homes as possible. and i think, if i may, i just take the opportunity to pay tribute to the extraordinary generosity of the turks, the lebanese, the jordans, who have taken in literally hundreds of thousands of refugees and have bourne this burden for -- for actually many years now. and i think we should be proud of what we have done to support them. we are the second largest donor after the united states. we've just increased the level of our spending by another billion pounds to 100 billion pounds and we continue to believe that these points close to the point of origin in the
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hope and belief we will resolve the problem in syria in the new course, that there will be a new syria to rebuild and we should encourage the people to be part of the syria's future, not to simply disburse into the comfortable of europe, and leaving them of the most capable citizens. >> i'm sure i speak for other colleagues, not very much, but the extraordinary generosity of the people of jordan, lebanon and turkey and taking people into their homes and i'm glad that you mention that, foreign secretary. but let me focus in on the european issue for a moment. are you saying that if we have 160 refugees in europe, that is not our problem, that we should take them from source rather than work with our european partners than to deal with those already here.
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>> we want to work with our europe around partners here, we do. but it is about how we can best contribute. but the 130,000, already in europe, are by definition safe. they are in the european union and they are protected in the europe an union. and we want to take those not able to make their way under their own steam to the european union and that does two things, we think it is a humanitarian response to get to the most vulnerable and avoids creating a pull factor. you see as well as i did, articles in the newspapers this morning subjecting that the announcements that have been made about reallocating people around europe are already generating a new wave of immigration towards europe. a message that the door is open,
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will inevitably drive the traffickers to more and we have to be careful to act in a way that is responsible and delivers echkt to those who need it most, rather than to those who perhaps need it less because their already in a place of relative safety. >> but i mean, people aren't going to stop coming to europe. isn't there a question of european solidarity. the united kingdom is in relative terms a rich and big europe yarn country. are we leaving our colleagues in hungary and poland and elsewhere, to bear the brunt of this crisis rather than showing solidarity with them. and actually foreign secretary, dare i say it, building some friends and -- >> and of course we want to work with our europe an colleagues. our friends in pole and are re -- poland are resistant to
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take any migrants. >> refugees. >> the mang ort will end up in germany because they have made an offer towards them. and we want to work to try to ensure an orderly process in europe where if we can help with support to border security arrangements, of course we will. if we can work with european colleagues, we will work with european colleagues on addressing the upstream problems. clearly in syria. we've rehearsed the upstream problem and it is upstream from there. but they are not only coming from syria. a majority are arriving from germany are from the western balkans and we can work together with european union to address the drivers of european migration in upstream countries. >> and on the issue of the
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20,000 -- yeah, on the issue of the 20,000, you mentioned last week, it is welcome, but it looks like it is just a start. the u.k. could take more. is it just a start. could there be more taken? >> i would say simon mcdodd, who has the benefit of me, of having just ceased to be the british ambassador in germany tells me it is 40% of refugees coming from the western balkan. so i will correct the record there. and the prime minister said very clearly on monday, although he was challenged many times from -- in the house, that he thought that the number of 20,000 was about right. he thought that we got it about right. but that -- >> over five years. [ overlapping speakers ] >> that was the prime minister's
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response on monday. i tend to agree with him. >> so you think 20,000 is an appropriate response over five years. >> if i may say so, you're falling into the trap of only looking at part of our response and i said earlier and i spent some time elap or ating the view, that what we're doing in supporting refugees in the region is equally important. and i think a response that said we'll be the largest european donor by far of providing safety and support and sucker in the region and take 20,000 of the most vulnerable, these are women, children, people who are sick, and people who have suffered particular trauma and we will deal here with their needs which could be complex. i have to say i think that is a more measured and generous response than simply saying we'll take a quota of
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able-bodied young men, something like half of whom who have graduate level education. we are dealing with the real humanitarian crisis here. >> and let me just finish up. i know you want to move on and other colleagues want to come in on this. you say it is equally important and i think foreign secretary, i did acknowledge the work that your department has done and also the people of jordan and lebanon and turkey who have a huge burden to bear. but you say equally important. this is still an important part of it. and at the moment, there is a huge amount of criticism, i don't think it is unfair, that the u.k. is not playing its full reel from the european context. 20,000 represents over the next five years. >> where is that criticism coming from? >> everywhere. humanitarian groups. you haven't seen my post bag yet. humanitarian organizations and other groups who want the u.k. to do more. i think working with our
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europeeurop european partners and showing them solidarity would be a good place to start. >> all right. thank you. and i totally see where people like steven are coming from, that the good will that it is based upon. but as a tori rebel, i always fought the government, but i think on this, prime minister, and yourself, you are completely spot on. presumably your effort is to help the many rather than the few, by helping people in that area. is that what your -- >> yeah, well we can certainly -- we can certainly help a lot more people by helping them in the region, in europe. and there are some people, and this is the u.k.'s position, there some people who need to be brought here because they are particularly vulnerable and that
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is what we've committed to. there are eithers that -- others that can be supported in the region. what we're seeing across europe is people, most of whom, because they are almost by definition, you know, not the most vulnerable, but they've been able to get themselves from the region to europe, which is a pretty arduous journey, people that could be supported in the region, but who understandably, and i don't blame them personally for this, prefer to try to get to europe. i think if we're looking at how to make the most of our resources to provide the maximum humanitarian response the way we're seeking to do it, maximize impact in the region and bring the most vulnerable to our own country for protection and it's not just housing them -- some of these people will have suffered deep trauma and have
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psychological scars, physical scars that need to be healed and dealt with and we have the capable to do that here in the way we couldn't do in the region. so i'm afraid i think we have the balance about right. and while there is clearly plenty of scope for different views on this, we have to make a judgment and the judgment that we have made is that accepting 20,000 of the most vulnerable here, while stepping up our program of providing support in the region is the right task. >> some years ago i lived uncover in a refugee camp in france and my overriding feeling from this time was that the vast majority of the people in that camp were economic migrants. and if i came from a poor country i would do the exactly same as them. what sort of analysis do you or simon have of the percentage of
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people who are currently on the move within the european union, what percentage come from countries where there is war as opposed to countries that are less wealthy than our own? >> i'm not able to give you a figure. and clearly those who are coming from syria almost entirely will be people who are fleeing the effects of war. but it is also clear that not all of the people arriving are from syria. there are people from -- i'm told from afghanistan, from pakistan, turkey i understand has a policy of not requiring visas from citizens of islamic countries, which creates an opportunity for people, traffickers, but also for enterprising individuals who are seeking to move towards europe
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from other parts of the world. so while i think we all understand the motivation of those coming from syria, and it is very easy to understand that, there will be people from other parts of the world who are seeking to join in this flow of humanity and to try to obtain a better life for themselves in europe. and i think we all understand, this is the complexity here, of an individual level, we can all empathize with people wanting to improve their standard of living, to create better conditions for their families on an individual level, that is an entirely admiral thing to want to do. but equally, we understand that collectively, we can't accommodate all of the people in the world who would rather have a european living standard than the standard of living they
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currently enjoy. we have to distinguish between those fleeing persecution and the effects of war than those simply seeking better economic conditions. >> would to be safe to say that you and the prime minister -- you and the prime minister see what a lot of european leaders don't see, that potentially hundreds of millions of people could be motivated to move into the european union if we give the impression, the impression -- the reality that the doors are currently open. >> of course, i should have said, when we're talking about syrians and afghans and pakistanis, we're talking about people coming from mainly the mediterranean route. the focus of the route until recently, people coming across from libya, is dominated by africans, there are some syrians in there as well but it is dominated by africans.
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so many alanys and sudanese and a majority of them are economic migrants. so clearly there is a very large potential pool of economic migrants and we have to tackle it in three ways. we have to be clear and robust about our threshold for granting people admission and settlement in the european union. we have to help reinforce border controls in countries of origin and in countries of transit. and we have to invest through our aid and development budgets and not only the u.k.'s, but i would urge european union partners to focus aid and development on investing in the countries of origin to reduce the push factors. of course it is not as simple as people leave a country in which they are settled and they've
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grown up just because they could have a higher standard of living in another country. they don't, by enlarge. they leave the country of origin because they don't have any standard of living at all. they can't get work. they can't support their families. so creating conditions where people can enjoy some prospects of being able to support their families, even though it may be at a much lower standard of living they would enjoy if they were settled in the european union is likely to have a very positive effect on migration flows and i think it is important. >> and finally, i heard from one of my constituent today, the thrust of what they were asking if the italians or issue travel documents or allow them to become citizens of germany, 800,000 people from syria, and more broadly if the european union is open and economic
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migrants as well are issued with european passports, presumably those people would settle in the u.k., if they chose to, if they have european papers. >> under the system of current movement, once they are nationals of e.u. member states they would benefit from the rights available to e.u. nationals of free movement, yes. >> so if we remain members of european union, we could see many hundreds of thousands of people from less wealthy countries of the world and also refugees coming into the u.k., so we'll be taking more than 20,000? >> well theoretically. clearly we are one of the richest countries in the e.u. and while there is concern about movement of migrants within the e.u., into the u.k., it is not the case that the poorest countries in the e.u. have
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emptied as britain has tilled up. so clearly the number of people who moved because of the gradient of national income, as it were, was limited -- bulgaria still has a lot of people in it, even though the gdp per capita is far lower than germany or britains. so it is an impact at the margin. but of course, your right, that those 800,000 people, if they turn up in germany and they eventually become german citizens, will add to the 80 odd million people already in germany as people who potentially could choose to come to the k. >> but i'm told it takes years to get german citizenship. >> how many years? public would like to know? >> on average over ten.
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>> thank you very much. [ inaudible ]. you anticipate there will be bumps along the road, in the course of implementing the iran deal. what are your greatest concerns about the terms and about its implementation? >> i'm comfortable with the deal. and i think i've said this to the committee before, but i believe that by approaching the negotiation -- i'll pass over to simon gask in a minute who led the british team in the negotiation in vienna, by approaching this negotiation on the basis that we don't trust them and they don't trust us, it took us a long while but it does mean we have a deal which is probust. but i also take the view, and that is my personal view, that we wouldn't have a deal at all if the iranians hadn't taken a decision at some point that the cost to iran of continuing to defy the world
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by pursuing a nuclear weapons program was just too great and that it was not in their national interest to do it any more, we wouldn't have had this deal. so i'm clear in my mind that iran has taken the decision to abandon that route. not for reasons of altruism, but because it is in iran's national interest to abandon that route. so i'm confident that the deal, once ratified and gone through congress in washington and passed through in tehran, as we now understand it will have to, will be implemented. iran will not gain any sanctions relieve until it has carried out the steps of compliance that are required under the agreement. repov the core from the iraq reactor so it can no longer produce plutonium. dismantle the majority of its
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centrifuges, abandoned a large part of the r&d program, exported 90% of the stock of enriched uranium, et cetera, et cetera. we have a robust regime in place and i'm confident that the nuclear part of the deal, the nuclear deal will be implemented and will be delivered on. what i think i was referred to in bumps along the road is the potential for a broader rebuilding of a relationship with iran. iran is a major power. it is none important country in the region. 70 million people. the world's second largest oil reserves, fourth largest gas reserves, an educated population and we can't ignore them and we need to engage with iran and
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iran needs to engage with the world but we don't see eye to eye on many issues and we'll continue robustly to challenge iran on the issues where we disagree with them and they will continue robustly to challenge us where they disagree with us. and so i envision this will be a difficult relationship but better to have a difficult relationship than no relationship. >> so how do you respond to critics who say, well, iran is still free to continue to research and develop more advanced centrifuges, the ir 6 and the ir #, or that iran will assign the protocol for the nonproliferation treaty but will still have 24 days from the request from the iaea, and they must provide information about military damage to the pars program, but if that answer is not satisfactory, no one will know what the answer is because it won't be made public and there is no way of knowing if
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they've given the full answer. the restrictions on production of fissile material will only last 15 years. so give me your response to people who say these things, as you say, if we start from the point we don't trust them, they don't trust us, do we trust them enough to research and development advanced center funerals. >> all of these issues were discussed at enormous length and clearly if we had simply been invited to write a list of all of the restrictions we would like iran to be subject to in perpetuity and that is that, we would have included more things than are included in the deal. but it was a negotiation. it was a deal. and we are confident that the safeguards that we have, the restrictions that we have, are adequate. but i'm going to ask sir simon gask to answer that because he was sitting up all night pouring over the numbers and the expert
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opinion. >> [ inaudible ]. >> that is what i'm lining him up for. >> well, thank you. let me deal, albeit very briefly, with the four points that you've raised. on research and development, this was a very difficult part of the negotiation. iran has a substantial number of people involved in the nuclear industry and it clearly wanted to maintain the argument that when the restrictions are lifted, it will be able to follow a civil nuclear program with generation and so forth. so we did put constraints on the research and development so that it will not undermine a break out period of at least 12 months for at least 12 years. after that period, iran will be able to gradually increase its research and development, that is true. but of course, as with everything in this agreement, we need to contrast it not as the foreign secretary said it with the perfect world but the world
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we would live with, with the agreement, and they already had advanced center funerals which they cannot complete their work on. so we have pushed the research and development program a long way down the track. on the inspection period, of course, the additional protocol is itself quite an in trucive mechanism. but it works in a way which refers problems to the board of governors of the iaea. what we introduced in the agreement which is unprecedented is the time window which is your back stop if things go wrong. and of course, as others have said, when you are processing uranium, you can't remove the traces within 24 days or insteed 24 weeks. everything can still be traced and in fact the inspection post is more intrusive than the additional protocol. on the past military dimension,
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the iaea have agreed to a program with the iranian government which they need to pursue in order to allow sanctions to be lifted. i don't believe anybody agrees we'll get a complete understanding of everything done in iran. that probably was never going to happen. but i think that we'll get a pretty good sense of what past activity have been undertaken. and last, your point on 15-year restrictions, this is an agreement which as you know has different time scales. some things happen after 10 years, the limit of 15 years, the limit of stockpile is under 15 years and the limit on 3.67% enrichment is within 15 years and other things limited to the uranium processing which lasts for 25 years and some have no limit. so we are confident that we are dealing with this problem very substantially for a long period of time and that iran will have every incentive to abide by its
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nonproliferation treaty for much longer than that. >> thank you. clearly we're committed to the deal. foreign secretary, do you think that commitment to the deal, are we paying the price for losing support and influence with some of the -- of iran's neighbors who are less happy with the deal? >> well i think we have to distinguish a concern, which is perfectly legitimate by iran's neighbors about iran's behavior in the region, in the neighborhood, from concerns about the deal itself. i think most of the regional powers an the regional countries when they've understood how the deal works are reasonably comfortable that it will be
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effective in preventing iran from developing nuclear weapons. there is a line of attack that says the raubans -- iranians will always cheat. i heard this when i was in israel a couple of days after we did this deal. i expect i shall hear it tomorrow when i meet prime minist minister netanyahu, that the iranians will always cheat and can't be trusted. >> but it is not just israel saying that. other countries in the region are saying the same thing as well. >> there is a suspension of iran. and we've approached this deal on the basis that we don't -- we don't do it on trust. we do it on the basis of robust mechanisms. we start with an assumption that they're going to try to cheat and put in place mechanisms to make sure that it won't work. i think the more -- the more serious challenge from our
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interlocketers in the region, is you shouldn't do a deal with iran, because they're doing bad things in the region. and i have some sympathy with the line of reasoning. but it is flawed because the deal that we've done is a deal to lift sanctions that were put in place specifically because of iran's illegal nuclear program. if iran now ends that illegal nuclear program and we can verify that it has ended it, we must, in all conscious, if the integrity of the international system is banned, we must lift the sanctions related to that program. now what some of our interlocketers in the region would really like is for the sanctions to be rolled over to deal with iran's broader behavior. you're not doing nuclear weapons but there are a lot of things that you are doing that we really don't like and we want you to change that behavior as well. we share that view, that iran
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should change its behavior in the region. but we recognize that we can't use the international sanctions that were put in place because of the illegal nuclear weapons program to address iran's other behaviors. we will, however, continue to press iran on its behavior in the region as will other countries in the region and other international powers. and we hope that as iran reengaged with the world, it will rethink the way it wants to engage in the region. there are people who will say that that is a naive view. and we will have to wait and see. but i think it is self-evident the case, the lesson of history, that when isolate a country, as we've done with iran for very good reason, it is likely to become more bellicose in its behavior than if it is fully engaged, trading with and
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enjoying investment from and exchanging students with the rest of the world and that is what we have to hope, that this reengagement will strengthen the moderates in uranium society, will -- iranian society and will have a stake in the region and wishing to reengage in the region as an important nation state, an important player in the region, rather than as a destabilizing force in the region. >> and in your recent visit, did you manage to talk about these incursions into neighboring countries or interference with the iranians? >> yes. and we have a different point of view from the iranians. we see these things differently. we see hezbollah, hamas differently. we see the situation in bahrain differently and the situation in
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yemen differently and that is perhaps not surprising. but the fact that i was in tau iran talking to the senior players about how we see these things differently i think is a step forward. and again, we have to hope that as iran reengaged with the world, just as it did with nuclear weapons, it will start to make decisions based on its assessment of its own national interest to modify some of its behaviors it is not going to happen open night. and it will do so for reasons of national interest and not altruism, but actually responsible nations acting in their national enlightened self-interest within the international rules is a game we can all play, even where we don't agree with the policy objectives of the nations in
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question. >> is there a plan b. if the u.s. congressmanages to deny the u.s. government support for this deal. >> the numbers today are looking like the president may not even need to use his veto. we're clear that he already has more than enough support to sustain the veto. so i don't think that's a contingency that we need to plan for now. we do, however, know that in the iranian system, they will have to vote on this deal and there are plenty of people in the marshes who are picking holes in the deal as there were plenty of people in the u.s. congress who were picking holes in the deal. but i'm pretty confident that it will get approved both in the u.s. and in iran. and move forward to implementation over the next couple of months.
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>> you met with the embassy two weeks ago. we've taken previous evidence from your predecessor. that there were obstacles to the working at the embassies and how were those over come, the very specific obstacles. can you show us how those were overcome. >> well these things are always a judgment call and you have to balance the different priorities and agendas. our judgment was that we've moved for enough on the key issues that the situation on the ground has changed far enough and the assurances that we have received were reassuring enough that on balance it was now right to reopen the embassy in order
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to obtain that greater level of dialogue with the iranians and in order to support british businesses in pursuing business in iran as that country opens up. >> so just very specifically foreign soekt, i just want to push you slightly on this, on the equipment that we need to be able to get into our embassy, was that clearly not interference. did we receive assurance about the security of our staff and has the iranians agreed to take back the nationals who overstayed in the u.k., something which was reported to be a condition for opening the visa section. >> well on all of those areas, we've made sufficient progress. but we believe that we can now move forward. and we -- and none of these was sort of ideological position.
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they were practical issues where we needed to see practical ways forward. and in all areas, we to proceed. which allowed us to go ahead and reopen the embassy. that doesn't mean to say we won't have continuing and robust discussions with the iranians about some of these issues in the future. but we are confident that there has been a conscious decision in the iranian system to accommodate the reopening of the british embassy in tehran. and we shouldn't underestimate the significance of that for the iranian regime. britain enjoys a special place in iranian mythology. we are uniquely historically -- we carry unique historical baggage, i think it's reasonably fair to say. and to take the decision to push ahead and facilitate this was a
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serious political decision, and made within the regime, that was used -- you know, somebody has decided to use political capital to do it. so i think we have to regard that as a real commitment. >> so if we can move on to the final section on egypt. you had a question? >> yes, on egypt. obviously we're concerned about some of the things happening in egypt over the last number of years. also, the invitation that was given to visit the united kingdom in the foreseeable future. i think a number of people are concerned about the issue of some of the human rights, and the things done by sisi's government over the last few years. and i want to talk about three
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specific cases. when we -- there was acceptance, i understand at the time, an agreement, that an agreement would be carried out by the government and assisi, but it doesn't appear anything's happened in relation to that. now i understand humidity rights watch have applied to the u.n. council, the human rights council for that to be carried out. can i just ask what are they doing in relation to that? asking u.n. bodies to get involved in this? >> first of all, we share your concern about many of the things that are happening inside egypt. and we raised these issues regularly with egyptian with the
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counterparts, and the egyptian foreign minister was in my office yesterday and he's having a meeting with the foreign office junior minister today on some specific consular cases. but we also recognize that egypt is a very important country. a huge population. a vital component of stability in the middle east. arguably one of the most important countries in africa. britain's national interest, as well as the best interest of the egyptian people, requires us to engage with the egyptian government. we can't ignore a country of 90 million people, which is little more than on our doorstep. so we engage with them. we judge that engaging with the regime, talking to them about these issues, is more likely to elicit a positive response than
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refusing to engage with them. and, you know, shouting at them from a distance. i've had personally discussions with president assisi where i have found him willing to engage and talk in a calm and detailed manner for him the most difficult subjects. this is someone who is willing to engage and discuss. our judgment is that by engaging with egypt, by recognizing that egypt faces some very big challenges, economic challenges and security challenges, that we have a huge amount of shared interests, particularly in the security challenge. and by working together, we will get a better outcome for the uk, a better outcome for the egyptian people, and a better chance of addressing some of
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these very significant human rights problems. in particular, the concern we have that the political space in egypt is shrinking, not expanding, which is what it should be if we're going to have a long-term sustainable situation in egypt. >> i'm one of these people who believes in talking to people. but i think what people would like to know is that there has been discussion on the subject, or is there any real answer given by the egyptian government? is it a case that they accept this in a year's time? any concrete response? >> i haven't got the briefing here. i'm happy to write to the committee. we have discussed this specifically, this question of the inquiry. but i need to check the record before i write to you. >> i was there in 2013 three
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times, in july and september 2013. and it was the thinking under which we were going to reengage with the egyptian government, that they were going to commit to an inquiry. >> as i've just said, i recall that we've discussed this incident. but i need to check where we are in terms of what commitments have been made, what's currently happening. and i'll write to the committee. i don't have the briefing papers with me. >> and also about two other issues in specific cases where we've had 183 people being charged with, i think, the murder of 16 police officers. in a very much kangaroo court. they've all been sentenced to death. has there been any discussion about this mass execution, this
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quite clearly -- >> first of all, i don't think mass executions are taking place. >> no, no, the mass -- >> the sentences, yes. >> one thing i would like to know is, do we know as to how many people have actually so far been executed as a result of that sentence being imposed? and is there going to be, you know, are we taking up this issue about the way this trial is carried out? i know the issues are having a big trial, but that many people in one go -- >> yes. >> [ inaudible ]. >> i've discussed these issues both with president assisi and much more regularly with the foreign minister. and the egyptians take the position, which you would
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recognize, that there is a judicial process, and they cannot interfere in the judicial process. but there is also -- there are also executive powers which only come into play once the judicial process has run its full course, including the appeals process. my understanding of the trial that you're referring to is that those sentences are now subject to appeal. and president assisi's position in the discussions i've had with him has been consistently that he cannot intervene while a judicial process is ongoing, but reminding us that he has an executive power of clemency once the judicial process has ended. and i think engaging with the executive power, where there is a separation between the judicial process and the executive, and making clear that
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we expect those executive powers to be used to achieve acceptable outcomes, even where the judiciary -- where the judicial process does not throw up an acceptable outcome, i think that is the right way to engage. it's certainly the best way to try and get a result. and simply bludgeoning the egyptian government over decisions made by trial judges is not going to achieve the objective. so again, i recognize, you know, we have to live with the fact that we will be roundly condemned for talking to people while these processes are going on. my judgment is that the most likely way for us to have any influence on this process is to engage. >> without putting words in your mouth, from what i understand you're saying here -- >> just say you were a trial lawyer.
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>> i understand what you're saying here. please disagree with this. but your thinking is once the judicial process is over, and it gets into the executive issue about clemency and mercy, president assisi is saying, look, at that point he will be exercising it? >> what i'm saying is, at that point we have the relationships built. we have the ability to access the decision-makers. and if our relationship is strong and growing, we have hopefully the leverage to make our voice heard. >> can you please confirm this is correct. we understand about 40,000 people have been, over the last year or so, been detained in prison, and some are being tortured. are you able to give us

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