Climate Summit To Proceed In Paris
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Paris is a city on edge. More than a hundred heads of state are convening there for the international climate summit. Security for that was always going to be tight, but in the wake of the terrorist attacks earlier this month, security is at its highest level. Today, French police fired tear gas into a crowd of environmental protestors. NPR's Peter Kenyon is in Paris with more. Peter, what can you tell us about this standoff?
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, everything started quite peacefully. There was a human chain stretching for more than a mile across Paris neighborhoods toward Place de la Republique, which of course was the scene of the tributes to the people killed in the Paris attacks earlier this month. And then there were more demonstrations and rallies, all very peaceful, at Place de la Republique, until some of the activists began pushing toward the rows of police who were standing guard at some of the entrances to the square. Some were holding flares, smoke started to billow and then eventually the police responded with tear gas. Here's a bit of what it sounded like,
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KENYON: Now, the crowd was obviously repulsed by that. They moved back towards the metro and this happened a few times. And then eventually the square was completely cleared out. Police say they've detained around a hundred people. The environmental climate change groups say the activists who did the moving on the police position, which started all this, were not part of their events. But in any - anyway that was the result.
MARTIN: Have government authorities there given protest groups any kind of guidance on what they can and can't do in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks?
KENYON: There's not a lot of clarity. Today's human chain wasn't specifically authorized, for instance, but that was peaceful. It was kind of a substitute for the big climate justice march that was supposed to happen but was cancelled for security reasons. Other events are also kind of taking base on an ad hoc basis. But obviously if activists start moving in on places the police have blocked off, scenes like today's may be repeated.
MARTIN: I'm going to switch gears a little bit here, Peter, because you are usually based in Istanbul where tensions between Turkey and Russia are running high after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border. Could there be meetings on the sidelines of this environmental climate change conference? Could there be meetings about Syria?
KENYON: Well, that's something a lot of people will be watching quite closely. The tensions between Russia's Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan are indeed high. So far Moscow is signaling that no head of state meeting is likely at all in this venue. They're waiting for a Turkish apology, which Erdogan has so far stopped short of offering. But it doesn't necessarily have to be a formal meeting. There could be some diplomatic overtures, some informal communications maybe between deputies. So it's definitely something to be watched.
MARTIN: These two countries, Turkey and Russia, have had important economic ties for a long time. There is clearly a lot at stake. I can't imagine either country wants to see this kind of tension escalate to the point of permanent damage.
KENYON: No, I think you're absolutely right. There's a lot of intention to try and tamp things down, keep things calm. Russia has started with tourism-related sanctions, which are painful but they are not the big guns. Those would be energy sanctions. And so we'll have to see if things continue to escalate based on the personalities of the leaders or whether cooler heads prevail, which I think a lot of people are hoping is what happens.
MARTIN: NPR's Peter Kenyon reporting from Paris. Thanks so much, Peter.
KENYON: You're welcome, Rachel.
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