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Ukrainian Troops Gain Control Of Donetsk Airport; Low Turnout For Egyptian Presidential Elections?; Egyptian Prime Minister Declares Tuesday National Holiday; One Square Meter: Varosha, Cyprus

Aired May 27, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JIM CLANCY, HOST: A bonafide election or a foregone conclusion? Egyptians going to the polls choosing a president, but critics argue there's little choice on offer. We'll take you live to Cairo.

Also ahead, deadlock in Donetsk, any hope that the weekend's election could bring unity to Ukraine are shot down in a hail of gunfire.

And we break down the data that lead experts to the search zone for missing flight MH370. Stay with us as we bring you exclusive access to the nerve center.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is Connect the World.

CLANCY: Good evening and welcome everyone.

Egyptians have just about four more hours to vote for their new president.

Now the prime minister declared Tuesday a public holiday, apparently a move to try to improve the turnout.

The vote has been relatively peaceful thus far. One activist was killed on Monday, but Egypt's interior ministry says that was unrelated to the election.

It looks increasingly likely that the ex-army chief Abdel Fatah al- Sisi will win this vote.

CNN's Reza Sayah has been following the election. He joins us now from the capital Cairo. How is the turnout today?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the story that seems to be steadily emerging here in Egypt on the second and final day of elections here in this country is low voter turnout.

We should point out that we obviously haven't been able to visit every polling station. We don't know what's happening everywhere. But based on our observations in visiting about a few dozen polling stations here in downtown Cairo and nearby areas, voter turnout appears to be low and polling stations look like what they do here at this one in downtown Cairo behind us.

There's no wait here, no lines, no crowds. There's literally more police officers, more soldiers than voters outside this particular polling station.

And yesterday it was pretty much the same story. No lines, no crowds, no waitings. And this is why you start to get the sense that the interim government authorities and the Sisi campaign are starting to worry about low voter turnout, something that they didn't want to see.

Last night, for example, the interim government came out and suddenly said today would be a national holiday. They extended voting hours another hour. These moves suggest that they're worried about voter turnout. Then you had Egyptian television hosts coming out and openly criticizing voters for not coming out, urging them to come out to polling stations.

And then he had other television hosts saying that a law here in Egypt that's rarely in force that would fine people for not coming out to vote, that that would be enforced, perhaps their way of nudging people to come out to vote, Jim.

Remember, Mr. Sisi doesn't just want to win, he wants to win emphatically. He wants a large voter turnout to show Egypt and the world that this is legitimate process, it's a credible process. At this point, Jim, it doesn't seem like he's going to get that huge voter turnout.

CLANCY: Reza Sayah at the polls in Cairo this day giving us a live update. Thanks, Reza.

All right, we've got more to come on this election a little bit later in our report.

Remember that the vote is happening because of a coup in 2013, that's when al-Sisi deposed Egypt's first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsy.

Mr. Morsy was a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, that's an organization that is once again banned in Egypt.

We're going to bring you what the Brotherhood thinks about this vote as well.

Also, we'll discuss whether this is a true election or a mere formality. That's still to come here on Connect the World.

After fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine, city officials say at least 40 people were killed in clashes that began after pro-Russian separatists stormed the airport. That was Monday.

The Ukrainian military responded with attacks by air and on the ground.

Meantime, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says it has lost contact with one of its teams in Donetsk. Nick Paton Walsh joins us now from Donetsk. He has the latest on the fighting and these missing western observers -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we know little about what happened with this OSCE team. Remember, the OSCE monitoring organization are pretty much have been charged by everybody -- Washington, Kiev, Brussels, even Moscow, to keep tabs on what's happening here in order to try and de-escalate the situation.

Four of them, monitors, not heard of since 6:00 yesterday evening when they were traveling on their routine duties east of Donetsk.

Now this is particularly significant, because if you recall the last time some OSCE observers went missing, they turned up as, quote, prisoners of war of the separatists in the pro-Russian stronghold of Slavyansk, a town north of where I'm standing. No indication that's happened here. And communications are spotty across this region because of the violence that's been ongoing, but so many concerned enough to make that statement.

But it comes on a day in which really the full toll of yesterday's violence, the back and forth between Ukrainian army and separatists to hold Donetsk main international airport here becomes realized.

We understand that really it began to move back and forth during the night and evening, changing hands, certain parts of the territory. Separatists claim they hold bits of it. We didn't see any of that. They seemed quite far away from it down a road when we went there earlier on today. The Ukrainian army saying they control the main infrastructure itself. And even the separatists are accepting there are national guard, Ukrainian military, on the territory of that airport.

But now we're getting the death toll figures, 35 dead, militants say, a spokeswoman for the separatists. The local governor here, pro-Kiev, says about 40 dead including two civilians. At a morgue, I saw a large pile undignified of certainly separatist militant bodies and one civilian female who had a substantial fateful head injury.

And it's clear today that Donetsk is taking the toll, really, of this remarkable violence. Fears still in the air, Jim, because the separatists claim somehow in line they got an offer of a truce, a window of between 1:00 and 4:00 local time in which they could leave the city, after which they would face bombardment, they say.

No sign of that at all being ratified by Ukrainian officials, could be misinformation here. But it's certainly being used I think to ratchet up a sense of tension here to get the local population worried -- Jim.

CLANCY: The newly elected president of Ukraine says he wants to reach out to people there in eastern Ukraine. How complicated is that going to be?

WALSH: Well, who would you reach out to, first of all? Of course you could talk to Dennis Pushilon (ph), the head of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, but does he speak for everyone in Luhansk? Possibly not. He's on bad terms, as far as we understand, with the self-declared mayor of Slovyansk, the hotbed of the militancy behind the separatist movement here. So they're a fractured bunch already. And of course the violence making things more difficult as well.

One little vignette that gives you an idea of how messy inter- separatist relations are getting, the kind of key commander of the militants in Slovyansk, a man called Igor Strakov (ph), according to Russian media, issued an order to have executed two of his own commanders for theft and general lawlessness, I think, are the exact terms.

So there clearly are issues between their own personnel here.

That makes it harder for the president-elect of Ukraine to find the right person to speak to. I think he believes talking to Moscow is more effective.

The question no one can really answer, despite the incontrovertible signs we've seen here that Russia has a hand in assisting some of this activity here of the separatists. It's not clear if Moscow has complete rote over all the gunmen in this area whether or not the conversation between Moscow and Kiev can slow the violence here can put the insurgency back in its box so to speak.

It's getting more violent day by day. And I have to say, Jim, you know, two or three weeks ago we were talking about this, we never talked about daily heavy weapons, artillery strikes. Now it's just hourly it seems to happen in this region now -- Jim.

CLANCY: Some reality check, if you will, from the ground in Donetsk from Nick Paton Walsh. As always, Nick, thank you.

Well, new hope and new frustrations for the families of more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. A top military official says they have pinpointed the location of the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram more than six weeks ago. But he's refusing to reveal where the schoolgirls are or how the government plans to get them back.

Some Nigerians say the military needs to take action now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible). They are doing a good job. They are trying their best. But I must say, (inaudible) the issue of life and death. It's not -- it's beyond the issue of simply the location of the girls. With what we (inaudible) what we need now is we need action. (inaudible). There needs to apply principle of diplomacy. There needs to be (inaudible) and the military, there needs to be diplomatic in their approach to get those girls out of the activities.


CLANCY: A voice from the streets.

Now let's go to our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon and get more reaction. She joins us now. She's on the ground in the capital Abuja.

Arwa, what is the perspective on this latest announcement by Nigeria's military?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's being received with a certain dose of skepticism. This was a statement that was made at a protest. The defense chief saying they weren't disclosing the specific location, that is understandable given operational security; also saying that they would not be using military force, that also to a certain degree does make sense, because any sort of military operation, even if it was undertaken by the best trained military to try to rescue these girls would be near impossible. Great concerns that they could be killed if such an operation were underway.

Also, according to Boko Haram informants that we spoke to, this organization will not hesitate at all to use them as human shields.

A lot of conversations, too, as to whether or not there could be a negotiated solution. Well, that also is problematic, Jim, because this is not a top-down organization. These girls are believed to be divided over various different cells. And so with whom do you negotiate at the end of the day?

So, while there is perhaps some hope that they could have them located, key issue how to actually rescue them alive, that is going to be the real challenge, Jim.

CLANCY: You know, people there from the streets calling on the government to do something, to act, the government is pretty sensitive about that. But it has had an opportunity to show action in other areas, security in the north, schools in the north, what can you report on that front?

DAMON: And that's been the big issue here.

You know, the story of the 200 plus abducted schoolgirls has thrown Boko Haram and the terror challenge Nigeria faces because of it into the spotlight, but Boko Haram is really an insurgency that this country has been dealing with for quite some time. And they've managed to control a fair amount of territory in three key northeastern states. And they are impacting people's lives, Jim, every day.


DAMON: Children still play in the yard, but the classrooms are hauntingly empty. Boko Haram wants to end western education. Here, it seems, they've succeeded.

For the last six weeks, all public schools in Borno state have been ordered shut down.

64-year-old Kondidi Boka (ph) has been a guard at this school for three decades, experiencing nothing as horrifying as the day five gunmen drove through the gate.

He describes how a group of teachers were sitting under a tree. The gunmen opened fire. One teacher was shot, dragging himself into a classroom. He died before help could arrive.

This was one of three schools attacked by Boko Haram on the same day around a year ago. Mollam Yusuf is the principal of one of the others.

MOLLAM YUSUF, PRINCIPAL: Yeah, actually, classes were in session, students were around, teachers were teaching in the class.

DAMON: Suddenly, the gunmen arrived.

This is the school's examination room. And there were four women in here at the time of the attack. The gunmen just storming in and opening fire indiscriminately. Here, we were just told, are some of the holes left by the bullets. Three of the women were killed almost instantaneously, the fourth managed to escape with some wounds.

It's a sickening tactic, made worse by the frequency of attacks.

The Nigerian Union of Teachers says more than 170 state educators and staff have been killed by Boko Haram in Borno State alone, punctuated by the terrorist group's kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok more than a month ago.

YUSUF: As of now, we cannot say Boko Haram has won.

DAMON: Yufus is undeterred. He says with each attack it's even more important that education doesn't end.

YUSUF: So as teachers, we take it upon ourselves to continue going to our schools to educate our young ones so that they should not partake in this issue of insurgents.

DAMON: Back outside, children crowd around our camera.

Are you upset that school is closed?

The response? A resounding yes.

"I want to read," one says.

Another adds, "I want to get educated and enjoy life."

For now, a future stolen by Boko Haram.


DAMON: And Jim, for kids like the ones you just saw there to be able to go to school safely, the government really needs to begin implementing a long-term political and military strategy, one that is going to require the cooperation of its neighbors, and also a significant level of support from the international community, Jim.

CLANCY: Arwa Damon live with us there from Abuja. Thank you.

Well, still to come, the search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370, crucial satellite data is finally released months after the plane vanished. We're going to show you how it lead investigators to conclude Flight 370 ended up in the Indian Ocean.

Also ahead, the handshake seen around the world. Leaders of India and Pakistan send a message of peace between those two nations, but will it lead to real progress?


CLANCY: You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World. I'm Jim Clancy. Welcome back, everyone.

Egyptians voting in the second and final day of their presidential election. In an apparent effort to bring more voters to the polls, Egypt'a prime minister declared Tuesday a public holiday. Our reporter on the ground, though, Reza Sayah says from his vantage point, the turnout still appears to be on the low side.

Former Army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi appears to be on course to win by a landslide. But how many people will turn out and cast a ballot for him?

His only opponent is Hamdeen Sabahi.

Let's have a closer look at the candidates now. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the man who removed Mohamed Morsy in a military coup, Morsy himself promoted al-Sisi to the post of defense minister back in 2012. The 59- year-old former army chief holds a master's degree from the U.S. Army War College and regularly speaks to the U.S. defense secretary. His election promises include new jobs and infrastructure and an end to the country's energy crisis.

Now his opponent is Hamdeen Sabahi, also 59. He was a prominent political opposition figure under the rule of President Sadat and Mubarak. He's promised to invest in reopening government factories and improving health care. He would also overturn laws that crackdown on public protests.

Now it's important to mention that both candidates are secular. The previous presidential election was won by Mohamed Morsy. Now he was a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but now the group is back to being a banned organization in Egypt. Morsy and many, many other members of the Muslim Brotherhood are in jails right now.

Here's the Brotherhood's reaction to this vote.


ABDUL MAWGOUD DARDERY, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD SPOKESMAN: The reason there is no suspense of drama, because it is not election. You can call it anything else, but not an election. What we have in Egypt now, no more democracy. We have militocracy. It is the rule of the military for the military by the military and that is the tragedy we're having now in Egypt.


CLANCY: So, is this a real democratic election or not?

With me to discuss it a little bit further if H.A. Hellyer, he's an expert on politics in the Middle East. He joins us via Skype from Cairo.

Fair election, real election, what's your call?

H.A. HELLYER, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT: I think that in order to call a fair election a fair election, you need to look not so much on the actual day when the election is taking place, but the environment running up to that election over the weeks and even the months coming up to it. And over the last few months, there have been many different reports, many different organizations, human rights organizations, civil rights organizations who have been very critical of how overwhelming support has been given to one candidate in this race from the private as well as the national media.

And I think that it's very difficult to call it fair otherwise if you don't have equal access to the media.

Certainly there's a lot -- a number of people in the country who have been expressing a lot of concern about the restrictive nature in the country's political environment at present. And I think all of that is going to impact on today's election today.

CLANCY: For years, Egyptians told me I don't turn out to vote because it's a foregone conclusion that Mubarak is going to win. What is the low voter turnout telling us today?

HELLYER: I think there are many reasons why, if there is a low voter turnout -- because obviously we still have another day to go, but there are many reasons why there may not be that many people out on the streets today or yesterday. You obviously have supporters of the former President Mohamed Morsy refusing to go to the ballots. They deem the whole process illegitimate. You also have many who are opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, but don't really think that this is a fair and open race, they're also staying away from the ballot box.

And then also you have many people who may be actually quite supportive of this transitional process, but think that it's a foregone conclusion anyway. So they may even be supporters of Field Marshall al Sisi, but they don't think that there's really any point in them actually going out and waiting in order to vote in an election, which they think is pretty much decided.

He does have quite a lot of popular support. He is the frontrunner. And I don't think anybody in the country really doubts that he is going to be the one that will be elected president.

CLANCY: You had -- you said something very key there, transitional government. Do Egyptians see this man -- you know, I consider myself privileged to have been there, you know, in Tahrir Square, seeing these protests, seeing people demanding real change in their lives. Have they elected somebody that's going to help transition the country into a multi- party political system, or have we seen another army man take off his uniform, put on a suit, and he will hold power not for a year or two but for decades?

HELLYER: I think you'd be hard pressed to find unanimity on that question in Egypt right now. Certainly, the general Field Marshall al Sisi has a lot of public support. He also has a huge number of enemies, many opponents. I think that those that you speak of who went to Tahrir Square and the other squares all over Egypt in 2011, I think many of them feel very disappointed with how this has all turned out three years later.

I don't think that we can actually assume what's going to happen next. He may be here for decades. He may not be. Frankly, it's very hard to tell. The country, as far as anybody can see, is not as stable as suggest somebody is just going to come into power and stay in power for a great period of time.

Under the constitution, he would be limited to two terms, but constitutions have changed in Egypt quite a few times before, several times in just the last few years. It could also very well be that he may be pushed by public pressure to either change his policies or even resign, that's also happened in the last few years.

So, we really do have to wait and see what's going to happen here.

But certainly, those that I've spoken to who are very supportive of the 2011 revolution that began on the 25 of January are not celebrating today.

CLANCY: All right, not in a mood to celebrate. That's part of the view that we hear from H.A. Hellyer joining us there live from Cairo this election day. Thank you.

We are live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World. And we've got much more ahead for you. A city by the sea is need of some TLC. In this week's One Square Meter, we're going to take you to a resort on the shores of Cyprus that's looking to relive some of its glory days.


CLANCY: You're watching Connect the World. We're live from CNN Center. Welcome back everyone. I'm Jim Clancy.

Time for us to take you to the Global Exchange where we introduce you to the people and places paving the way forward in the world's emerging economies.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, the Cypriot coastal town of Varosha was likened to the French Rivera. It had a booming tourism trade. It attracted thousands from Europe and the Middle East. But during the 1974 division of Cyprus between Greeks and Turks, local residents were forced to flee their homes. After some 40 years of conflict and political disagreements, Varosha remains without residents.

But as John Defterios reports, things may be about to change.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In 1974, the Island of Cyprus was divided. Ever since, the ancient city of Amagusta has been split between the Turkish north and Greek south.

The most potent symbol of the conflict, is the resort of Varosha, a ghost town.

This is the 21st Century equivalent of no man's land, controlled by the Turkish military. It's been a no-go zone for about four decades.

At its peak, Varosha had 25,000 full-time residents and 12,000 hotel rooms, which sit empty today.

Current inhabitants and those exiled seek a resolution.

Filmmaker Vasia Markides, whose Greek Cypriot mother was forced to leave Varosha, founded the Famagusta Ecocity Project. It is a grass roots movement led by citizens from both communities. Their goal is to rebuild the city and transform it into a cultural, economic and environmental hub.

VASIA MARKIDES, FILMMAKER: Because of the economic crisis in Cyprus, people are found in a very difficult, desperate situation. And now I think more than ever they're willing to compromise and let go of the past in order to build for the future together.

DEFTERIOS: I met with key project members, architect Ceran Bogoc and energy specialist George Lordos, both want to heal the divide.

CERAN BOGOC, ARCHITECT: I'm also grow up in a border looking to the abundant zone of Varosha, which is forbidden. And I also feel like this place has never existed.

GEORGE LORDOS, ENERGY SPECIALIST: Farmagusta would be the first thing that happens on the ground if there is a comprehensive settlement. Then we will be able to take advantage of redeveloping Varosha as a sustainable destination for tourism.

DEFTERIOS: Professor John Wempler is a recognized specialist in sustainable architecture. he and graduate students from South Florida University have completed design phase one for the ecocity.

JOHN WEMPLER, SOUTH FLORIDA UNIVERSITY: Farmagusta is in a perfect location for something to happen of this nature. In fact, I consider it to be the ideal prototype for what the world might follow in the future.

DEFTERIOS: For now, Varosha remains behind wire fence.

John Defterios, CNN, Famagusta.


CLANCY: The latest world news headlines are straight ahead. Plus, we get exclusive access to Inmarsat, the company trying to track down Malaysia Airlines flight 370. We'll take a closer look at the technology it used to come up with its findings.


CLANCY: This is CNN, you're with CONNECT THE WORLD, and here are your headlines.

In the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the mayor's office says 40 people have been killed during heavy clashes between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military at that city's airport. Meantime, OS -- the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says it has lost contact with one of its teams in Donetsk.

At least 20 people were killed, 43 wounded in a suicide bombing in Baghdad. That according to a police source who said the attack happened at a Shia Muslim mosque.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says its inspectors in Syria are safe. Earlier on Tuesday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry reported that a group of inspectors had been kidnapped.

Raw satellite data from Inmarsat has been released, more than 11 weeks after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing. The 47-page document details the electronic signals, or "handshakes," exchanged between the plane and a satellite. Now, passengers' families say they're going to seek an independent analysis of that just-released data.

This information led investigators to search for the Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean, but thus far, not a trace of that aircraft has been found. Our Richard Quest got exclusive access to Inmarsat scientists' work in London.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Inmarsat, the company which for 35 years has been used by ships and planes to keep in touch. We were given exclusive access to the network's operation center.

QUEST (on camera): It's here in the satellite control room in London that you see the technology involved and you start to understand how they came to the conclusions.

The satellite involved is Inmarsat 3F1, one of 11 satellites in the Inmarsat collection. It's in geostationary orbit just over the Indian Ocean, and it was to this satellite that MH370 sent the signals, the so- called "handshakes."

QUEST (voice-over): Leading the team here was Mark Dickinson. With his colleagues, they dived deep into the data.

MARK DICKINSON, VICE PRESIDENT OF SATELLITE OPERATIONS, INMARSAT: There's essentially three types of information we have. We have, actually, the messages from the ground station to the plane and back again. That essentially tells us the terminal is switched on and powered up. We have some timing information. And in addition to that, there was some frequency measurements.

QUEST: The timings told them the distance between the plane and the satellite, enabling them to create the so-called arcs.

DICKINSON: You can't go faster than the plane can travel, so that bound where you get to the next arc up here.

QUEST: They then factored in the frequency differences, the so-called Doppler effect. Dickinson's team concluded MH370 had to have flown south, in the opposite direction. It was a startling conclusion.

QUEST (on camera): What did you think when you got the data and you started the modeling, you were putting it in, and you suddenly realized where this plane probably went?

DICKINSON: Let's check this. And let's check it again. Because you want to make sure when you come to a conclusion like that that you've done the right work. The data is as you understand it to be.

QUEST: Was there a moment of disbelief?

DICKINSON: Having messages for six hours after the plane's lost is probably the biggest disbelief in terms of what you have.

QUEST: Inmarsat quickly realized, the analysis of data from MH370 to the satellite had produced an extraordinary result and needed to be tested. So they ran the model against other planes which had been in the sky at the same time on the night, and against previous flights of the same aircraft.

Time and again, they ran the model, over dozens of flights. And the planes where always found to be exactly where they were supposed to be.

DICKINSON: No one's come up yet with a reason why it shouldn't work for this particular flight when it works for the others, and it's very important that this isn't just an Inmarsat activity.

There's other people doing an investigation, experts who are helping the investigation team who got the same data, they went and made their own models up and did the same thing and see if they get the same results. And speaking for the teams, we get roughly the same answers.

QUEST (voice-over): The result of all this work led to dozens of search planes and ships being sent to the southern Indian Ocean, where for weeks, they followed the trail to nowhere. Inmarsat's calculations have been called into question. The families demanding the raw data.

DICKINSON: Well, I think that data itself in standalone is fairly opaque and not particularly -- you can't draw too much from it. What I think is more pertinent is to be able to see the messages and to see the important bits of information, and that's the job that we've been trying to do, and some explanation behind how the numbers are used.

QUEST (on camera): To be clear, you're letting people make judgments on your work. You're not inviting them to redo your work.

DICKINSON: No, I say, to redo the work requires experts in many, many different fields.

QUEST (voice-over): Mark Dickinson has recently returned from Canberra, where he was part of the rethink team. He knows the entire weight of this search rests on the Inmarsat data.

DICKINSON: I think everyone in the investigation team or who are working with this understand what it means. It means this is all the data that we have for what's happened for those six or seven hours. It's important that we all get it right, and particularly trying for the families and friends of the relatives onboard, trying to make sure that we can help to try and bring this sad incident to a close.

QUEST: The Inmarsat data will guide the search for the foreseeable future. It's all they've got. Without it, there'd be no search at all, and the men in London are still sure they're right.


CLANCY: Sure they are right. So many questions asked about that. The only other piece of evidence that there exists for that flight are the pings that were heard underwater, one of them for two hours and 20 minutes as it was tracking it. And that is where the search is going on today.

But the search is going to be suspended until perhaps August as the US military backs out and private contractors are brought in. That was Richard Quest, giving us an exclusive look at how Inmarsat drives its conclusions on where is Flight 370?

Pope Francis taking a tough line against sexual abuse in the Catholic church. Here's what he told reporters onboard his papal plane.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): I'm just going to make a comparison. It's like celebrating a Satanic mass. You were supposed to bring these kids to sanctity, and you bring them a problem that will last all their life.


CLANCY: The pope also said he plans to meet victims of abuse early next month. His comments came at the end of a visit to the Middle East, where he's had to strike a careful balance. Let's get more on that important, historic visit. CNN's Ivan Watson was there.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pope Francis made big news after he departed the Holy Land on his flight back to Rome and to the Vatican. While speaking to journalists, he addressed one of the biggest crises that the Roman Catholic Church has faced in recent generations, that being the scandals of clerical sexual abuse, which he described -- which he compared to a black mass.

Pope Francis said that he would meet with some victims of clerical sexual abuse as early as the first week of June. He went on to say that at least three bishops are currently being investigated by the Vatican right now. He did not explain what charges they were currently facing or what crimes they were being investigated for.

He also went on to say that the former number two at the Vatican, the former secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was also currently under investigation for allegations of financial misconduct.

All of these statements coming, of course, after the pope wrapped up his historic three-day papal visit to the Holy Land.


WATSON (voice-over): A hero's welcome for Pope Francis on his first papal visit to the Holy Land. This three-day tour a delicate high wire act, punctuated by bold moves. The pontiff unexpectedly stopped at the Israeli-built separation barrier, which encircles part of the town where Jesus Christ was born. He then made a gesture that delighted Palestinians.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION: The pope did not put his hand only on a concrete wall, he put his hand on occupation. He put his hand on apartheid system, on a system of separation and discrimination and oppression.

WATSON: The next day in Jerusalem, Pope Francis laid his hand on another wall, the Western Wall, Judaism's most holy site. That visit followed by an emotional meeting with survivors of genocide at the Holocaust Memorial. His Jewish travel companion says the pope brought Israel a message of friendship.

WATSON (on camera): Is he a friend of the Jews?

ABRAHAM SKORKA, RABBI: Undoubtedly. A real friend of the Jews.

WATSON (voice-over): And finally, a foray into diplomacy. Pope Francis invited both the Israeli and Palestinian Authority presidents to come to the Vatican. In a clear effort to breathe new life into the faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


WATSON: He asked both leaders to join him in a prayer for peace for a region long associated with war.

WATSON (on camera): In his remarks to journalists on his flight home, Pope Francis went a step further, explaining that this proposed meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian Authority presidents would be, quote, "a meeting of prayer, not some kind of meditation," and that it would solely be about prayer, and then everybody will go home.

Finally, he added that he would like for a Muslim sheik and a Jewish rabbi to be present for this proposed meeting.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Jerusalem.


CLANCY: Well, some news coming into CNN. We've learned that the US president, Barack Obama, is going to make an announcement about the next steps in winding down America's longest war, the war in Afghanistan.

Specifically, the US will reduce the military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 to 9800 troops. Now, that number would be reduced by approximately half by the end of 2015, and the US military presence would be at normal embassy presence by the end of 2016.

Now, all of that assumes that the next government, whoever wins next month's election, is going to sign a status of forces agreement. Both candidates to replace President Hamid Karzai indicated they were willing to sign an agreement if elected. Hamid Karzai frustrated the US because he refused to go ahead with that. CNN is going to bring you the announcement live when it happens.

We are live here at the CNN Center. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. We've got more news ahead. India and Pakistan, turning a new page in their long and troubled history of relations. What are the chances this cordial moment could last?

And if you're trying to lose weight, does diet soda really help? We're going to have the findings of a new study and tell you why critics are saying not so fast.


CLANCY: Welcome back everyone, you're with CONNECT THE WORLD. A long history of mistrust and tense relations between India and Pakistan, set aside for just a moment. A symbolic gesture of peace.

India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, shaking hands with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, in New Delhi today. That move seemed to show the world that the two were ready to take the first steps to improve relations.

The two leaders held their first one-on-one meeting as well. Sumnima Udas reports for India's new prime minister, it's really been a memorable first day in his job.


SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Narendra Modi's first day in office, a jam-packed schedule. India's 15th prime minister met leaders of all South Asian nations for about a half hour each back-to-back. It was diplomacy in overdrive.

This is the first time ever leaders from neighboring countries have been invited for an Indian premier's inauguration. They returned the gesture, inviting Modi back. What stole the headline, though: this handshake between Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. Cordial in public and, apparently, a frank exchange for about an hour behind closed doors.

NAWAZ SHARIF, PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: We agreed that our meeting in New Delhi should be an historic opportunity for both our countries.

UDAS: Indian officials say Modi urged Sharif to ensure no anti-India activities are carried out of Pakistan.


UDAS: Authorities have often blamed Pakistan-based militants for terror attacks on India, including the Mumbai siege in 2008. Bilateral relations worsened, tensions remained. But this symbolic gesture raises hope for better times ahead.

We know very little about Narendra Modi's foreign policy, but we do know this: with eight bilateral meetings under his belt on just his first day, he looks at home on the world stage.

Sumnima Udas, CNN, New Delhi.


CLANCY: So what is really going on here? Is this gesture of unity real? Or is it something for the cameras? Joining us via Skype from Mumbai is Manjeet Kripalani. She's the executive director of the foreign policy think tank she started, Gateway House Indian Council on Global Relations.

Thank you so much for being with us. When you saw that handshake, how do you read it? Share that with us.

MANJEET KRIPALANI, GATEWAY HOUSE INDIAN COUNCIL ON GLOBAL RELATIONS: Jim, thank you for having me. It is a long overdue handshake of neighborly good relations. And we certainly hope that this will lead to a breakthrough in not only India-Pakistan relations, but also to help to progress the relationship of SAAN, which is the South Asian Association of Nations.

Because India is the country that connects each of the eight South Asian nations to each other. They really cannot connect to each other without connecting through India. And so all these years, all of them have been held hostage to India-Pakistan relations not taking off.

There hasn't -- in this region is the least integrated of all the regions of the world. We have only five percent trade with each other, compared to Oceana nations trade 25 percent with each other. And so, we're really holding up lots of other countries, not just our own.

CLANCY: It has been tried in the past. We've had railroad links between the two states. And correct me if I'm wrong, but this isn't the first time we've had a top-level handshake like this.

KRIPALANI: Yes, you're right. There have been many attempts to have India and Pakistan get back on track. They have not worked for a variety of reasons. But this time, I think Mr. Modi is a very determined man, and he is a very determined leader. He's come with a massive mandate, and both India and Pakistan are ready for change.

Certainly, Pakistan civil society, ordinary people, look across the border, they see a thriving economy, they want to be that, too. Really, their cultural ties bind. We have to overcome our geographical disadvantages. And I think people are ready for it.

CLANCY: All right. We focused on these two leaders, we focused on the common people on both sides that would benefit from an improvement in ties. At the same time, there are people on both sides who don't want to see that happen. Who are they, and what do you have to look out for?

KRIPALANI: Well, the people on both sides who really do not want to benefit. On the Pakistan side, I would say it is the Pakistani Army. It is also the jihadis who have been brought up by elements of the Pakistani army. And on the Indian side, there are separatists who also don't agree with it.

These elements have to be brought around. They are now shrinking. Their space is shrinking. There is a greater desire for ordinary people in India and Pakistan, Pakistanis want to be educated, they are tired of being pariahs. They want to take their rightful place in the world.

And we must not forget that what used to be the center of civilization, the Indus Valley civilization, is now in Pakistan. And Pakistanis have emerged from that. So, there is a -- there is a desire to marginalize the extremist factors in both countries.

CLANCY: Manjeet Kripalani, I want to thank you very much for lending your expertise and experience and helping us to better understand that handshake. It was a sight to see. Thank you.

KRIPALANI: Thank you, Jim.

CLANCY: Coming up right here after a short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, do diet sodas actually help people to win their weight loss battles? A new study raises more questions than answers, I'm afraid. We're going to take a closer look at the science behind the latest soda research, next.


CLANCY: Welcome back everyone. Does drinking diet soda really help, or does it hurt when you're trying to lose weight? A new study explores just that question. The study tracked regular diet soda drinkers for 12 weeks. Now, half were told to keep on drinking that diet soda, and the others were forced to give all the diet soda up.

Joining us now with the results and a look at the methods behind the study is our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She joins us live from New York. So, what did we learn?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- research that showed that maybe diet sodas set you back, that they sort of set your body up to crave more sugar and hence gain weight. And so these researchers in this current study said let's put that to the test.

So, they took 300 people who were overweight, and they were all diet soda drinkers. And they told half of them, all right, you no longer can drink diet sodas, and they told the other ones you can keep drinking diet sodas.

And so what the end result was that these folks started weighing about 205 pounds, and the ones that were allowed to drink the diet soda, they lost 13 pounds in three months. The ones who did not drink diet soda lost 9 pounds. And they all were educated about the best ways to eat and exercise and all of that.

So, on an exercise program, those that drank the diet soda lost 13 pounds, those that did not drink the diet soda lost 9 pounds.

Now, a four-pound difference at 205 pounds is not huge, but it certainly may be some suggestion that diet soda won't set you back and may, at least for some people, help.

CLANCY: -- special about the diet soda in the study?

COHEN: When you see that, you think, oh, is there some magical ingredient in diet soda that seems to do this, and that's actually not the case.

What seems to be happening here, according to the experts that we talked to, is that when diet soda drinkers were told no, you have to stop, that they felt deprived in some way, and they may have compensated for it by drinking regular soda or by drinking juice or maybe by eating chocolate. Just compensated for that feeling of not having what they wanted.

So, it's not anything special about diet soda, and certainly --


COHEN: -- you don't need diet soda to lose weight.

CLANCY: Very quickly, though. This was funded by diet soda makers, wasn't it? How about water?

COHEN: Well, it was funded by the Beverage Association here in the US, and so they make diet sodas, regular sodas, water. They bottle everything. But yes, water is just fine. And that's why I am really taking great lengths to say there's nothing special about diet soda.

I think the bottom line of what they learned here is that depriving yourself of something you really love completely is not always a good thing. It can really come back to haunt you if you're trying to lose weight. But of course, water is great, and there is no reason not to drink water, and every reason to drink water.

CLANCY: All right. I want to thank you very much for being with us. Elizabeth Cohen there, putting it in perspective.

COHEN: Thank you.

CLANCY: What a nice way to end it all. I'm Jim Clancy, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thanks for being with us.