Audio reveals what John Kerry told Syrians behind closed doors

Male voice

[0:00]

Coming from Aleppo into BBC world.

Female voice

[0:07]

I think it's ... that you were for ... Okay ... I'm a bit ... I don't know how to act, I'm a diplomat. My friend Cora Bullian has died ... I don't know how to ... go on but on ... I'd like for this to you know, one and two plus. We wish to have everyone talk about ... their reality and all ... Those saying that there is nothing else besides a political solution, with a person who is doing Arabic ... his followers, not gonna solve the issue. Waiting for Aleppo to fall apart like ... is not a good solution for anyone. I think ... come to them and beg for help. Right now we're trying our alliance ... with the people who look alike, who think alike, they thus, and I think we should criticise other options. Yeah and this is a ... phrase. It's hard ... the political solution is not working so ... a political solution there is not such a thing. Because from the political is ... lost ... besieged. And first I worked on ... and ... and a shock for this. And since the Geneva agreement this whole event ... ask twice ... we are going to have a huge state meeting. That's what.

Kerry

[01:55]

I understand ...

Female voic

[01:57]

I love your statement but I didn't ... some forces. I logged your statement yesterday ... I had too high hopes of ... killing. Bernard was sharing it and now I will ... we will come back to reality ... I think that ... enforce it.

Kerry

[02:21]

Look, I'm Kerry. A lot of wish there was an enforcement mechanism, right? Now, about those who've been inviting ... um ... but we don't have one right now, in that sene, so we're trying to pursue the diplomacy, and I understand it's frustrating, ... nobody is more frustrated than we are. Michael's frustrated, I'm frustrated it's the ... you know it's hard. Um ... the problem is ... that you know ... getting 'quote' enforcerers in there ... um ... and then everybody upstanding ... like, Russia puts in more, Iran puts in more, Hezbollah is there more, and Nusra is more and Saudi Arabia and Turkey put all their surrogate money in and ... you all are destroyed. And this is the problem, is figuring out how do you get people to the place of being rational. Um ... and that's what we're trying to do. Uh, you know you can always throw a lot of weapons in, but I don't think they are going to be good for you. And, ah, you knoe people who have determined to just fight and fight and fight can destroy things completely. Right? So we're trying. We're trying to find a balance here, to see if we can get to a negotiated process, with an end of violence while we do it. That's why we're fighting so hard for the cessation, so that you're not living day-to-day with fighting around you but there's a political process that supplants the fighting.

Nusra makes it hard. Al Nusra and Daesh both make it hard because you have this extreme element out there. And unfortunately some of the opposition has already ... kind of ... chosen to work with them. But let me listen to the rest of you before we hear what else.

Male voice

[4:30]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Translator

[04:57]

... the White Helmets ...

Female voice1

[5:00]

Yeah, um ... I've heard only a part of that ... but we've heard a lot of talk recently and I don't want to repeat what I've just said at the event pior to this and we're hoping to get some of you reactions ...

Kerry

[05:15]

I don't know what you said.

Female voice1

Go ahead, go ahead ...

Female voice2, translator

[05:21]

I will talk, please, because I heard what he said in Syrian ... He said I don't want to talk because we did ... a lot of talks already ... and you know to what guarantee, but I knew you were the area and in a really important meeting and I wanted to ask you what happened in there, I wanted to know from you what happened in that room.

Kerry

[05:36]

So, what happened is we told the Russians ... and the Iranians ... that we can't just do the same thing, we can't just go out and announce this ceasefire if there's no change to show that it's serious. Right?

Female voice

[06:02]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Kerry

[06:10]

So we propose to the Russians that they prove that they're serious by having no warplanes flying, no Assad planes flying, for seven days. At least. In order to prove to the opposition that they're not gonna get killed if they try to help people or if the humanitarian assistance comes in, because it's the airplanes which have been causing most of the damage.

Female voice

[06:40]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Kerry

[07:04]

So, the Russians were willing to offer 3 days and we said that's not enough. That's a game. You gotta be serious here. The deal we made in Geneva said 7 days, consecutive, of calm ... before we would talk about focusing on Daesh and Nusra.

Female voice

[07:27]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Keirry

[07:42]

So that's really where we have a lot of discussion, many ministers felt that ... ah ... Russia needed to provide this guarantee.

Female voice

[07:53]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Kerry?

[07:58]

Some talked about increased monitoring ... that we need to get monitoring in, which we all agree ... but we're not sure who can do the monitoring and ... and how we'll be safe.

Female voice

[08:11]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Kerry

[08:20]

And that's really what happened in the meeting. The Russians are sending the idea back to Moscow. And we'll learn tomorrow whether it's yes or no, or some variation.

Female voice

[08:30]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Kerry

[08:38]

That's where we are.

Female voice

[08:40]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Male voice

[08:44]

Thank you.

Kerry?

[08:46]

What would you ... what is your idea of what would make a difference?

Female voice

[08:50]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Male voice

[08:57]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Female voice

[08:50]

Translates. Speaks English ... To be honest, I don't think that the United States should have a monitoring role inside Syria.

Male voice

[09:08]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Female voice

[09:35]

Translates. Speaks English ... We have planes without pilots, there satellites, and there are civil society organizations working on the ground that can see these violations.

Male voice

[09:43]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Female voice

[10:18]

Translates. Speaks English ... After the convoy was bombed by either Russia or Syria ... or the regime, we're not sure at this point, we received voice messages that I think that the White Helmets or the White Helmets' locations will be specifically targeted ... um ... and that it's an entry about the fact of ... what targetted those areas ... um ... the things that ... White Helmets

Male voice

[10:44]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Female voice

[11:20]

Translates. Speaks English ... Ah, when we can't believe that the Russians can be the guarantor of the actions of the regime, we see that Russia as a partner of the regime and bombs the Syrians, Syrian civilians, marketplaces, even our own teams - the Syrian Civil Defense [White Helmet] teams. We've documented since the start of the Russian intervention in Syria, from day one until February of this year more than 17 of our Syrian Civilian Defense personnel have been killed by Russian airstrikes.

Kirby?

[11:49]

Do you have any videos of the airplanes of these strikes?

Female voice

[11:53]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Male voice

[10:44]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Kerry

[12:01]

We've been looking for videos for ages, I've been asking for it ...

Female voice

[12:04]

Translates. Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Male voice

[12:10]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Michael?

[12:21]

Sir, can I just say that we get a lot of videos of the victims of these attacks, that are terrible, but they don't help us. We need videos of the actual aircraft with munitions, and there's a lot them on the internet, and we don't know whether they're real or not. So verified videos of the actual aircraft is the most useful thing ...

Kirby? someone else

[12:41]

And often when we see the videos of the aircraft ... you know,in their defense, it's hard to capture the aircraft at the moment of the dropping of bombs ... you see the aircraft, and then a few minutes later, there are people on the ground dying that ...

What is actually very helpful is photographic or video evidence of the munitions ... particularly that there are large fragments which we can indentify ...

Kerry

Michael ... by the way ... do we have people in Aleppo with the trucks were hit looking for the munitions evidence?

Michael

[13:19]

Yeah, I understand there are, actually ...

Kerry? someone else

Can you make sure of that? Get that back to us in a sort of verifiable ...

Michael

[13:25]

Yeah, I just heard today the UN actually wants to start taking that on in an organized way. To actually do some kind of a real team to go out and investigate it.

Kerry? someone else

[13:38]

... to get all of this cleaned out of there and see what's

Michael

[13:41]

... and get the people too

Kirby ? someone else

[13:43]

... certainly tell then it's an advanced question ...

Kerry? someone else

[13:46]

... right, well they better get right on it ...

Michael

[13:48]

... and they ... I think they are, actually ...

Male voice

[14:00]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Female voice

[14:44]

Translates. Speaks English ... I apologize for what I am going to say, but it's harsh ... I'm a surgeon... my profession and understand what I see and we've experienced, our hearts have hardened ... I believe that everyone is involved at this point in the Syrian crisis ... ah ... but that also means that they're part of the solution.

Male voice

[15:04]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Female voice

[16:08]

Translates. Speaks English ... Um ... I believe that we need more action, by the US on Syria. We're confused as to why Russia is so strongly siding with the regime whereas we find the Friends of Syria, their position, their ... year by year. The violators of the position of hostility are clear. Do we still need video and photographic evidence on that.

Male voice

[16:36]

Speaks Arabic/Syrian

Female voice

[17:08]

Translates. Speaks English ... I also want to start the point of the need to break the siege of Aleppo. I don't want ... to talk, we need actual intervention. Um ... So I really feel that there needs to be a balance, as I mentioned there's a very strong Russian position siding with the regime and ... whether it's through their military intervention or the decision invoked that they take inside the Security Council, and we want - and we expect - similar support from the US and from our friends.

Someone else, male voice

[17:43]

Can I just build on this response ... We believe that there is a deep contradiction between the strategic objectives of the United States of America and the Russians in Syria. The Russians love to see as soon as possible that Syria does ... from one side and us from the other side. Any type of moderate opposition and to put the war into into the choice where we no choice but to choose between the Assad regime and ISIS. I ... we do not understand ... and this has been the case since 2013, since the Geneva Communique ... we did not understand how it can be expected from the Russians to change attitude, and to behave differently, and to come up to a strategy that has come ... with the Americans, and with the Syrians, and with the international community to abide the same with the Syrians.

Kirby? someone else

[18:48]

Well the problem is the Russians don't care about Internatinal law and we do. And we don't have a basis, our lawyers tell us, unless we have a UN Security Council resolution, which the Russians can veto and the Chinese; or unless we are under attack, from the folks there; or unless we are invited in, Russia is invited in by the legitimate regime - well it's illegitimate normally, but by the regime. And so they were invited in and we're not invited in. We're flying in airspace there where they can turn on the air defense and we have a very different scene, the only reason they're letting us fly is because we're going after ISIS. If we were going after Assad, those air defenses ... we'd have to take out all the air defenses ... and we don't have a legal justification - frankly - for doing that, unless we stretch it way beyond the law. On a humanitarian basis - which some people argue we should, by the way.

Ah ... but so far American legal theory has not bought into the so-called right-to-protect. And we don't even have what we have in Kososvo, where we had an existing resolution ... and so forth ... you know we went alone ... So it's complicated. It's not, it's not easy. And we've been fighting ... how many wars have we been fighting ... we've been fighting in Afghanistan, we've been fighting in Iraq, we've been fighting, you know, in the Levant for 14 years. And a lot of Americans don't believe that we should be fighting, and sending young Americans, over to die in another country. That's the problem. Congress won't vote to do it.

And you can be mad at us, but what we're trying to do is help Syrians, to fight for their own country. And we've been spending a lotta money and a lot of effort to try to help do this. So there's an opposition there, the oppostion is doing very well. Russia came in there, that's a problem, I know ... but this ... you know we ... ah ... we don't behave like Russians. It's just a different standard. We're trying to see whether we can put to test whether Russia is serious about a political solution. And if they are not serious, then we will help the opposition more. But I don't think you're gonna ... I don't think that's particularly good for the citizens of Syria, in the end, because it means more fighting.

Male voice, Syrian?

[21:43]

Finding out the back fired, something about the picket, particularly about the world ... now the world always focuses on the extremists sending troops, particans [?] here. And in the end of the Communique when the ack [?] units come about goodwill and non-sectarian programs in Syria that was difficult to sell to the communities on the ground and to our fellow civil activists because it speaks only about the extremist Sunnis and ignores the extremist Shiites. Hezbollah and who come from Iran.

Kirby? someone else

[22:31]

Well they're a terrorist organization. We've designated them a terrorist organization.

Male voice, Syrian?

[22:39]

Yeah, but according to the Russian-American agreement the airstrikes in Syria will be only against the Sunnis. The extremist Sunnis.

Kirby? someone else

[22:50]

And the reason for that is that they have both, basically, declared war on us, and are plotting against us. And Hezbollah is not plotting against us. Hezbollah is exclusively focused on - Israel, whom they are not attacking now - and on Syria, where they are attacking in support of the ... uh ... in support of Assad. So it's a ... you know it's

Male voice, Syrian?

[23:20]

I entirely understand your position ... you are presenting the American interests ... because this terrorist group, they do not attack the United States, of course. But how to make the majority of the civilian people accept this approach?

Kirby? someone else

[23:34]

... I'm sorry, what the ...

Male voice, Syrian?

[23:35]

... how to make the Syrian people accept this argument? That because Hezbollah and ... and the Iraqi and Iranian troops are not fighting the United States troops now, so they are not targetted by the attacks of terrorism in Syria?

Kirby? someone else

[23:57]

They are targetted by the opposition, whom we are arming .. so ... and training.

Female voice

[24:05]

Attention. I have a ... I'm Pamela Cook, and I'm a social media activist. So I worked for 6 campaigns over the last 6 years. You know how many there for welcome ? ... How many social media campaigns asking to protection for Aleppo?

Kirby? someone else

[24:24]

How many?

Female voice

[24:24]

Maybe 1 or 2. The other points have 6. In six months we have more. So it's not a ... to me convincing me the battle's against Assad is really hard. Beause we lost stratagem. Here it is like our sweetest, romantic dream that agoldition [?], and we lost it last time. So, once we are moving forward it's another experience of it. It all, like Ike says, that they're controlling half of the country ... half of the population that to you in existence as assets [?] and their only existence will be as assets. So I know I exist for you in Syria.

So we are arming people to fight for Syria? I don't think we are. I think that in reality we are not arming a lot of people, you know, that's why we are losing ... And I don't want to be here next year when we are going to discuss how we lost Aleppo and there is still 50 ... So in reality there is not enough political and armed support to those who consider them[selves] moderate. I wish we had his friends. Not because they don't respect international law but because they are his friends.

Kerry? someone else

[25:38]

Well, let me ask you my point, I mean ... I think we've been putting an extraordinary amount of arms in haven't we?

Michael?:

Yeah, and I have to say, as you said, it's a double-edged sword, because you give people the ability to defend themselves but when you pump more weapons into a situation like Syria it doesn't end well for Syrians. Because there's always sombody else who's willing to pump more weapons in for the other side.

The groups, the armed groups in Syria get a lot of support. Not just from the United States, but from other partners, and we've never said that ...

... Qatar, Russia, ... or Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia ... huge amount of weapons coming in, huge amount of money ... but pumping weapons in, causes someone else to pump more weapons in. And you end up with Aleppo.

Kerry? someone else

The reason, the reason Russia came in is because ISIL was getting strong. Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus, and so forth. And that's why Russia came in. Because they didn't want a Daesh government. And they supported Assad.

And we know that this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength. And we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage ... you know ... that then - you know - Assad might negotiate, instead of negotiating he got us out, and he got Putin to support him.

So it's truly complicated - I mean you knwo how complicated it is, you live in it, but for us, politically, where we have a congress that will not authorize our use of force. Congress will not pass that. And so we're trying to help, the best way we can but we finally decided the best thing we can do is to try to find a way to have a political solution for the opposition as part of the government. And you can have an election. And let the people of Syria decide. Who they want. You don't believe in an election?

Female voice

[27:52]

What ... again? Yeah, I don't. I think that there is accountability to that ...

Kirby? someone else

[28:00]

Why can't you have accountability at the ballot box.

Female voice

[28:05]

Huh?

Kirby? someone else

[28:06]

Why can't you have an election, run by the international community ...

Female voice

[28:08]

Which we don't accept [?] ... Ok, then.

Kirby? someone else

[28:11]

OK, well ... ya gotta start somewhere. The international community sets up an election, under the strictest standards of elections. And people in all the camps, in all the diaspora, are allowed to vote, which is the agreement - so in Jordan they can vote, in Turkey they can vote, in Lebanon they can vote, in America they can vote, in London they can vote - everybody who's registered as a refugee anywhere in the world can vote. Are they gonna vote for Assad? Assad's scared of this happening. Very scared of this happening. We know this. We know this from intelligence, we know it from the Russians. So, you know, democracy has some virtues, folks. Eh ... what's that ...

Male voice

[28:58]

Maturature guests are arriving ...

Kirby? someone else

[28:58]

I'm coming ... so anyway ... I don't dismiss that automatically. Think about how it could work.

Female voice

[29:09]

But the problem is ... when we want international room? we use it on the table. ... accountability that counts shit, that killed 1 million. International law is not important anymore. Torture doesn't go by election, genocide doesn't go by election. Thank god activists are ... push forward that international law put those ads ... so if we wanted to stick to international law we'd keep sticking to the international law, but the best answers of the major powers we will say ... The international law won't allow us to intervene. The base case, what ... for election ... to elect Assad ... if anyone will approve that they are in denial, it's not going to happen.

Male voice

[29:20]

It is my belief that if the Russians are in support of this agreement it means that they are gonna manipulate these elections ... and they have the resources, they are in control of half of the country of what will happen to the population with iron.

So they have all possible ... ... and the areas under control of the regime itself. You don't have free choice.

Female voice

[30:22]

They will go by power, to elect him.

Male voice

[30:25]

We look back, we know that Syrians under control of the Muhabarat ... under control of he Ba'ath Party, they was not there, regardless of observers of all the world, they do not dare to go to the elections and stay home ...

Female voice

[30:37]

They give me the papers of my mother incidents and leave me to sign it, that they didn't kill her. They still have it. They give me extras to sign ...

Kerry? someone else

[30:43]

How many people is that? That's a few million people, correct?

Male voice

[30:25]

... about 40 percent.

Kerry? someone else

[30:51]

And how many people have been displaced?

Female voice

[30:55]

How many of those people have families that are still inside Syria? They are afraid. We can debate that, we are debating should we go and ...

Kerry? someone else

[31:01]

So you think the only solution is for somebody to come in and get rid of Assad?

Female voice

[31:06]

Yes.

Kerry? someone else

[31:07]

That's the only solution?

Female voice

[31:09]

Yes.

Kerry? someone else

[31:09]

Who's that gonna be? Who's gonna do that?

Female voice

[31:10]

Three years ago I would say ... you. But right now I don't know.

Kerry? someone else

[31:99]

Well ... Look. It's a hard choice. Faura, I'm sorry. It's a... you know we've lost thousands of young Americans in a lot of countries ... and ... it's pretty difficult right now to get Americans to say, We're gonna send Americans to invade another country and have a war with Sunni and Shi'ia and extremists and everybody in the ... you know, it's more complicated than you think.

Male voice

[31:53]

Nobody requests an invasion.

Kerry? someone else

[31:95]

Well, ya gotta win the war. Ya gotta come in and occupy cities, you've got to go in city-for-city, and fight against people who have IEDs, people that have sniper rifles, it's complicated. And people now who may have gas and other things. So that it is not easy. I'm just telling you that it's not easy. You know.

There are lots of places in the world where people want to hold our coat while we go fight, but it's not easy. And we're trying empower Syrians. To be able to fight against this guy.

Now the Russians have changed the equation, unfortunately. The Russians have changed the equation. And it's a little more complicated. So we are trying to figure out a way to get to the table, if we can, and save lives. I don't think any country has worked harder to save lives than we have. We've given more money, than any other nation, for refugees, regarding Syria. And we're trying very hard to try to provide access for humanitarian groups to get in and save lives. Doctor, I know you have a need for medical supplies. You need to save lives, we're trying to make it possible. We're here to do that. We're not disengaged. We're not saying ... Oh, we're sorry. We can't do anything. We're saying we're gonna try and do as much as we can, you know, within the scope of what we can do here.

Male voice

[33:30]

The UN was the chavas that gave up the oscar under the potato ... imposing game. This is the only case where a respondent of the UN ... the transition, according to the Geneva Communique, is part of UNSC 2118. He did not abide that part, he abided only to the chemical weapons ...

Kerry? someone else

[33:56]

I think you're looking at 3 people, 4 people in the administration, who have all argued for the use of force. Now I've lost that.

I've argued for the use of force. I stood up ... I'm the guy who stood up and announced we're gonna attack Assad because of the weapons ... and then, you know ... things evolved into a different process. But the bottom line is ... ah ... that we ... congress refused even to vote to allow that. Tony Blair went to parliament lost that vote ...

Female voice

[34:34]

Ok, I had one question then ... What is the bottom line? how many ... how many Syrians? What is the bottom line? Because chemical was there and it wasn't the bottom line, classical before the title in the right mind. What is the end of us? What we can do and that will be the end of us? Up here, I don't know because I am smart ...

Kerry? someone else

[34:54]

I don't know ... people in Washington right now are deeply frustrated, as you are. And we are talking about what enforcement mechanisms could we now take. And it may be that we will lift up the options, because of the frustration, because of Assad's indifference to anything. So there's a different conversation taking place because of what's happened in the last few days. See what happens.

Male voice

[35:30]

I believe the United States is capable of making the airforce that Assad has been using to send his weapons against civilians out of cities, without sending any soldiers.

Kerry? someone else

[35:40]

That he's what?

Male voice

[35:40]

... without sending any soldiers ... no-fly-zone ... enforce a no fly-zone.

Kerry? someone else

[35:46]

Well there's more and more talk, we're trying to get what we call an 'agreed upon' no-fly-zone. And that's what we're trying to get. The Russians have agreed that if we get this ... process going, Assad won't fly. And that's what attracted us to this equation, was the idea that we might get a no-fly-zone. But if we're gonna force a no-fly-zone, we have to attack every airdefense, and then we have to be willing to fly airplanes everyday to enforce it. That is very costly and very ... it's a big deal.

Female voice

[36:23]

On the long term I think that it comes to ethics.

Kerry? someone else

[36:25]

What ... ?

Female voice

[36:25]

In the long term because if we completed in 2012 we would have been without ISIS, if had done it in 2013 ... right now it is 2016, so it is ...

Kerry? someone else

[36:35]

... well in 2012 a lot of us were saying we shouldn't even be sending people in helping you ... heh, heh, heh ... I'm frustrated too, I admit it. You know everybody at this table wants to do more ...

Murmur, murmur everyone talking ... we have one minute