The Inside Story-A World in Conflict TRANSCRIPT


The Inside Story: A World in Conflict
Episode 58 – September 22, 2022
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While global leaders meet at the U.N. —
War and its threat hang over many of their nations.
From Ukraine and Taiwan —
To the Mediterranean and the Caucasus —
Find out why they are fighting —
And what’s at stake —
Now, in The Inside Story— A World in Conflict
The Inside Story:
CAROLYN PRESUTTI, VOA Senior Washington Correspondent:
Hi. I’m Carolyn Presutti, VOA Senior Washington Correspondent, in New York today as the United Nations opens its annual General Assembly.
Leaders from the 193 member nations will descend on New York City to address the General Assembly about the important issues facing their nations.
It is the 77th time the General Assembly has met since the U.N.’s birth after World War Two.
This year is like every prior year — war, conflict and human suffering can be found all over the world.
So, we will go inside several of the world’s conflicts to explain who is fighting, why they are fighting and what’s at stake.
Let’s start at the U.N. and VOA United Nations Correspondent Margaret Besheer:
MARGARET BESHEER, VOA United Nations correspondent:
Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on September 19 has presented logistical challenges for leaders attending the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Some speeches and meetings may have to be shuffled as they dash from London to New York.
This year’s meeting takes place at a time of “great peril,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General:
Our world is blighted by war, battered by climate chaos, scarred by hate and shamed by poverty, hunger and inequality.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which may be at a militarily decisive moment, is certain to dominate the annual meetings.
The U.N. Security Council will meet at the foreign ministers’ level to discuss developments.
The situation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is of particular concern.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General:
We are playing with fire. We cannot continue in a situation where we are one step away from a nuclear accident. The safety of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is hanging by a thread.
Western officials, meanwhile, want to firm up support from some countries that may be wavering as the war grinds on.
Richard Gowan, International Crisis Group UN Director:
Many African and Asian countries have security relationships with Russia or economic relationships with Russia. And while they were willing to criticize the invasion back in March, they don’t want to keep on picking fights with Moscow at the U.N.
But with Russian President Vladimir Putin not attending the annual gathering — he rarely does — and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s sending a video address, no breakthrough is expected.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General:
But I have no illusions that at the present moment, the chances of a peace deal are minimal.
Russia and Ukraine are important food producers, and their war has worsened a global food crisis.
Supply chain disruptions and rising food prices are exacerbating the situation in the Horn of Africa, which is suffering its worst drought in 40 years.
As many as 20 million people are at risk of severe hunger, and famine is looming for nearly 8 million people in Somalia.
Abdirahman Abdishakur, Somali Special Envoy for Drought Response:
The famine, it is real, and it is happening.
President Joe Biden is expected to lead a high-level meeting on global food security, one of several sessions to tackle the issue.
The secretary-general just returned from Pakistan, where deadly floods have submerged one-third of the country. He would like to see climate action high on leaders’ agendas.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General:
What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis, and the betrayal and injustice at the heart of it.
This is the first time that leaders will participate fully in person at the General Assembly since 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has moved from the spotlight as leaders grapple with more pressing issues.
Margaret Besheer, VOA News, the United Nations.
Among the world leaders who will not attend the UN General Assembly — Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
Putin is sending Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to speak on his behalf.
Zelenskyy delivered a recorded address to the assembly.
141 of the 193 General Assembly nations voted for a resolution in March, condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demanded it withdraw its forces.
That war enters its seventh month this week.
In that March resolution approved by the General Assembly is a paragraph confirming the involvement of Belarus in Russia’s unlawful attack on Ukraine.
Russian troops were allowed to perform military drills inside Belarus before the war started.
And Belarus allowed Russia to stage attacks on Ukraine from Belarus.
Its opposition leader is in New York for the General Assembly and told VOA in an exclusiuve interview that Belarus should not be seen as an “appendix to Russia.”
More from VOA New York Bureau Chief Igor Tsikhanenka:
IGOR TSIKHANENKA, VOA New York Bureau Chief:
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is no stranger to the global political stage. But this is her first in-person visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Exiled Belarus Opposition Leader:
I am representing here the Belarusians who are fighting against the dictator in our country.
Tsikhanouskaya doesn’t want the democratic world to think badly of her countrymen because of the actions of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, after he allowed Russian forces to use Belarus territory to attack Ukraine. And experts believe she is succeeding at that.
Pavel Slunkin, European Council on Foreign Relations:
Alexander Lukashenko has no right in representing the Belarusian society. The Belarusian society didn’t vote for him in 2020. The society remains its victim and hostage of that regime. And she was able to articulate that.
With Russia suffering stunning losses in Ukraine’s east, analysts believe her trip to the UNGA is timely.
David Kramer, George W. Bush Presidential Center:
I think the situation in Ukraine does not bode well for Alexander Lukashenko. I think he could be in big trouble. Because it means Russia might not be able to maintain the support in propping him up.
Tsikhanouskaya shares a similar viewpoint.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Exiled Belarus Opposition Leader:
When Ukrainians win, it means that Putin is weak; hence, Lukashenko is weak.
Tsikhanouskaya had to leave Belarus with two young children in August 2020, following a brutal post-election crackdown by the Lukashenko regime on peaceful protesters. Most Western observers consider her a legitimate winner of that year’s presidential campaign, which she entered, replacing her husband, a popular blogger, who was arrested and later jailed for 18 years by the authorities.
Despite all that, she remains an advocate of a peaceful movement.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Exiled Belarus Opposition Leader:
I still believe in the peaceful decision (resolution) of the Belarusian crisis.
Experts say, however, the members of the protest movement in Belarus are disillusioned by the failures of peaceful demonstrations and demand more forceful actions from their leaders.
Pavel Slunkin, European Council on Foreign Relations:
The vast majority of protesters today support the use of force to achieve change in the country,
ButTsikhanouskaya says she hopes to focus global leaders on Belarusian issues, in hopes of resolving the political crisis in her country in a nonviolent manner.
Igor Tsikhanenka, VOA News, New York.
Elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, Azerbaijan and Armenia have renewed their long simmering conflict, prompting calls for restraint from both the U.S. and Russia.
More than 150 people have been killed in recent clashes along the border —
Fresh wounds in the decades-long dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh — an ethnically Armenian region within Azerbaijan’s territory.
Here’s VOA Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine:
CINDY SAINE, VOA Senior Diplomatic Correspondent:
Relatives of Armenian servicemen, wounded in night clashes with Azerbaijan, gathered outside a military hospital in Yerevan. Yerevan says 105 of its troops have been killed. Baku says about 49 of its troops have been killed.
At the State Department, spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. is particularly concerned by reports of civilians hurt inside Armenia, and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Ned Price, State Department Spokesperson:
… He urged President [Ilham] Aliyev to cease hostilities immediately, to disengage military forces, to pull forces back from the border and to cease hostilities that could endanger civilians and to work to resolve all outstanding issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan through peaceful negotiations.

Armenian residents of the village of Sotk, near the border with Azerbaijan, told reporters homes were hit by Azeri shelling and burned down.
On Tuesday, Blinken said he had spoken to the leaders of both countries.
Antony Blinken, Secretary of State:
Spoke to both, urged them to do everything possible to pull back from any conflict and get back to talking about building a lasting peace between their countries.
The Armenian Ministry of Defense released a video Tuesday that it says shows Azerbaijani forces advancing on its territory. One expert told VOA he is surprised at this surge in hostilities in light of all the negotiations that had been going on.
Richard Kauzlarich, Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan:
And now, suddenly, we’re in the middle of what I consider to be a major step backward in that process.
Russia operates a military base in Armenia and in the past has been seen as an ally of Yerevan and a key power broker in the region.
But experts say with Russia immersed in its invasion of Ukraine, it is uncertain what role Moscow will play in this conflict.
Cindy Saine, VOA News.
Go west from Armenia, and you hit Turkey.
On Turkey’s western frontier — across the Aegan Sea — is Greece.
Tensions are escalating over Greece’s militarizing the islands in the sea between the two NATO allies.
Our Dorian Jones explains from Istanbul.
DORIAN JONES, Reporting for VOA:
Touring the country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is banging the nationalist drum, warning Turkey may occupy Greek islands, which he claims Greece has militarized in violation of an international agreement.
Mesut Casin, Turkish Presidential Adviser:
Greece has to stop its adventurous stance, which is not in accordance with its NATO membership, and should give up its nondiplomatic discourse because this is creating a big worry in Turkish society and raising the question, is Greece at war with Turkey? Moreover, this is bringing out ultranationalist sentiments in Turkey.
Athens insists the militarization of its islands is in response to Turkish military threats.
With Greece engaged in a significant rearmament program, buying weapons from the United States and France, along with military cooperation agreements, Athens says it’s ready to stand up to its powerful neighbor.
Cengiz Aktar, University of Athens:
Two major agreements, one with the United States and the other one with France, of course, enhanced tremendously both the capabilities and the morale of the Greek armed forces. So, they remain very confident.
Domestic politics could be exacerbating the current Turkish Greek tensions with both leaders facing reelection next year.
Turkey and Greece are no strangers to tensions. In 1996 the two countries went to the verge of war over a small, uninhabited island. Washington’s intervention averted that crisis.
But analysts warn such mediation efforts are absent given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Erdogan’s strained ties with his Western allies.
Asli Aydintasbas, Brookings Institution:
The current environment is very scary because the international community is focused on the war in Ukraine. And already, both the EU and Washington have huge challenges in how they’re dealing with Ankara and Erdogan. So, they don’t want one more problem on their plate.
This month, Turkey and Greece blamed each other for the recent drowning of refugees in the Aegean Sea. With neither leader appearing ready to back down and the absence of mediation, the fear is these latest deaths in the Aegean may not be the last.
Dorian Jones, for VOA News, Istanbul.
Iran’s president is attending the General Assembly for the first time. He says there will be no reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal unless the U.S. guarantees it will not withdraw from the agreement again.
But his presence in New York has many talking about the possibilities.
More from VOA Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine.

CINDY SAINE, VOA Senior Diplomatic Correspondent:
In an interview with VOA at the White House, National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby said the U.S. and Iran are now farther away from an agreement, but he still believes it is better for the Iran nuclear deal – known as the JCPOA – to be revived.
John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator:
…the United States is still committed to getting back into the JCPOA, getting it back implemented, because again, we believe the deal was working before the previous administration pulled out. Iran is closer now to break-out capability, now, today, as you and I sit here, than they were anywhere near when the deal was put in place back in 2015.
On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers oppose efforts by the Biden administration to get the deal implemented again. Representative Tim Burchett told VOA he believes Iran is not going to deal in good faith.
Rep. Tim Burchett, Republican:
They’re making some pretty unreasonable, unrealistic demands. They want the full economic benefits of the 2015 deal, and they want to end the United Nations probe into some of that undeclared nuclear material in Iran.

If the Iran nuclear deal is revived, the ranking Republican member of the House Foreign Service Committee Michael McCaul told VOA he is worried about what Tehran would do if sanctions were eased.

Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican:
…what I worry about is if we are going to lift the sanctions and you have billions of dollars going into Iran, we have the same experience we had last time, and that is funding terror operations in Syria and Iraq, you know in Lebanon and with Hamas and also in Yemen, with the Houthi rebels.

At UNGA, France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna called on Iran to accept the proposal on the table to revive a nuclear deal, warning that it will not get a better offer.
Cindy Saine, VOA News.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Israel is again bringing thousands of Jews out of Ethiopia to reunite with family members already living in Israel.
The airlift comes as war escalates in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Details from Linda Gradstein in Tel Aviv.
Last year, the Israeli government promised to reunite families and rescue Ethiopian Jews from Ethiopia’s civil war. But the escalating war is just one reason for this mission, according to some Israeli analysts.
Steve Kaplan, Hebrew University Professor of African Studies:
I think it has to do, as so many things do, with internal Israeli politics and the coming election. I think that’s more relevant than anything that’s happened in Ethiopia recently.
Ethiopia’s civil war is centered in the northern Tigray region. Most of the Ethiopian Jews are from Gondar, in the nearby region of Amhara. Officials say they are not directly threatened by the war, but it does have an indirect effect.
Shai Felber, Jewish Agency Deputy Director-General:
We see the cost of living increasing because of the war, and the financial problems that the ‘olim’ (immigrants) are facing in Gondar and in Ethiopia. We are more and more challenged in these cases.
But some Ethiopian-Israeli activists say that Israel has an obligation to rescue thousands of Jews remaining in the Tigray war zone, even if they are not on the lists of those recognized for family reunification.
Elsa Baruch Yaso, Ethiopian-Israeli Activist:
Look at Ukraine. The state of Israel has rescued not only Jews from the war there, but refugees too. I support that as a moral person. But why aren’t they bringing the Jews from Tigray to Israel?
Israeli officials say they see their mission as helping any Jew in distress and they will continue these flights from Ethiopia for the next few months.
Linda Gradstein for VOA News, Tel Aviv.
When asked if U.S. troops would defend Taiwan if it is invaded by China, President Biden told CBS News, “Yes.”
The candid assessment is the latest flashpoint in the growing tension between the U.S. and China over Taiwan.
Recently a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers met with Taiwan’s president to reaffirm economic and security assistance to the island republic — which China claims as its territory.
VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson spoke with members of the delegation about the U.S. show of support
KATHERINE GYPSON, VOA Congressional Correspondent:
Renewed support for Taiwan as yet another bipartisan Congressional delegation calls for deeper ties in the face of threats from China.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Democrat:
Our delegation as with every congressional delegation that has visited is a symbol of Congress’s rock-solid commitment to Taiwan.
This latest visit follows Nancy Pelosi’s historic trip last month – the first by a U.S. Speaker of the House in 25 years. A member of the latest delegation told VOA it is time for a change in the U.S. approach.
Rep. Claudia Tenney, Republican:
Our policy has always been strategic ambiguity, instead of strategic clarity. But that was many, many years ago, 40 years ago, almost. And what we need to look at is, China has changed dramatically in that period of time, they were not nearly the significant military or economic power that they are today.
The Biden administration approved $1.1 billion in arms sales to Taiwan last week – a move that drew swift condemnation from China.
Mao Ning, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson:
The U.S. arms sale to Taiwan blatantly violates the one-China principle
But there is bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress for even more support of Taiwan – including closer ties in agriculture and trade.
Rep. Claudia Tenney, Republican:
We’d like to see them trading more with us and, and sort of balance the trade.
A U.S. House panel heard testimony Wednesday that a new U.S.-Taiwan free trade agreement and bringing Taiwan into the Trans-Pacific Partnership would play a crucial role in countering authoritarianism.
Bonnie Glaser, German Marshall Fund:
Taiwan is at the frontline of this rivalry as Beijing intensifies political, military and economic coercion – they brought a strategy to subvert the island’s democracy and compel reunification. United States should aid Taiwan’s efforts to defend its people, its democracy and its freedoms.
A U.S. Taiwan BTA would serve that goal.
A key U.S. Senate committee also approved the Taiwan Security Act this week – if passed it would provide $6.5 billion in security funding over the next five years.
Katherine Gypson, VOA News, Washington.
The schedule for the UN General Assembly had to be shuffled to accommodate the number of world leaders attending the funeral for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
While many lauded the Queen’s 70-year reign, not everyone sees it the same way — especially in Kenya, which gained its independence from Britain in 1963.
Juma Majanoa explains from Nairobi:
JUMA MAJANGA, VOA Africa News Center:
She became a queen while on a visit to Kenya and went on to be the last colonial monarch for Africa.
Her ascension to the throne came at a time when the British colonial empire was under threat from the growing clamour for independence by African colonies. Queen Elizabeth had to supervise the elimination of the empire.
Prof. Macharia Munene, Lecturer, United States International University:
She was able to adjust to the reality of the imperial decline and then transform that imperial decline to a good thing, something common that people can be part of, that is the commonwealth.
The British colonial rule was synonymous with and exploitation. Some have laid the atrocities of that period at the door-step of the queen as the representative of British interests during colonial time.
Gitu wa Kahengeri, Secretary General, Mau Mau War Veterans Association:
I personally will not forget that I was incarcerated for seven years. I cannot forget I was put together with my father, I cannot forget I left my children for seven years without food, without education. That, I will never forget.
And with the territorial colonialism now decades gone, attachments to the wrongs of the British rule in Africa have largely eroded.
Prof. Macharia Munene, Lecturer, United States International University:
She was many things to many people. To the colonial subjects at the time of colonialism, she was the symbol of the evil that was colonialism. With independence, she was able to transform herself to a likeable person. And as a person she was likeable.
Queen Elizabeth was widely admired and seen as a role model by many in the continent.
Benedict Yartey, Ghana:
The legacy she has left will keep her name deeply rooted in the hearts of generations to come.
Sophia Emmanuelle, South Africa:
For me it’s just sad. I can’t really say I take it personally but I mean it’s sad for people around the world and especially for England.
Tunde Kamali, Nigeria:
I have never known any other ruler that lasted that long.. So for this now to have happened, it only means that every man has an end.’
Analysts say Queen Elizabeth’s biggest legacy is the creation of the common wealth. And with the death of the queen, the future of that legacy now lies with the new king, King Charles III.
Juma Majanga, VOA Africa News Center, Nairobi.
That’s all for now.
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Thanks for being with us.
See you next week for The Inside Story.

Source: Voice of America