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.
By Mick Krever, CNN
Nelson Mandela set an example for leaders, his people, and the world that “doesn’t have a parallel,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at the Johannesburg stadium where world leaders gathered to memorialize the late South African president.
“The people of South Africa – indeed all of Africa – in Mandela have an immense icon, who I think will be looking down at them in the future, and they’ll be looking up to him and hopefully emulating and treasuring his memory.”
It is, he said, “rather like in British politics.”
“When you have, you know, massive figures like Winston Churchill that have sat in the chair that you now sit in, it doesn’t mean sadly that you’re automatically like them, but it does mean that you’ve got heroes to try and live up to.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
Brits have little reason to worry that their intelligence agencies are breaking the law, Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
“When criminals break the law they are hoping to have financial gain, make a lot of money. That’s what crime is all about,” Rikfind said, who is also a former UK defense secretary and foreign secretary.
“We’re talking about intelligence agencies. The heads of these agencies are very senior public servants. What personal benefit do they get from breaking the law? They would be committing a crime; they would end up being prosecuted if it was found out.”
“I can’t prove it never happens, but I find it inherently implausible in any rational basis.”
Part 1 of CNN's Christiane Amanpour conversation with U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Matthew Barzun.
Part 2 of CNN's Christiane Amanpour conversation with U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Matthew Barzun.
By Mick Krever, CNN
It’s quite a time to become an American ambassador in Europe.
When Matthew Barzun took up his post as the American Ambassador to the UK, he could hardly have known how quickly he would be thrown in the arena.
Six days into his job, as the British parliament rejected a military intervention in Syria, The Sun newspaper issued a front-page death notice for the so-called Special Relationship between the UK and U.S..
“I got some emails from friends back home, saying, ‘Well done! Six short days and it's over,’” Ambassador Barzun told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in a wide-ranging interview on Wednesday. “Of course, it's not over; it's as strong and healthy as ever.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
The United Kingdom needs its own version of the First Amendment protecting press freedom, former editor of The Times and The Sunday Times Harold Evans told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
Evans spoke with Amanpour as one of the great journalistic trials of our time got underway in London: that of two former newspaper editors from the Rupert Murdoch empire, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.
They face charges that include conspiring to hack mobile phones at the now-defunct tabloid newspaper The News of the World.
Among the victims of phone hacking by newspapers was Milly Dowler, a schoolgirl who was later found murdered.
The scandal sparked the creation of the Leveson Inquiry, which after hearing from 180 witnesses recommended a number of reforms to the British press. Ministers and journalists are still at odds over underpinning regulation with legislation.
“I’ve always thought the First Amendment was a pretty good idea, actually,” Evans told Amanpour. “And what Leveson proposed in effect was to create a kind of British First Amendment.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
Portraying Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a genuine pragmatist, Former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed optimism to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that a nuclear deal with the West was possible.
Direct nuclear talks, ushered in by the election of Rouhani earlier this year, began Tuesday in Geneva.
Straw, as foreign secretary, worked closely on the nuclear file with Rouhani, when he was head of nuclear negotiations under President Mohammad Khatami.
“You could do business with him, and we were able to do business with him,” Straw told Amanpour. “I very profoundly believe that [this] is a new chance for proper negotiations.”
Sceptics in the West, and Israel, have welcomed President Rouhani’s words but said they need to see actions – a sentiment mirrored in Iran when talking about the West.
“President Rouhani is an Iranian and he represents Iran’s national interest, so people have got to factor that in, and it’s entirely right that he should do that,” Straw said.
By Mick Krever, CNN
Boris Johnson may be the most colorful mayor in the world.
Known for his wit – and sometimes gaffes – the top man in London sports a floppy blonde mop of uncombed hair.
When he wants to promote the bike share system nicknamed after him – Boris Bikes – he rides them up to strangers in shopping malls.
When he wants to promote the Olympics, he ziplines in full suit, waving a tiny Union Jack in each hand. The fact that he got stuck twenty feet off the ground halfway down was just “the only piece of transport infrastructure that seriously malfunctioned” during the Games, he says.
“I'm deliriously happy,” Johnson told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at his office overlooking the Thames and Tower Bridge on Monday. “I'm deliriously happy and lucky to be mayor of London.”
Christiane Amanpour speaks with Max Foster as Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, emerged Tuesday with their baby son.
By Juliet Fuisz, CNN
“In the peerage, there are girls who by an accident of birth are born into a club in which they are not welcome,” Lady Elizabeth Campbell told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
Campbell, as the daughter of the 25th Thane of Cawdor, is a member of that peerage, or nobility – not to be confused with “royalty.”
Thanks to legislation passed this year, female royalty will be able to inherit their family’s wealth, but women in the peerage do not have that right.
It was an issue portrayed in the popular television drama Downton Abbey, in which a family with only daughters is forced to find a distant cousin to inherit the family fortune.
Click above to watch Amanpour’s full interview with Lady Campbell, and find out about her fight for women’s equality.
The Kardashians meet Downton Abbey
The Kardashians of Britain?
In attention, maybe, says Sarah Lyall, outgoing London correspondent for the New York Times.
But, she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, “they're not going to go on and talk about what the labor was like and how hard it is to lose the baby weight and does Kanye want to see me breastfeeding.”
For 17 years, Lyall has been decoding Britain for Americans. She even wrote a book about it: “The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British,” published in 2008.
Obsession with the Royal Family, said Lyall, extends even the sophisticated readers of her New York Times.
“They're obsessed with it,” she said. “It's unbelievable. It's Downton Abbey in the Royal Family.”
Indeed the British, Lyall explained, still struggle with many of the same issues portrayed in Downton Abbey, the hit British TV show.