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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  March 9, 2021 12:30am-1:00am GMT

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interview to oprah winfrey explaining why they left the uk. meghan said that she considered taking her own life and that there had been conversations within the royal family about how dark their son archie's skin might be. a judge has delayed the start of one of the most significant trials in us history. a former police officer is charged with killing george floyd, an unarmed black man, last may in minneapolis. the court is considering whether to reinstate a charge of third—degree murder. the un says it's deeply concerned about the fate of some 200 protestors trapped by security forces in yangon. it comes as the burmese ambassador to the uk has called for the release of myanmar�*s ousted ruler aung san suu kyi. now on bbc news, it's time for hardtalk.
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welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. not so long ago, western powers viewed georgia as a trailblazer for political and economic freedom in the troubled caucasus region. there was talk of the possibility of eventual eu membership or maybe nato. now, well, the talk is of darker trends — authoritarianism, repression of opposition and nagging questions about russia's influence. my guest is georgia's president, salome zourabichvili. does georgia currently have more in common with belarus than belgium?
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president salome zourabichvili in tbilisi. thank you for having me on hardtalk. it is a great pleasure having you on the show. let me ask you a question about your own past. not so long ago, you were the french ambassador in tbilisi, representing france. in that position, what do you think you would have made of the politics of georgia today? first of all, it was 15 years ago that i was the french ambassador to georgia, after having been a daughter of a georgian emigre family in france and having been raised in france and in the french diplomatic area. and i would have made out
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of this political crisis, i think, the same thing as we're seeing in many parts of the...of the world, which is that we are looking today at polarisation as being one of the dominant characteristics that we see everywhere, unfortunately. and as the french ambassador, but i'm no longer a french ambassador, i would have tried what some of the ambassadors, the european union ambassador and the american ambassador, have been doing over the past few months, which is to try to facilitate surpassing this polarisation, finding compromises. and in fact, we have seen compromises that have been worked, and i'm sure that we will continue on that path. it's not an easy path. nobody said that democracy
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was easy, but i think that we have to continue trying. and certainly as a president, today, i've been doing the utmost to make understandable for the georgian population that our path towards european integration, towards natp, is a path that goes through stability, through democracy, through strong institutions and that's something that will not change. yes. well... i'm glad to have heard... yeah. if i may, madam president. please. stability, strong institutions, you say, but you admit that your country is currently in crisis. are you, therefore, prepared to condemn what you, with all of georgia, saw on february 23rd when the police stormed into the offices of the main opposition party and arrested its leader? are you now prepared here to condemn that? that's probably not the place
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where i would choose to condemn or condone anything. i think that for what i'm looking at and for what i have been supporting, which is compromise, depolarisation, de—escalation, neither the timing nor the form probably was the best. but it's not for me to decide. what i can say is that we have now to work even harder to go and find the compromises, because that's the way for georgia, for the georgian population and for all political parties. i would call on all of them. probably i would call on the governing party, because they are more responsible, to try to avoid what the opposition has been trying to do in terms of provocations and there is a scenario of destabilisation. so both sides have to do
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much more if both sides really believe that georgia has a european future, which i do believe, i'm completely convinced of that, and i don't think that this crisis, and it is a crisis, will stop that. ifully understand, madam president, that you are head of state, not head of government. nonetheless, you do take political positions, because when you won the presidency, you said it was your role to move the country as best you could closer to europe, to eu and nato membership. well, i put it to you that what has happened in recent days is moving georgia very far away from any prospect of closer relations with europe. if ijust quote to you the words of the former president of estonia, toomas ilvis, who used to be very keen on warmer relations with georgia. he says, "what i've seen in recent days, particularly with the arrest of the opposition leader, makes me disgusted by what is going on in the country that i have spent so many years promoting,
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defending and boosting." that is the reaction in europe to what is happening. yeah, that's the reaction of somebody who is no longer in politics. i don't think... i think it's very excessive, if i can say very politely my reaction to such declarations, because i think that there is a path that georgia is following that has seen many progress. i don't think that georgia can be discarded just for one event, which has its background also, that there was storming of the parliament. there were different provocations, as i said. i don't think, again, i will balance and i will say that i don't think that maybe the timing and the forum was actually the best, but that doesn't mean that georgia has suddenly become an authoritarian country. and i think that the fact that charles michel came to georgia
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means that there is a crisis, but that means that nobody has discarded georgia. to the contrary, i think that the eu is back, that the american and the eu ambassadors have done their work before. and i think that it means that georgia counts for the european union and that the european union thinks that in this region, georgia is still, whatever the criticisms that we have heard, georgia is still the one country that is the most democratic, the most advanced, the most stable. and the eu needs georgia as it is as a european path in this region, and georgia clearly needs the european union. and i'm very glad to see that one of the highest political figures of the european union has decided to mediate, to engage himself in this crisis. and i'm very hopeful that we're
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going to overcome this crisis. you know, georgia has known very many more dramatic pages in its history, and we have gone through that. we are one of the resilient countries and i am confident in my country. as we speak, the leader of the unm opposition party, mr nika melia, is still in detention. do you believe the government must release him now? again, i'm not going to give orders to the government, especially on bbc air. i've told you that on this issue, i think that there can be and will be found solutions. whatever they will be is something that we are going to see probably in the coming days. and that will be part of the mediation that
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will start, if my information is correct, already tomorrow. so i will call... what i will do here is call on both sides, on the government officials, as well as on the opposition party, to stop with rhetorics, stop with provocations and be ready to walk into this dialogue in an open mind and ready to find compromises. but... and again, i'm sure they will be reached. the point is this, mr melia claims that the parliamentary elections of last autumn were rigged. he also complains about the... well... well, if i may finish, he also complains about the relations between the ruling georgian dream party and russia. he thinks that russia has been wielding influence on the ruling party. these are very, very explosive allegations and there are thousands of people who want to take to the streets of tbilisi to support him and express disgust with his imprisonment.
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you call it a crisis. well, first of all, the situation on the streets is not that there are 1000 people. there were much more people on the streets in the second city of georgia demonstrating against the construction of a hydroelectricity dam. and here in tbilisi, there were between 500 and 800, but that doesn't matter. if there is a part of the society that is not in agreement, i think that compromise has to be found for what you were discussing before, which were the allegation of frauds. just now, the 0sce has published its final report on the elections, which doesn't say anything like that and doesn't put under any form
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of question the legitimacy of the elections. so, i think it's a very, very dangerous precedent, not only for georgia, but for many other countries. we are seeing that in other countries, that, in advance, frauds are announced, that when the elections happen, and even when they are not contested by international observers or by the majority of the population, then there is a questioning of the legitimacy of the elections when the party that has lost does not recognise the results of the elections. i think that all of that are very preoccupying trends for not only, again, georgia as a small democracy, but also for other much stronger countries. so, i think we shouldn't take at face value the declarations of any opponent, qualifying or not qualifying the elections. but madam president...
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what we should look at is ways to solve the crisis, and that is with the european union on the european path. now, i will talk. i will answer your questions on russia. well, if i may, let's get to russia... let's get to russia in a moment. let's stick with what you've said. surely one of the problems here is that this isn'tjust about partisan polarisation. it goes deeper than that. the prime minister of your country resigned over this issue, mr gakharia. he would not tolerate the arrest of mr melia, so he quit the government. and now, your new prime pinister is a hard—liner, mr garibashvili, who has said that as far as he's concerned, the opposition is a gang of traitors. so, if you're talking about trends here, the trend we see is of georgia being led by an increasingly authoritarian government, perhaps more in the style
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of belarus, maybe even of mr putin's russia, than of western europe. well, first of all, you're making affirmations that i certainly cannot accept. i cannot accept, as a truly european leader, i wouldn't be in georgia if georgia was anything closer to belarus or closer to putin's russia. i think that this is insensitive when talking about a country that has territories occupied today, and it's insensitive looking at what is the history of georgia over the past century. just a few days ago, we were remembering that 25th of february was, 100 years ago, the time of the first occupation in this century of georgia, notwithstanding
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the occupation in 1801. so, it's 200 years that we have gone through that. i don't know many other countries that would have resisted with such democracy to have, in 1918, a democratically elected parliament with women elected. and continuously, the georgian population has resisted. so, i will not take these type of accusations. i don't know where they come from. they certainly do not come from the european leadership that was here just a few days ago. i have not heard anything of that kind. and i don't think that mr charles michel, the president of the eu council, would go to belarus to mediate. i don't know whom between you can mediate, because polarisation and the existence of strong, different political parties is a fact of democracy today.
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it's not a fact of authoritarianism. i would just ask you to moderate a little bit these terms that i've been listening to, but they are not... i understand you. i understand your sensitivity. i'm still fighting with your... yeah. madam president... it's not a sensitivity. it's a reality. the reality is that the us embassy, after the events of february 23rd, issued a statement talking of its deep concern, its concern that georgia was on the wrong path. and if i may say so... i'm also... let me finish. a group of us congress representatives and senate representatives put out a statement talking about the corrupt use of georgia's law enforcement and judiciary to execute politically motivated actions, this jeopardising what remains of georgia's democracy and its euro—atlantic path. this is not me in my opinion, madam president, this is your
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key allies in washington. yes, but at the same time, the new state secretary, just two months ago, so he was not that concerned with the path of georgia, was publicly in front of the congress saying that our path to nato was open and that the new administration was going to support it. but with respect, with respect, that was long before... it was long before the arrest of mr melia. now you have to let me finish, because you have.. let me say that i have been in brusselsjust a month and a half ago, where i visited both nato and the european union, and i've not heard anything of that kind. one thing, the public campaign that is launched against georgia, which i don't know where it comes from, and for me it's surprising, or not surprising... it's a concern that this public campaign, that is clearly
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orchestrated with different information being disseminated, comes at a time when exactly the path to nato is reopened with a new administration and when the path to the eu is stronger than ever. there is a crisis. i'm not saying that there is no crisis. it's a crisis that we have to solve. and one thing i want to say, that it's very interesting that all the parties and the public opinion in georgia, which, by the way, supports 80% this path towards the eu and nato, everybody is considering that the mediation of the european union is acceptable to everyone. so, that is a sign that we consider our future to be there. now, i want to come to russia, because that's something that i will accept even less, because this country has never gone on the path to russia, whatever its governments. that's something that
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was never in the cards. madam president, you know that some georgians were very upset with you with regard to this relationship with russia when, during the 2018 presidential campaign, you basically said that as far as you were concerned, the small war, if i can put it that way, the real conflict between georgia and russia, where russian troops were on your territory and were involved in the battles in south 0ssetia and abkhazia... you said that, "georgia started this part of the hostilities in this war situation." and you said that it was senseless behaviour on the part of the georgian government, "a whim of a crazy president or a strange and obscure deal with the age—old enemy." now, some in georgia really resented that you appeared to be blaming mr saakashvili rather than the russians for the fact that russian troops were in south 0ssetia and abkhazia. if i can answer, because you
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have been at length quoting me. yes, i can answer that question. there are two parts to that question. the first one, as i said, and nobody can teach me in that part, is that over history, there's not been anyone but russia that started the wars against georgia. georgia has never started any war, either in the 19th century or in �*21 or in �*92 or in 2008 against russia. has not occupied one ounce, one inch of russian territory. the same is not true with russia, which has been constantly, i would say, that's one of the main problems that we have, driving south towards our territory and occupying it, and starting all the wars that have been started.
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the president of georgia and i am with the same responsibility, and any country, any democratic country in which, instead of resisting the provocations, which were... condoleezza rice came to tell us that, and all the american friends and partners came to georgia to explain that this was very dangerous. they told us, "don't go into the provocation." and i was at that time in georgia, and i heard myself these... these warnings and advice. and walking into those provocations, these internal decisions that were taken, the use of the constitutional restoration of order, as it was called at that time,
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that is something that is a political responsibility for which, in any democratic country, when at the end of that we lose 20% of our territory, which is today still occupied, any president, any responsible figure, would have had to answer the questions. and that has not happened in georgia. right. and that is unfortunate, because if a country doesn't know its past, cannotjudge, cannot discuss what has happened in order to not renew the same mistakes, then we are due for new mistakes in the future. yes, but... so, i think that what goes for internal politics, goes for these relations, too. right, but... we have to be very clear about our past. isn't the truth that the political crisis we have discussed and what many georgians see as the authoritarian trend in your government, isn't the truth that that plays into the hands of vladimir putin and russia, and makes it ever more unlikely that you are going to succeed
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in getting russia out of those occupied territories, as you call them, abkhazia and south 0ssetia? i think that everybody calls, and the strasbourg court just recently recognised all the violations of russia in the occupied territories... and i think that in the report of the strasbourg european court of human rights, the term "occupation" was used 17 times, if i'm not mistaken. and that result has been the result of this, what you describe as a pro—russian government in georgia. so, i think that there are many... of course, we are a small country, and i understand that, that nobody has the time to really look from close to georgia, and certain active campaigning can sometimes be translated into harsh words and harshjudgments.
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i think that we are not what you're describing. i think that georgia is a country where there is one subject of consensus among all the parties and among the population, and that has not changed since independence. and that is the path towards europe and towards nato. and the path towards europe, by the way, is not new. georgia has been defending itself over the centuries from the many other invasions and many empires. and each time it was looking to the west, looking to europe for one very good reason — that its values, its ground values are european or are the same as the ones that the europeans have. all right. well, president salome zourabichvili, i thank you very much indeed forjoining me from tbilisi. and forgive my ear! of course. thank you very much.
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hello. the weather is pretty quiet out there at the moment, and tuesday promises to be a fine day on the whole. the rest of the week, though, oh, my goodness, it's going to get significantly livelier. a deep area of low pressure forming out to the west at the moment in the atlantic will come hurtling towards the uk for wednesday and thursday. expect some very strong and gusty winds and some spells of heavy rain. so, in contrast, for tuesday, yes, some showery light rain affecting northern reaches of the uk, but overall a lot of fine weather, some sunny spells and light winds, a quiet enough day.
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temperatures just about making it into the lower end of double figures. through the afternoon, however, and into the evening, the wind starts to strengthen in the west as this weather front pushes in. wet conditions for northern ireland and scotland through the evening. 0vernight, the rain sinks further south into england and wales, and the gusty winds will follow that band of rain. but the wind, the rain and the cloud do make for a milder night tuesday into wednesday. wednesday daytime, the cloud and rain tends to hang back across england and wales as our next front bumps into scotland and northern ireland. generally a lot of cloud around, some heavy rain, but the wind the key factor again, ithink, through wednesday. across the board, strong gusty winds. those are the figures in the black arrows. this is wednesday afternoon, and in exposed areas, we're looking at 50 mph and inland 35—40. this is the area of low pressure wednesday into thursday. the fronts run off into the continent. the low centre, though, stays to the north. thursday actually brighter
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for many, but a lot of showers coming in and just don't underestimate that wind. behind the fronts, actually, it could be stronger on thursday than it was on wednesday. certainly will feel colder. i think we could see some snow showers across the highest ground, and the winds at exposure in excess of 60 mph, inland 40—115 mph. so a really windy 48 hours. winds slacken back a bit, perhaps friday, but bands of showers sweep across the uk. and then for saturday, it looks like we'll see a more organised band of rain spreading into all areas. and still a fairly blustery story into the early part the weekend.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. i'm mike embley. the interview sending shock waves through buckingham palace, meghan says a member of the royal family had concerns about what colour her child would be. so we had in tandem the conversation of, we won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title, and also, concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born. harry and meghan did express their admiration and respect for the queen. buckingham palace has yet to respond to the allegations. in myanmar, hundreds
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of protestors are trapped by security forces in yangon, the un says, it's deeply

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