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CONNECT THE WORLD

Severe U.S. Weather; Syrian Refugee Crisis; Letters of Hope; Fight for Equal Rights; Parting Shots; West Imposes More Sanctions On Russia; Australian Company Claims To Have Found Plane Wreckage; Italy Seeks Help Preserving Historical Sites

Aired April 29, 2014 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: The price of unrest: Vladimir Putin's inner circle is hit with more sanctions, but that means nothing to pro-Russia separatists as they storm yet another government building in Ukraine.

That coming up.

Also ahead, amongst the U.S.-led Middle East peace talks end in disarray. We are live in Washington and Jerusalem this hour.

And optimism in the last place you'd expect to find it. We bring you uplifting letters written by young refugees in Somalia to their peers in Syria.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: A very good evening. And it's just after 7:00 here in the UAE. Economic sanctions against Russia adding up. One day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced measures against Russia officials and companies, European Union targeted another 15 people for sanctions, including top government officials and military chief and pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, unrest continues in eastern Ukraine. Hundreds of separatists took over another government building, this time in Luhansk (ph). Moscow says the new sanctions show a lack of understanding of Ukraine and are an invitation for neo-Nazis to promote anarchy.

The statement ends with the question, "aren't you ashamed?"

Well, Matthew Chance joining us from Moscow with more on the reaction from the Kremlin. And quite some reaction, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Yes, Becky. The Kremlin has come out with a -- rather the foreign ministry here in Russia has come out with a statement saying that these sanctions are Iron Curtain style in the sense that they may have an impact on the country's industry, particularly it's high tech industries. They've accused the European Union of being under Washington's thumb for following the United States in imposing another raft of sanctions. 15 individuals identified by the European Union over the course of today.

As being the target of their latest round of sanctions, all of them apparently associated, though, with events on the ground in eastern Ukraine and in Crimea and in the political and military elite in Russia.

You've seen the chief of the general staff be sanctioned of the Russian military, deputy prime minister, separatist leaders in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

But the Europeans appeared to have stayed well away from the sort of economic aspects of Russia in terms of sanctions. That's very different to the line that's been pursued by the United States. Just yesterday, the United States issued its latest raft of sanctions as well, in which it identified seven individuals and 17 organizations, companies, in Russia to be sanctioned.

Foremost amongst the individuals Igor Sechin who is the chairman of Rosneft, Russia's biggest oil company and a close associate of Vladimir Putin. Washington sending a very strong message that it's the inner circle of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president's associates, that it is now very much targeting with its sanctions, Becky.

ANDERSON: Well, Matthew, if the U.S. and/or the EU thought that these sanctions would call a halt to troop maneuvers from the Russian side, clearly they were wrong. We are still seeing shots of military drills from the Russian side. We are, of course, also seeing U.S. troop buildup in Poland.

This tit-for-tat on the ground, as it were, so far as boots on the ground concern still, it seems, ongoing.

Any expectations this will ratchet up any time soon?

CHANCE: Well, it will be interesting to see, won't it? But certainly over the course of the past 24 hours there's been an important conversation between the Russian and defense U.S. defense ministers. Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary of the United States, of course, and Sergei Shoigu who is his Russian counterpar, in which they've had what were described as very frank talks about that military buildup and about the level of rhetoric between the two sides.

One of the things that Sergei Shoigu told his American counterpart is that while maneuvers on the part of their forces were underway on those border areas of western Russia towards eastern Ukraine, on the border of eastern Ukraine, he said that those maneuvers have now come to an end, because the authorities in Kiev, he said, had lifted the threat of using military force against unarmed civilians in eastern Ukraine and that Russian soldiers have therefore been returned to their permanent bases.

And so he's talking the language of deescalation, but at the same time observers on the ground, NATO, other western officials saying they haven't observed any deescalation or change in troop movements in western Russia.

And so there's still very much a word -- a war of words underway and a sort of information war between the two sides, Becky.

ANDERSON: Matthew Chance is in Moscow for you. And coming up a little later on Connect the World. Thank you, Matthew. With me, Becky Anderson.

We're going to bring in our emerging markets editor John Defterios to talk about what impact these sanctions may have on foreign companies.

The gloves seriously off at this point.

Now on the day Israeli and Palestinian leaders were meant to have found common ground, the two are further apart than ever. The latest deadline on reaching a peace deal has arrived and gone without anyone at the negotiating table.

The proposed Palestinian unity government that would include Hamas is a red line for the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who regards it as terrorists.

Well, all of this puts the U.S. Secretary of State in a difficult spot. And he hasn't helped himself after saying Israel risks becoming, and I quote, an apartheid state if a Middle East peace deal isn't reached soon.

Athena Jones joins us live from Washington with more.

We've heard President Obama on his trip in Asia saying that he supports the efforts of John Kerry, but that's as far as he went. John Kerry's statements off the record being distributed now around the world. What is the mood in Washington?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Becky.

Certainly everyone here sees this as another huge setback for the peace process. There is still hope, but right now things are not looking good.

As you mentioned, the issue here is the decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to form -- a unity government with his party Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. And it's not just Israel that sees Hamas as a terrorist organization so does the U.S., so does several other countries in the European Union.

And so the issue here is the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says we can't negotiate with an organization that is bent on Israel's destruction. We want to see Hamas recognize Israel and then maybe we can get back to the negotiating table here.

And so that's the issue there.

These talks have been going on since July. And of course there have been lots of difficulties along the way. There's a mutual distrust from both sides. There have been disagreements over the release of prisoners by Israel, for instance, and over the Israeli settlements that have upset the Palestinians.

And so now we've reached this difficult impasse.

And as you mention Secretary Kerry made things a bit more difficult, came under fire, when he said that Israel risks becoming an apartheid state if it doesn't reach a peace deal in -- with the Palestinians. And a lot of people took issue with that, not just Israel, not just pro-Israeli groups like AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League, also Republican members of congress here. You had Texas Senator Ted Cruz calling on Kerry to resign. And so Secretary Kerry put out a statement walking back those comments and saying that he just wants to have a two-state solution. He does not believe that Israel is or wants to become an apartheid state.

So, that's where we stand -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Athena, difficult times for Washington. And we'll bring you much more on this story, of course in this hour. In about 10 minutes time, we will go live to Jerusalem to hear the thoughts of negotiators on both sides about how the peace process can now move beyond its current stalemate.

And we'll examine how the lack of progress is affecting life on the ground for ordinary Palestinians and Israelis. That coming up here on CNN.

There's a curious possible new lead in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Australian marine exploration company GeoResonance says it has located what it believes to be plane wreckage in the Bay of Bengal. The company says it used special technology to analyze electromagnetic fields. And while it can't be sure it's flight 370, the company says that new information must be taken seriously.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we know is what we have found through purely scientific work that we've been using for many, many years has told us. We found a lot of metals down there that look exactly like a Boeing 777, or an aircraft.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Leaders of the search for Flight 370 are dismissing the claim. They say the location is not in the current search area, which is based on detailed satellite information.

Well, families of the missing passengers have been pleading with Malaysian officials for weeks to release more information about the flight. Well, now they're finally getting some answers. Ivan Watson reports the new information includes what is the final audio transmission from the cockpit. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good night Malaysian 370, those are believed to have been the last words of the crew of the missing Malaysian airlines flight to the outside world before it disappeared on March 8. They had been released on transcripts by Malaysian authorities. But for the very first time, families of Chinese passengers of that missing flight were able to hear the audio transmissions of this radio chatter played in a hotel conference room here in Beijing.

Take a listen to an excerpt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MAS370, morning, level two five zero. Malaysian 370.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MAS370, morning, level two five zero Malaysian 370.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Malaysian 370, climb flight level three five zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flight level three five zero. Malaysian 370.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Malaysian 370 maintaining level three five zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Malaysian 370.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Malayasian 370 maintaining level three five zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Malaysian 370. Malaysian 370 contact Ho Chi Mihn 120 decimal 9, good night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good night Malaysian 370.

WATSON: Now the Chinese families committee have been asking for details about what are believed to have been the last hours of this missing MH370 for some time. And they finally started getting some answers from a Malaysian technical delegation. They explained, for example, details about the last handshakes, you can call them, between the plane and an Inmarsat satellite that it was in orbit over the Indian Ocean over the last hours of March 8.

They have also explained chronology about final attempts to communicate with the plane. For example, at 2:03 am Malaysain time, Malaysian airlines dispatch control tried to send a message to the cockpit asking the crew to begin communicating with Vietnamese ground control. Malaysian Airlines officials say they did not get an answer in response.

2:22 a.m. was the last time that the flight was picked up on Malaysian Royal Air Force radar.

And then at 7:13 a.m., nearly five hours later, Malaysian Airlines tried to make a voice phone call to the cockpit unsuccessfully.

It's interesting that that is nearly a five hour gap after the previous attempt to contact the plane. And the plane had been expected to land at Beijing Airport at 6:30 am about 45 minutes before the attempt at a phone call.

What was happening during that five hour gap? We still do not know. However, some of these questions now finally being answered to the Chinese families. As one relative put it, the Malaysian authorities are finally starting to make some progress.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Still to come tonight, as Syria's civil war rages on, I'm going to talk to a lawyer who says that the UN could be doing more to help refugees.

Also ahead, India's LGBT community fights for equal rights, but so far it has been a big step forward and another step back. We'll explain that after this. Back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Quarter past 7:00 in the UAE. Welcome back.

Another round of Middle East peace talks ends in stalemate. And as they draw down another round of recriminations begin, not just between Israelis and Palestinians, but in the United States. The architect of the talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has come under fire for suggesting Israel might become an apartheid state if it doesn't reach peace with its Palestinian neighbors.

He later said it was a poor choice of words.

The controversy over Kerry's comments detracts from what is a much bigger problem. I'm joined by Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem. And Ben, would it be fair to say these talks are dead in the water and the two arguably further apart than they were when they started?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Most certainly at this point it doesn't look like the negotiations are going to start soon. Martin Indyk, the chief U.S. negotiator has gone home and has no plans to return.

But hope springs eternal here in the Middle East. So there's always the possibility there could be a revival of those talks.

But certainly I was here last summer when Secretary Kerry began his attempt to get those talks moving again and there was a lot of skepticism at the time and many people are now saying I told you so.

Now today we'd spoke to Uri Savir. He's a veteran Israeli negotiator who is not directly involved in these talks this time around. Last summer, he was cautiously optimistic. Now, basically, he is blaming both parties for the failure of these talks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

URI SAVIR, ISRAELI DIPLOMAT: It's one of the biggest missed opportunities in the last years. I don't think that for many years did we have an American administration with a president and secretary of state so committed to help the parties to reach progress. But instead of opting for what the Americans proposed, Netanyahu and Abbas surrendered to their own oppositions. Netanyahu surrendered to Naftali Bennett and to the settlers, and Abbas surrendered to Hamas in the reconciliation pact.

These are petty political decisions instead of making the right historical choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: Now when Secretary Kerry began this process last summer he gave it nine months. And of course today is the expiration of that nine month period. And today I had an opportunity to speak to the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and ask him what happened to those nine months?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: Today is the 29th of April, the baby of peace was supposed to be born. Where is the baby? What happened?

SAEB EREKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: What happened? We did not get to bed. And Netanyahu managed to continue his favorite business of advancing settlement activities, adding the total housing units he announced in the last months was 13,000 and there's supposed to be (inaudible). He demolished 219 Palestinian homes, killed 60 Palestinians in cold blood, intensified attacks on al Aqsa Mosque and the city of Gaza.

So every single day this Israeli government was thinking how do we undermine Kerry's efforts? How do we torpedo Kerry's efforts? And how do we finger point at Saeb Erekat and the Palestinians, say they ought to be blamed. So these people became fault finders, blame assigners and finger pointers. Until the moment came when we have reconciliation and use this as a pretext to declare the suspension of the negotiations, which in my opinion the most short-sighted decisions in the history of Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: And of course, Becky, the concern is that in the absence of any sort of peace process, flawed that it might be, the danger is that the opposite, violence, could come to the fore again -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman for you in Jerusalem. Ben, always a pleasure. Thank you very much indeed.

I told you so really gets nobody anywhere, does it, at this point.

All right, live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson, coming up, a fresh round of western sanctions against Russia. Is it enough, though, to make Moscow change its policy towards Ukraine. That is the question from the west and that is next on our Global Exchange part of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World live from Abu Dhabi at the Global Exchange for this part of the show. I'm Becky Anderson.

Another wave of western sanctions on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. The European Union has added 11 -- sorry, 15 individuals to its list and the U.S., of course, targeting 18 companies. But none of the big energy players on the list, interestingly.

John Defterios, our emerging markets editor on the story for you. And he joins me to break down the impact of what we've seen today.

The EU following in lockstep to a certain extent with the United States, although I would suggest -- I'm sure you probably would to -- they're a little softer on their sort of actions and sanctions.

DEFTERIOS: Not hitting the companies yet.

ANDERSON: Correct, correct.

The list of those targeted, though, does grow and it does get closer to Mr. Putin.

DEFTERIOS: Yeah, it's fair to say that the inner circle is closing in. It's getting very tight around them. And if you team up the European Union sanctions with the U.S., the list grows longer and it gets very close to the president.

Let's take a look.

We thought it would be worthwhile, Becky, to take a step back and see what the numbers look like today.

So if you take the 15 individuals that we had announced by the European Union as they promised today to get a total of 28. So let's bring up the U.S. now. After the seven they added last night that we talked about, they've got a total of 23 individuals on the list and 18 companies, not individuals, but 18 companies targeted. A couple of those names include the Volga group, or the Avia group, very large trading groups, including oil trading groups. Gennady Tymoshenko is a name that's on that list.

But interesting, as you noted here, they did not hit the energy sector. Right now Russia is producing about 10 million barrels a day. It brings in $415 billion to the country, 70 percent of its exports.

We'll talk about some of the players targeted. Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rofneft is targeted, but not the company itself.

And finally this is a $2 trillion economy that has about a half a trillion dollars a year of trade with the European Union, so not going to move very aggressively on those sectors, of course.

Now, the caveat here, some of the sectors -- for example, products used in defense have been targeted. Vladimir Putin went out of his way to comment, suggesting this is a low hurdle to cross, it's not a wall for us to climb.

Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Everyone needs to understand that we will in any case find an adequate replacement. There are unique things that are produced by only one or two enterprises, but we can do them anyway. The question is only of time and money. It will be a little bit more expensive, it will take a little bit more time, but we will survive and are moving forward, but our partners won't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEFTERIOS: So if you listen to that carefully through the translation, we will survive but our partners won't. That's quite interesting to hear that from Vladimir Putin.

Becky, it's worth noting that on this list here, it does not include the banks that have very high debt, two year and five year debts listed. So VTB, Sberbank are not listed. Rosneft has about $50 billion of debt that it's raised in the U.S. and Europe, they're not on the sanctions list as well.

So, you know, very important business to the banks in Europe and the United States.

ANDERSON: I was thinking about the political realities when it comes to Russia's energy and the response of some of its partners here. But just before that, just watching President Putin -- I hope nobody is offended by this, but that is a poker face, right? I mean, if you're going to play poker against somebody, don't play against Vladimir Putin. I mean...

DEFTERIOS: It's funny you say, because George Bush has said I saw the soul through his eyes, but I think there's quite the difference with the KBG chief that he is.

The political reality is of energy are quite interesting right now. The European Union has not pursued shale gas over the last few years. Germany shut down the development of nuclear energy. They need 30 percent of their supplies of natural gas from Germany does from Russia. Italy is in the same position, the Netherlands. If you go east, Bulgaria and Romania are above 90 percent.

So this creates a huge problem going forward.

Finally, the only thing I would add here is that Rosneft came out with a statement suggesting we're glad they targeted us, because it shows you how successful we've been. And for our partners in the United States, we'll even do more in the future.

Bob Dudley of BP came out and had an analyst call today saying, we'll abide by the sanctions list that the U.S. is putting forward, but we'll remain an investor, a long-term investor in Rosneft and in Russia going forward.

ANDERSON: And it is going to be really interesting to see what happens if and when companies that have European partners begin to hit this list. That hasn't happened as of yet.

DEFTERIOS: A number of manufacturers, for example, in Russia.

ANDERSON: Correct.

John Defterios at the Global Exchange for you.

Well, as we noted here in our conversation with Becky, oil and gas are the key ingredients to Russia's economy, but there's a realization in Italy right now that its art and culture that can have a big payday in the future, so much so that the made in Italy brands are stepping in to help the government as well. That's the subject of this week's One Square Meter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEFTERIOS: It's one of a handful of global landmarks that simply needs no introduction. Via a tunnel once used by gladiators, I take in a ground level view of this iconic symbol of imperial Rome.

From the city hall, with a breathtaking vantage point of it all, the mayor of Rome admits Italy can no longer manage its vast historic portfolio alone.

IGNAZIO MARINO, MAYOR OF ROME: This to me belongs to the entire mankind. And I believe that the entire mankind has the responsibility. And we have to share projects, ideas, but we have the responsibility to maintain these for the generation to come.

DEFTERIOS: The Coliseum, for example, brings in nearly $50 million each year, according to site manager Rosela Reya (ph), but she told me most of it goes to pay for less visited treasures.

As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. The Coliseum dates back to the first century. But the real problems started just five years ago during the global financial crisis. Last year alone, the city of Rome ran a deficit of over $1 billion needing a federal decree to bail it out.

And there are neverending calls for money. On this spring day, junior doctors were seeking a pay hike.

But there's a widespread realization Italy needs to bundle its history with what the world sees as the Italian lifestyle. The first to step in are the so-called Made in Italy brands.

Diego Della Valle is owner of the high end shoe maker Tod's.

DIEGO DELLA VALLE, TOD'S: What we need to do is (inaudible). In this case one of the most important things I think is the tourist project. If you want we call the Made in Italy project.

DEFTERIOS: EDV, as he is known, is spending $34 million on a five year scrubbing of the Travertine marble front of the Coliseum. Bulgari is putting $2 million into the Spanish steps. And fashion house Fendi has ponied up nearly $3 million into the equally famous Trevi fountain.

Rome's mayor even ventured to Saudi Arabia seeking patrons from the energy rich state.

It's a call to action that the founders of this once mighty empire would have never considered make.

John Defterios, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: From the terrace here in Abu Dhabi, it is just after half past 7:00. A very warm welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. The headlines for you this hour: Russian separatists have taken over another government building in Eastern Ukraine. They have stormed the regional state administration building in the city of Lugansk.

Meanwhile the E.U. has imposed new sanctions on Russia over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

A farewell ceremony marked the official end of the aerial search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The underwater search will continue. Meantime an Australian marine exploration company says that scientists have located what they believe to be the wreckage of a plane in the Bay of Bengal, far away from the search zone.

Australian search officials have dismissed the claim.

With deadlines for the latest round of Middle East peace talks have passed with no progress. Israel opposes a proposed offer of Palestinian unity government be involved with Hamas, regarded by Israel and the U.S. as a terrorist group. Means relations between Israelis and Palestinians are as strained as ever.

Imagine coming up on this sight on the road, mangled cars strewn about in the U.S. state of Mississippi right after a powerful tornado blew through after two days of what have been violent weather. Twenty-nine people are dead in six states.

Let's get to the birthplace of Elvis Presley, the town of Tupelo, Mississippi, described as being devastated by these storms of some buildings simply wiped away. Severe weather expert Chad Myers is there.

Are you seeing what I'm describing at this point?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Becky, it's almost -- I'm almost at a loss for words for what I see here. This is a Shell petrol station. At least what was left of one. And under all that debris is a car. Look at the windshield. Let's hope that there was no one in that car when all this debris came down.

This was a tornado, not a cyclone or a typhoon, a tornado, America gets more than 1,000 per year. This is one of the worst things that happens in America. We get some hurricanes as well, too. But 1,000 of these, not all this big, but this was probably 200 kph about a half a mile wide and about 15 miles long. And that damage path continues all the way along here.

And I tell you what, we're going to have more storms today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MYERS (voice-over): You can hear the power of this massive cloud churning just outside of Tupelo, Mississippi. It's just one of a string of tornadoes that barreled through the Southeast with Tupelo hit hard, the threat forcing local meteorologists to take cover amid broadcast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tape this now.

Go!

MYERS (voice-over): The sheer force of the winds estimated at more than 100 mph hoisted cars several feet off the ground, toppled power lines and reduced homes to rubble. Residents struggle to pick up the pieces.

Severe weather spawned more than a dozen tornadoes and left close to 30 dead across six states since Monday.

In Lewisville, Mississippi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My God. No, no, no. No, no, no.

MYERS (voice-over): -- another twister reportedly as large as a mile wide, just look at this field, littered with tossed cars.

And in Alabama about 42,000 people are waking up without power. The severe thunderstorms battered the state into the night. A tornado in Kimberly being blamed for ripping the roof and siding from this church.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MYERS: Becky, there's more storms today, about 100 miles east of here. We're getting in the car; we'll show you those tomorrow. Let's hope it's not this severe -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Absolutely, extraordinary stuff.

Chad, thank you.

Well, more than 50 people are reported killed in attacks in two Syrian cities. That is according to the state-run Syrian Arabic news agency. Mortar shells hit what's described as an educational institute in Damascus.

Now Agent France (ph) press reports students as young as 14 attended when a car went off in a Homs neighborhood near a busy intersection. It's said to be an Alawite area. The Syrian president, a member, of course, of that Alawite sect.

Well, many of the world's top legal scholars have today signed an open letter, published in "The Guardian" newspaper, amongst others, criticizing the United Nations over humanitarian and aid operations in Syria.

They claim -- and I quote -- "an overly cautious interpretation" of international humanitarian laws held agencies back from delivering aid to many of those in need.

Jared Genser is one of the lawyers who signed the letter. He's an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University and joins me now from Washington.

Sir -- and before we move on, let me just get the crux of the letter for our viewers.

"This appalling situation has been compounded by what we deem to be an overly cautious interpretation of international humanitarian law, which has held U.N. agencies back from delivering humanitarian aid across borders for fear that some member states will find them unlawful," just part of that letter published across a number of newspapers around the world today.

Jared, I know that you weren't part of the drafting of this letter, but you were certainly prepared to put your name to it.

Why?

JARED GENSER, LAWYER AND ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, it's actually the logic is quite simple. The U.N. Security Council, which is the only body within the U.N. system capable of compelling action by member states, adopted a resolution in February demanding that all sides in the Syrian dispute provide open access for humanitarian aid.

And that thereby compels Syria to provide that access. The U.N. has been providing humanitarian assistance into Syria but reports that have leaked out from whistleblowers show that 80-90 percent of that aid is going to government controlled areas and only a very small fraction into rebel controlled areas. And there's no reason why this should be the case.

Practically speaking, the U.N. should be able to provide cross-border aid into rebel controlled areas right now in accordance with the resolution of the U.N. Security Council. And their failure to do so, in my view, is not only overly cautious legalistically, but frankly they're in equal danger of providing aid into Syrian government-controlled areas as well, given the possibility of being shelved.

ANDERSON: All right. Jared, I've been hearing these stories over the past year or so, lack of transparency, you know, problems with the pipe when it comes to actually getting aid out to the right places.

But I was fascinating to see this letter today, signed by so many who understand the machinations of international law.

Why do you think the U.N. has been so reluctant to provide aid without government provision?

And why is it that it's so entangled international law?

GENSER: Well, ordinarily of course, states are sovereign and they have the ability to decide things within their borders. And so there are -- there's a great hesitancy for any international aid organization or especially the U.N., which is, of course, at the middle of the international legal system, to provide aid against the will of a government into its own territory.

But the one exception to be able to breach sovereignty under international law beyond, of course, the right to self-defense, which doesn't apply here, is when the U.N. Security Council operates under its Chapter 7 authority.

And so the U.N. Security Council already demanded that open access be provided and international law and international humanitarian law makes it very clear that access cannot be arbitrarily or capriciously denied for the provision of humanitarian aid under the Geneva Conventions.

And so really what you have here is that the U.N. is concerned about putting its aid providers in harm's way by going into areas when the government of Syria has said that it will not allow access into those areas and may act against those people who are providing the aid.

My view is that it's already dangerous for people to be providing aid into Syrian controlled areas because of the risk of being shelled accidentally by rebel forces and so it could be equally concerned about that happening were it go into rebel controlled areas.

But my biggest concern and my -- and the message that's being sent by the international community here is that by merely flouting the resolution of U.N. Security Council, that Bashar al-Assad is able to control the flow of aid and guarantee that 80-90 percent of it ends up in the hands of people in territory that he controls rather than in the hands of innocent civilians, women and children and other civilians, in areas that he does not control.

And so that only just adds insult to injury in terms of what the average Syrian is suffering.

And here we're talking about literally millions of people who are being denied access to humanitarian aid, 6 million to 8 million people who actually need help inside Syria; millions of people outside of Syria need help.

And the fact that the -- that Assad is dictating where the aid goes strikes me as just fundamentally wrong as well as a breach of his international legal obligations.

ANDERSON: Very briefly, because I've got to take a break after this, very briefly, let's get down and dirty.

What do you hope to achieve by this?

GENSER: Quite simply, the U.N. should immediately start to provide aid across borders, particularly for example from Turkey into Syria. Many of those borders are controlled by the rebels and only the first convoy has actually made that kind of aid delivery. This should be happening much more systematically.

And I think we need to put the pressure on Assad to react. My view is that he is not going to target these aid convoys and he's going to allow the aid in. And that's what we need to be doing.

The U.N. used to be pressing to get the aid in.

ANDERSON: Jared Genser, speaking to you live here on CNN, thank you, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: And amid the horror of Syria's refugee crisis, words of hope. The world's largest refugee camp set up in Kenya, it's some 3,000 kilometers from Syrian refugees living in Jordan. But kids in both camps have been united through the power of a simple pen and paper. Aid agency CARE International helped Somali children write letters of encouragement to Syrian youngsters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): I am very glad to send you this piece of paper to help your country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Well, be at piece.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): I'm writing to learn and be educated in your country.

SABINE WILKE, CARE INTERNATIONAL (voice-over): There was a group of some 8th graders, boys and girls in the class in Dagahaley Refugee Camp in Dadaab (ph). Most of them have never seen their homes in Somalia. They were born in this refugee camp. And they don't know anything else besides this.

What we did with them is we talked about Syria and the crisis that is happening there and asked them to send small letters and words of encouragement to their Syrian brothers and sisters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): I am a refugee like you who is living in the Horn of Africa.

I am not Kenyan by nationality, but I am a Somali girl who is living in Dadaab Refugee Camp. And there has been a civil war in my country for at least 23 years consecutive.

I am really encouraging you not to lose hope.

WILKE (voice-over): Many of them said, "Don't lose hope. Stay in school. Listen to your teachers. And don't take part in the fighting."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): I am advising to go back to your country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): How are you, my dear brothers and sisters?

WILKE (voice-over): In turn, some of these kids are also sent some letters back to Dadaab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): When I receive a letter from other refugee children, it touched my heart that a stranger is encouraging me and can feel my pain.

Finally, from all my heart, I wish for all children in the world to live a normal life in a peaceful world."

WILKE (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) letter so being handed over to the kids in the refugee camp from -- in Kenya again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Always remember, if God sent you down a stony path, may He give you strong shoes.

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ANDERSON (voice-over): Kind of just makes sense, doesn't it, when you hear it from the kids. Let us know what you think about this and this story and all the others that we are coverage. Facebook.com/cnnconnect. There's a good global conversation going on there amongst the Facebook followers. So do get involved. You can tweet me @BeckyCNN. That is @BeckyCNN, live from Abu Dhabi, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson.

India's Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of recognizing transgenders. Now the gay community says that it wants the high court to revisit their ruling. That after.

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ANDERSON: India is halfway through voting in what is its national election, the world's largest election being held in 10 stages over five weeks. Voters in Gujarat and Punjab go to the polls Wednesday. Voting ends May the 12th with the results expected by May the 16th or so.

India's Supreme Court is expected to hear a petition from gay rights activists back in December. May remember that the court reinstated an old law that criminalized its homosexual relationships. While that decision has been widely criticized by gay rights supporters, a recent ruling on transgender rights has been held as progressive.

Mallika Kapur with this report.

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MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're a fixture at weddings and births. Here they bless a newborn baby. India's transgender community called hegiras are believed to have the power to bestow blessings or a curse. They're sometimes worshipped, often feared, historically ostracized, discrimination against for years, hegiras have lived on the fringes of Indian society, often resorting to singing and dancing at weddings or festivals or to begging or even prostitution to earn a living.

Abhina Aher says a hegira's life in India is traumatic.

ABHINA AHER, TRANSGENDER (through translator): If I do not do today sex work or begging, I will not be able to earn a chapatti for tomorrow.

I will not be able to earn my bread for tomorrow.

It's humiliating for an Indian hegira. And that is the reason why law (INAUDIBLE) try to (INAUDIBLE).

KAPUR (voice-over): That's because they've had no right in a country that's only recognized two genders. But on April 15th came a landmark ruling. India's Supreme Court recognized India's third gender.

From now on, all government and professional documents such as a passport will carry three boxes, male, female and transgender.

AHER (through translator): I think people will think twice before picking up a (INAUDIBLE).

KAPUR (voice-over): It's a massive victory for India's transgenders. But for some, it also smacks of hypocrisy.

RISHI RAJ, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: (INAUDIBLE) LGBT taking care of the T.

KAPUR (voice-over): That leaves India's lesbian, gay and bisexual population still struggling for equal rights. In December, India's Supreme Court controversially recriminalized gay sex four years after saying it was legal. That decision is being appealed.

RAJ: It's a stupid decision. How can you take away something which is integrally my right and what happens behind closed doors in my bedroom and judge me for that and call me a criminal for making love?

KAPUR (voice-over): First step, he wants India to overturn the ban on gay sex. But Rishi dares to dream even bigger, of the day India will legalize gay marriage.

RAJ: I adore my country and I'm waiting to get married here to celebrate with my people, to celebrate my love in my community, within my community. So it would mean a lot to me to have that.

KAPUR (voice-over): Mallika Kapur, CNN, New Delhi.

ANDERSON: And on CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, we'll be hitting the road part of our coverage of the Indian elections, starting with who's broadcasting live from New Delhi. Do stay tuned for that.

We'll be back after this break.

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ANDERSON: Perhaps you have heard about a bucket list. It is a -- it's a checklist of things you want to do before you die. Well, in Britain, a terminally ill teenager made a list and has captured the nation's heart. Atika Shubert with Stephen's story for you.

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They all think when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But what do you do when life gives you cancer?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stephen Sutton was diagnosed with cancer in December 2010. He was just 15 years old. He created a bucket list on Facebook of 46 things he wanted to do before he ran out of time.

STEPHEN SUTTON, CANCER PATIENT: (INAUDIBLE), skydiving, (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE) in front of a huge crowd. I (INAUDIBLE) live at Wembley.

SHUBERT (voice-over): But as he checked off each item, something else happened.

SUTTON: Since doing the bucket list, I've had people come up to me and (INAUDIBLE) for me, like for me personally to go on a holiday or to tick off another item on my bucket list. But I've actually refused and decided to give the money to charity instead.

SHUBERT (voice-over): He set a goal to raise 10,000 pounds. Well, he's now raised more than 3 million. That's about $5 million and it's continuing to grow with celebrities chipping in with their support every day.

SUTTON: Since starting the bucket list, my life has changed completely. I'm now doing so many weird and wonderful things and so much more. The amount of opportunity to manage it my way is absolutely immense. And the one thing that I really enjoyed is the fundraising and helping others. So that's the main thing right now I want to concentrate on.

SHUBERT (voice-over): The money go to Teenage Cancer Trust, the charity that has helped him through each surgery, each round of radiation and chemotherapy.

SIOBHAN DUNN, TEENAGE CANCER TRUST: We aren't a large charity. We raise about 12 million pounds a year. And in less than a week, Stephen has raised a quarter of our budget.

SHUBERT (voice-over): But no amount of money can reverse the cancer in Stephen's body. He has exhausted his medical options and is now living as comfortably as he can under hospice care.

On the 22nd of April, Stephen posted this message, "It's a final thumb's up for me. I've done well to blog things as well as I have up until now. But unfortunately, I think this is just one hurdle too far.

But Stephen held on. For how long, he doesn't know. But he has promised to continue posting for as long as he can.

SUTTON: (INAUDIBLE) I'll die. (INAUDIBLE). If my story teaches others not to take life for granted, then so be it. In the meantime, I'll be trying to enjoy every second as much as possible. Cancer sucks, but life is great.

SHUBERT (voice-over): Atika Shubert, CNN, London.

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ANDERSON: What an inspirational story and to keep things inspirational, we're going to leave you with our "Parting Shots" this Tuesday with a story of how this clearly very happy couple came together. You might not recognize the male half of the pair, Brian. When I show you the next picture, this is the driver's license Brian still uses. And you can understand why it raises a few eyebrows. But believe it or not, he looked like this less than two years ago.

The 32-year old from Michigan got talking to Jackie (ph) from England when playing the online game, "Draw Something," and proved their conversations. He was in fire to change his hard-drinking, big-eating lifestyle so his health could actually prevent him from ever meeting.

Well, 15 months and 380 pounds later, he isn't looking bad. Brian ditched the drinking. He changed his diet and gradually he added some exercise.

In December, he met Jackie (ph) for the first time in Paris and was able to climb the Eiffel Tower with her when earlier he had struggled with a flight of stairs.

Brian shared his story via CNN's iReport website. If you've got a similar experience or something you want to share with us, we'd encourage you to do that. Do get in touch with us.

I'm Becky Anderson. That was CONNECT THE WORLD from the UAE. It's just before 8 o'clock. Thank you for watching. The headlines follow this.

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