By Dominique van Heerden, CNN
As heads of state met in London for a major anti-poaching conference, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about everything from poaching, to conflict in the Central African Republic and Syria, and the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
The British government has just hosted the Illegal Wildlife Trading Conference in the hopes they, along with affected countries, can find a solution to protect the world’s most iconic species from extinction, because “we are in the eleventh hour”.
“Rhino populations have been devastated with one killed every ten or eleven hours at the moment. The illegal trade in ivory has doubled in the last six years,” Hague tells Amanpour.
Incidents of poaching are on the rise fueled by a growing demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia.
There are also concerns that poaching is helping to fund violent groups in the region.
When asked what he expected to be different after this conference, Hague says this is a “turning point,” citing an important combination of measures that African countries are going to take, including destroying stockpiles of ivory.
And it’s not just African countries who have pledged to take action; he says the countries through whom these products are transported have committed to do more to intercept illegal ivory and “treat the trade as serious organized crime”.
“This is a moral issue that these great animals have as much right to inhabit this world as we do…”
Crisis in the Central African Republic
Another major problem stalking the African continent is the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic, where the United Nations is warning of “ethnic cleansing” as fighting between Muslims and Christians spirals out of control.
Although there are already French troops in the country, and thousands of African forces are being deployed, Hague says they need more help, and “more help is coming from Europe”.
Britain will not be sending troops to the Central African Republic though, instead they will help with humanitarian aid and logistical support, “but other European countries are going to do more,” Hague tells Amanpour, and he says it is “absolutely crucial” to have the involvement and support of other African states.
Assad “not intending to budge”
Christiane Amanpour also spoke to the UK’s Foreign Secretary about Syria, and the lack of progress in trying to find a solution to the country’s civil war. As the latest round of Geneva talks failed to bring about any notable progress, William Hague says President Bashar al-Assad is “clearly not intending to budge”.
“This has gone backwards and forwards over three years now. And so I think it would be a mistake for this regime to think it’s now so strong it doesn’t need to do anything.”
Britain is still providing help to the opposition, “practical support that isn’t lethal,” Hague says.
“We’ve never taken the position in any of these conflicts that we send lethal supplies. And it’s very hard for us to guarantee what happens to those lethal supplies. And that, of course, is a major difficulty for us.”
He adds that he is “not holding out any prospect” of changing position on lethal supplies in the near future, but says that Britain does want to be able to send “more practical support of other kinds that saves lives”.
The conflict in Syria is creeping closer to home for Britain where there are reports of British nationals traveling to Syria to fight in the war. Hague calls these reports “credible”.
“Hundreds of people from Britain and many other Western countries involved in going to fight in Syria and that is a huge concern for us,” he says.
Asked how he plans to tackle the problem, Hague tells Amanpour there are some actions they can take, like depriving people of their passports and canceling visas for those who are resident in the UK, who they “believe are a threat”.
But ultimately, he says, “the solution lies in resolving the conflict in Syria… That is the only long-term answer to this”.
A final thought on Sochi
There was a lot of uproar in the weeks leading up to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi over concerns about security and human rights in Russia.
But despite the “differences” between Britain and Russia, William Hague says he wants it all to go well.
“We want any Olympics anywhere in the world to be successful and to be safe,” he says, “and yes we have some differences with Russia over some issues such as LGBT rights, but we want them to succeed in hosting a successful Olympics”.
Click on videos above to watch Amanpour's extensive interview with William Hague.