Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
The Latest From Germanwings Plane Crash. Houthi Rebels Aim For Aden. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired March 25, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:26] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: We start with new developments concerning the crash of the Germanwings flight in the French Alps. CNN
has learned that the cockpit voice recorder does appear to be badly damaged.
French investigators are trying to pry it open, believe the information inside may still be intact. That is what a source told our Rene Marsh.
She's learned that the team is working to open the external casing you see the recorder here. Inside are computer chips that are holding
critical information and data, that's what investigators are in the process of trying to access right now.
If all goes well, and there is no damage to those computer chips, investigators hope to access and download the data today. Now if there
is damage, that could turn into a two or three day process instead.
Well, the steep and remote terrain where the plane went down is making the task of recovering victims and debris much harder. So far no human
remains have been brought back. Still, search teams have been fanning out across the mountainous landscape.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President Francois Hollande have been at the staging area this afternoon along with Spain's
prime minister. The French interior minister says that while terrorism cannot completely be ruled out as a possible cause, he says its not
considered the most likely explanation at the moment.
Well, there is tremendous grief across Europe and beyond. We've seen moments of silence like these in Spain and Germany, the two countries
that appear to have lost more people than the various other nations with citizens on the flight.
Well, we are standing by for a news conference from the German, French and Spanish leaders and we will get to that as and when they start
Our senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann is among several CNN reporters working this story for us. He joins us now from Paris.
Jim, what have you got?
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, we're standing by as well for this accident investigating agency to tell us
what they've learned or maybe not have learned from that black box. As you've showed, I think it's a black box that's been badly damaged. It's
the voice recorder, the cockpit voice recorder. Badly damaged, but that's not to mean that it can't be utilized. They, in fact, may be
able to get something off the microchips that are inside. That will be the recording of the sounds within the cockpit.
One thing that seems clear even from now, even without the examination is that the pilots may have been incapacitated in some way. That could
be a lot of different things that could cause that.
But in any case, they did not respond in a normal fashion after whatever that took place took place yesterday morning, they did not respond to
calls from air traffic controllers about their altitude, which was decreasing, steadily decreasing in rapid fashion, but decreasing
nonetheless, and they had -- the air controllers on the ground made repeated attempts to contact the pilots and there was no response.
It was the air controllers who declared the emergency and once the plane reached so low an altitude that it might endanger other aircraft in the
So, it appears anyway that the pilots were not able to respond to the aircraft controller as it might suggest one of the causes behind this.
But we won't really know what's happening and whether or not they've been able to exploit that black box voice recorder until this news
conference, which are expecting to start some time within the hour, Becky.
ANDERSON: That's right. And for our viewers' purposes, let's just bring you bang up to date, viewers.
We are waiting on two news conferences as we speak. That which Jim has been referring to, which is with Remi Jouty who is the director of the
BEA who are the French authority responsible for safety investigations into accidents or incidents in civil aviation.
We're also waiting for a news conference, as I said, from the leaders of France, Germany and Spain.
So as either of those news conferences get underway, we will of course bring those to you immediately.
Jim, as you were talking we were looking at pictures of what is this incredibly remote area (inaudible) where this plane went down, the area
strewn with debris. I mean, you'll know that area. Just describe for us again if you will the sort of difficulties and challenges that these
emergency teams will be facing as they try and recover these bodies and debris of this plane?
[11:05:10] BITTERMANN: Well, Becky, I think there's a couple of difficulties. One thing is that there is so much to look for. The fact
is this wreckage has been scattered over a huge area. They were telling us yesterday around five acres, it looks more like it's about 10 acres
of area where there's everything scattered about -- human remains as well as parts of the aircraft.
The aircraft just shattered into very small pieces indeed. We saw from the pictures that have come about from down there that some of the
largest pieces are probably only about six to eight feet wide and six to eight feet high. They're just -- there's nothing left of this aircraft.
So, there's a lot of pieces. And we can see from the black box recorder, which is meant to withstand all sorts of crashes, how badly
damaged it was indicates that the force with which this plane hit the mountain. We believe that it was going around 400 miles an hour when it
hit the top of the mountain. And as a consequence, you can imagine hitting a brick wall at 400 miles an hour what that would do to an
airplane. That's one of the difficulties.
The second difficulty is that it's freezing temperatures, the ground has been frozen off and on overnight. The rescuers and the searchers and
investigators are actually having to put in cramp-ons (ph) and put on cramp-ons (ph) like they would if they were climbing a mountain because
the slopes are very steep. There's ice. And they have to put in guywires to guide the searchers up and down these very, very steep
crevices. So that's another difficulty.
Their search time would be, of course, limited by daylight. And they can't really do much after darkness falls there. And they're not
talking about investigation and a search for remains, which could go on for weeks, especially the identification of the remains, because some of
these bodies will be so badly damaged that they'll have to -- they'll have to rely on DNA tracing to identify some of the bodies.
So it's quite a complex task indeed -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yeah, and again, for those of you as you just may be joining us. I want to bring up the pictures of the voice recorder, the damaged
voice recorder, that we've been talking about.
We are expecting a news conference from the French authorities responsible for safety investigations into accidents or incidents in
Jim, you're still with us. And we are waiting -- or attempting to get to one of our reporters very near the crash site. But as we speak now,
just bringing up these pictures again as you rightly pointed out, the damage to this voice recorder, I believe, such that investigators
struggling really in the early hours to work out whether they can actually get any information from it, correct?
BITTERMANN: That is correct.
I mean, one of the things that they can tell. First, there will be the sounds of the cockpit. What was happening in the cockpit. If the
pilots were indeed incapacitated, there won't be any sounds, so that'll be an indication of something.
There also will be -- if there are sounds of the pilots talking, there will be a -- there will be sort of a look at what their spirit, what
their mood might be -- if they're panicked, if there was a great deal of excitement, but perhaps it was something routine going on and they had
been to a point where they were lulled into a routine that then could have been broken by whatever it was that took place in that cockpit.
So there's a lot of things they can tell just from the voice recorder.
But the second recorder gives them a better idea of all the parameters, several hundred parameters on the aircraft, which are being measured.
The engine temperatures, the speed, the altitude, those kind of things. But also weather the control surfaces are working and what position the
control surfaces are in.
And all of those sorts of details that can be matched up with the voice recorder. And what they do -- we saw them do this before exactly these
same people at the BEA here in France on the crash of flight 447 over the Atlantic, what we saw them do is very -- in a very painstaking way
match up the voice recordings along with the parameters, the technical parameters -- the recording of the objective parameters to see how they
matched up, what was going on exactly. What the pilots were saying to each other, what they were doing and what was happening with the
So they're meant to be seen in conjuction with each other. Whether they've confined that second black box is an open question right now.
They probably will. I mean, this is still a fairly -- even as large as this area is, it's a fairly contained area. It's not like the plane
went down in the middle of the ocean, it's on a mountainside. And if they put enough searchers into it, eventually sooner or later that other
black box will turn up. The question, of course, still remains whether either one of these black boxes will have survived the crash, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yeah. All right. Jim, stand by with me.
Let's just update the viewers again.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have been at the staging area this afternoon, along with the Spanish
prime minister. The French interior minister saying while terrorism cannot be completely ruled out as a possible cause, he says it's not
considered the most likely explanation at the moment.
We are standing by for a news conference from those three respective leaders. And one assumes that we'll be getting more information from
them. And this is the scene very close to this crash site where the podiums have been set up. You can see the flags hung there for the
respective leaders gathering near the crash site. That press conference was expected in the past hour. We've just been told to stand by here at
So we are expecting the leaders of France, Germany and Spain to gather here. And they will address the gathered audience and indeed you the
viewers as we take this live here on CNN.
For any more information that these countries have at present into an investigation which will be slow and painstaking, as Jim has been
Jim, let's just get back to you for the time being. What's the mood in France? It's been a tough start to the year, of course, the mood over
the past 24 hours. This is always a very, very difficult time, isn't it?
[11:11:27] BITTERMANN: Absolutely, Becky. I mean, if you look at the last three months here, there's just been one thing after another.
There was the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the bloody terrorism attacks here in Paris and the attack on that kosher supermarket in January. Then we
had just a few days the Argentinian helicopter crash where two helicopters filming a reality television show collided with each other,
and three very well French athletes went down in flames on the helicopters. There's that. And now this huge air crash in the south of
So it has been one thing after another here. It really is kind of fraught time for the French in terms of their emotions.
One of the things that we saw today when Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel visited the crash site they were close to tears, I'd say, almost
very emotional. Certainly Angela Merkel was very emotional when she was talking to the gendarmes who were first on the scene, the first
responders down there and trying to get their story and what had happened to them.
And one of the things that's happened in the delay this afternoon, why that news conference for them, the leaders has been postponed slightly,
is that they've decided to go off to this small village nearby the crash site and lay the plans and dedicate an area for a monument to the
victims of the crash.
So here we are less than -- we're a little bit more than 24 hours after the crash and yet they're already thinking about monument to those who
died in the crash. It's quite an emotional thing, I think, and people want to feel like they can do something, or want to do something we saw
in Germany around the school in Germany where the 16 schoolchildren died.
There's a lot of emotional all across Europe. This is a Paneuropean (ph) tragedy I think, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yeah, why did that flight go down is the question that is still unanswered, a question that may remain unanswered for some time to
come, but as Jim pointing out at least some information hopefully gleaned in the hours to come from the voice cockpit recorder, which has
been recovered -- damaged, it has to be said. And we are waiting -- as we await the press conference that you are seeing pictures of just on
the right hand side of our screens, awaiting the leaders of France, Germany and Spain to address the gathered press there and indeed you the
viewers also, as Jim has been point out.
We are waiting on a news conference from the crash investigation authority as it were, those who cover investigations into this terrible
sort of situation.
Also standing by for that from France as well.
All right, while we await news from very close to the crash site from these leaders, let's get you to our correspondent Erin McLaughlin who is
standing by at the French alpine village that's become a base camp for recovery efforts.
Erin, what can you tell us?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky.
Well, just a short while ago, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
were visiting the staging area you see just behind me. They were greeting emergency workers, thanking them for their efforts, a recovery
effort which is still, of course, very much underway.
All day we've seen helicopters landing here and then taking off again. And we understand from local officials they have managed to reach the
crash site. The helicopters can't actually -- can't actually land in the crash site because the area is so steep. So they've actually been
winching emergency workers down to the ground.
And we now understand from the French prosecutor that the DNA -- not DNA, the body identification process has begun. They say it's expected
to take several days. That's separate to the DNA comparison process that is expected to also commence once the bodies have actually been
recovered, that process expected to take weeks.
Now it's unclear when they're going to start extracting some of the bodies of the victims from that site. Hopefully we will get more
information about the timings of that, something that's very important to the families is the identification and repatriation of the victims.
Hopefully, we will get more information on that as the French investigators are expected to have a press conference very shortly --
[11:16:09] ANDERSON: Yeah. And we're standing by for that.
Erin, can you describe the scope of this operation, what you're seeing from where you have been. You have said that the leaders have been in.
They've been expressing their wishes to those there. But the scope of the effort that's going into this recovery effort now?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Becky, I can tell you the effort has been incredible. I've seen tens of helicopters, hundreds of recovery workers -- we
understand hundreds of French police. In fact, you can hear one of the helicopters just landing behind me, hundreds of French police as well as
firefighters. And this is a truly international effort. German investigators also taking part -- although French investigators of
course are taking the lead on this, Airbus technicians also participating as well, because the task ahead is monumental, especially
when you consider where this plane went down. It's in a very steep, very remote area.
Local officials who have actually been to the crash site said that the plane was absolutely obliterated and the wreckage strewn in very small
pieces no bigger than the size of a small car over this very broad area.
So it's going to be a very slow and painstaking process recovering the victims as well as figuring out what exactly caused this horrific
tragedy -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yeah. And what we know to date is that there was a rapid descent and no distress call.
These, the first and at present pretty much the only bits of solid information that we have. Clearly, this investigation as we've been
saying will take some time.
Waiting on two news conferences for you, viewers, one from the investigation team in France, the safety investigation team into
accidents and incidents in civil aviation. And indeed from the area very close to where Erin is now, the news conference that will be held
by the leaders of France, of Germany and of Spain.
And this is Sinlay Alp (ph), which is in France. They are expected to speak to the gathered audience there with any further information I'm
sure that they have they will share with you viewers as you will stay with CNN I hope for that.
Just describe the mood, if you will, Erin, where you are?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I would say it's very much a somber mood here, Becky. And there is an incredibly heavy media presence, journalists from all
around the world, even though as far as we know France has not -- did not have a passenger, a victim on board that flight I would say this
country still very much mourning the loss of the 150 passengers on board that plane. And this country clearly doing everything in its power to
make sure that this recovery effort goes as smoothly as possible for the victims and their families.
ANDERSON: Terrorism isn't at the top of the list of potential causes in the Germanwings crash, according to French officials. Clearly,
everything being considered, and until they have more information than they will keep all options open.
Just before I let you go, for those of our viewers who haven't spent time in the region that you are in, again, I want to get the sense of
just how big a challenge this recovery will be and the investigation will be going forward.
If we can just bring up the pictures again and have Erin just talk us through the terrain this plane went down in. I think it's important
just to get a sense of what these emergency workers will be up against - - Erin.
[11:20:36] MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's an incredibly mountainous terrain, incredibly remote. There are little villages dotted all along these
mountain areas, some of which I understand has actually been abandoned, this isn't -- there are people who live around this area, but it's not
entirely heavily populated. And the only way rescue workers are able to reach the site is via -- we understand via helicopter, the only way that
makes sense so to speak.
And it's -- which leaves it open to being impacted by inclement weather, which we understand they experienced yesterday with rain, a potential
for snow, icy conditions on the ground as well. They're having to bring in specialized equipment, we understand, yesterday, because the
condition on the ground was so icy.
And as I mentioned, because choppers aren't able to land at the crash site, they're actually having to drop the rescue workers down onto the
ground to begin to do this all important work.
So when you consider that this crash happened on a mountain and the debris field is broad and scattered, it really is going to take the
hundreds of workers that France so far has dedicated to this effort to get this recovery mission complete, Becky.
ANDERSON: The French prime minister says that no hypothesis is ruled out in this crash probe. More information, of course, here on CNN as we
Erin, thank you for that.
I want to get you to Germany now and to Holton (ph) in Germany, sadly the home of 16 German students and two teachers who were aboard the
Rosie Tomkins is standing by.
Rosie, it must be a very difficult scene there.
ROSIE TOMKINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky. This really has become a focal point of grief in this terrible tragedy. 16 students and two
teachers, as you said, who attended the school, which is behind me. You can see there's been a steady flow of people all day coming to pay
tribute, to leave flowers and candles, what a tragedy, 150 people, a shocking number. It's those individual stories that bring to the fore,
the personal tragedies in this.
And for 16 students and two teachers to be lost from one school, the impact here is just tremendous.
There was a press conference earlier where we heard from the school's headmaster. And the mayor of the town who were just so visibly grief
stricken. The word they kept using was speechless. They just kept saying, we can understand this has happened, but we simply cannot
comprehend it. And they were talking about the challenge of providing support to all these young people and families who have lost loved ones,
friends, sons, daughters and the challenge of dealing with that trauma in front of them.
We were able to speak to one student earlier. Let's have a listen to what they said.
OK, we have a technical problem there with that student, but Becky I mean it really has been such a devastating scene. and the school did
say earlier that there is going to be a minute silence for schools across Germany to mark the moment that this tragedy happened, but in the
meantime an incredibly dark day for this town and indeed for the nation.
ANDERSON: Rosie, just give me a sense of the -- of some context here. How big a town is this?
TOMKINS: It's -- yeah, it's a fairly large down. It's 80 kilometers north of Dusseldorft. And at this school these 16 students and two
teachers who had been on a trip, on a foreign exchange trip to Spain, that's what they were on their way home from when this terrible tragedy
And of the two teachers that were on board, we've actually also heard today that one of them, a young woman, had just got married. So it is
those details coming out now that really bring faces and names to the tragedy.
We also heard today that -- we heard overnight actually that two opera singers were on board this flight, as you mentioned earlier, also from
the Dusseldorf region. One of them, Maria Radner (ph), she was on board with her husband and baby, one of the two babies that we believe died on
So, again, 150, a horrifying number, but those individuals stories that are starting to come out that really bring to life the sheer scale of
this tragedy, Becky.
[11:25:25] ANDERSON: Yeah, it's a horror.
Rosie, thank you.
Let me just bring you up to date on what we do know here at CNN. We have learned that the cockpit voice recorder does appear to be badly
damaged. It's been recovered. French investigators are trying to pry it open. And they believe that the information inside may still be
intact. That is what a source has told one of our reporters who has learned that the team is working to open what is the external orange
casing. Inside, there are computer chips that are holding critical information and data.
Now that is what investigators are in the process of trying to access right now.
If all goes well and there is no damage to those computer chips, then investigators hope to access and download that data later today, we're
told. If there is damage, that could turn into a two or three day process instead.
The steep and remote terrain where the terrain where the plane went down is making the task of recovering victims and debris that much harder.
So far no human remains have been brought back. Still, search teams have been fanning out across the mountainous landscape.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President Francois Hollande have been at the staging area this afternoon along with the
Spanish prime minister.
And the French interior minister says that while terrorism cannot completely be ruled out as a possible cause, he says, it is not
considered the most likely explanation at the moment.
The scene that you're seeing here is a live scene from Sinlay Alp (ph) in France, which is very close to the crash site. And this is an
impromptu press center, as it were, set up for the leaders of France, Germany and Spain who will be addressing the gathered press corps. And
that's a large contingent, of course, reporting on the story for you, including CNN reporters there. And we'll bring that to you as we get
And this was -- this was scheduled for about a half hour ago. And we've also been waiting the press conference this hour from the French
investigation team into civil aviation incidents. Again, that slightly delayed.
We are going to stay on the story, of course, for you because what we get out of these news conferences will be incredibly important for you
While there is tremendous grief across Europe and beyond, we've seen moments of silence in Spain and in Germany. The two countries that
appear to have lost more people and the various other nations with citizens on that flight.
We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.
[08:30:21] ANDERSON: Right, you're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Just after half past 7:00 in the UAE.
Where of course we broadcast from.
I want you to get bang up to date on the latest developments concerning the crash of the Germanwings flight 9525 in the French Alps.
CNN has learned that the cockpit voice recorder is badly damaged. It has, though, been recovered. French investigators trying to pry it open
and believe the information inside may still be intact according to one source.
We've learned that the team is working to open the external orange casing that you see in these shots here. Inside what you can see in
these images are computer chips that are holding critical information and data.
Now that is what investigators are in the process of trying to access right now. If all goes well and there is no damage to those computer
chips, investigators hope to access and download data today. If there is damage that of course could turn into a two or three day process they
tell us instead.
Now these -- the scenes in what is a very steep and remote terrain where that plane went down making the task of recovering victims and debris
that much harder as you can imagine.
We've been talking to our correspondent on the scene who has been describing the scope of the effort from the emergency teams you can see
here in the area, which is the support site very close to this crash scene.
Unfortunately so far no human remains have been brought back. Still, though, search teams have been fanning out across what is this
incredibly mountainous landscape.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the French President Francois Hollande have been at this staging area this afternoon along with the Spanish
prime minister. We are now waiting on the three of them to address the gathered news contingent there.
And indeed you viewers will be taking that live on CNN as we get it. Standing by for that.
And standing by for a news conference from those in France who are investigating this incident, which clearly even though didn't have any
French passengers on board the crash in an area in France, of course, so part of the French civil aviation investigation now. And we will be
hearing from a member of that investigation shortly again in a news conference.
Let's get you back to Jim Bittermann in Paris -- Jim.
BITTERMANN: The French investigation, Becky, is going to be folks from Airbus because this was also a French built airplane. And they will be
most interested in knowing if there was any kind of a technical problem with the airplane. So they're going to be following this very closely
So, the BEA, of course is one that the news conference that is going to take place here in Paris. And I think hat's the one that in terms of
the cause of the crash may give us the most information.
If they have been able to exploit the cockpit voice recorder, which is the one black box that they've got, if it's not so badly damaged that
they can hear some things on the voice recorder, it may give them some very good indications. It can tell what the atmosphere was like in the
cockpit. Were the pilots panicked? Was there as lot of extraneous things going on.
There would also be a recording on the recording will be sounds -- you know, for instance, if the pilots aren't talking, maybe there's sounds
of the engine or not the sounds of the engines going. There's so many questions ab out why this accident took place.
One thing that does seem to be fairly clear at this point, at least from what we've heard from the ground controllers, is that the pilots did
not, for whatever reason, did not follow normal procedure when they began this descent, when they began descending at a fairly rapid pace.
They had eight minutes in which to advise the controllers that they were leaving their altitude that they were assigned to and they didn't.
So, for whatever reason they may have been incapacitated, or maybe -- even if the radio was not functioning, they still could signal it on a
transponder -- a radar transponder in the aircraft.
So, it seems likely, at least, that the pilots were not responding as they should have, for whatever reason we'll have to wait until that news
conference to see if they found anything on that voice recorder -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yeah, so many unanswered questions at this point.
I know that we've heard from the French prime minister earlier on today who didn't rule out any hypothesis about this, including terrorism,
although, Jim, the suggestion being most likely not a terrorism at this point. Anything else we learn from the prime minister earlier on today?
[11:35:11] BITTERMANN: Well, for one thing he has just reemphasized what we've been talking about here for the last half hour, and that is
that it is a very difficult search indeed. I mean, he said this is -- a very challenging situation that the rescuers and the investigators are
facing down in the Alps.
It's about as challenging as you can get on land. I mean, one of the things is we've seen recently with the air crashes recently, there have
been a number of water, whether that presents its own difficulty, but on land you sort of think, well, it shouldn't take too long or this may
take a long time the way that the wreckage was scattered and the way the terrain is down there, the mountain terrain plus the weather. There's
just a number of factors that make this a very long, drawn out process, especially when it comes to identifying the remains of the passengers
So there's that. And I think on the accident investigation, if they can get something off the voice recorders, if they can get something off the
other black box, the technical recorder -- and they can find it first, and they can get something off it, that in fact will give them a very
good indication of what the problems were with the plane leading up to the crash -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Jim, thank you.
There is tremendous grief across Europe and beyond. We see moments of silence in Spain and in Germany, the two countries that sadly appear to
have lost more people than the various other nations with (inaudible) on that flight.
Jim, thank you.
Standing by, viewers, as I've been saying over the past 35 minutes or so, for two news conferences. One from the leaders of France, Germany
and Spain who will be addressing the gathered press contingent at the support site very close to the crash site there in France.
And the other from the investigation team into civil aviation incidents in France.
Jim Bittermann is on that one for you. Our correspondents are standing by for the news conference in (inaudible). As soon as get either of
those, we will bring them to you.
Meantime, I'm going to get to another developing story for you this hour. I want to get you to Yemen.
After taking the capital Sanaa, Yemen's Houthis rebels have their eyes, it seems, on another prize: that is the pivotal port city of Aden, which
has until now at least, has been home to the president they ousted two months ago. Now that is Abd Rammuh Mansur Hadi.
Now tensions between the Houthis and supporters of Mr. Hadi have erupted into violence across the country in recent days, causing my next guest
to warn that Yemen is on the edge of civil war.
Jamal Benomar is the United Nations special envoy to the country. And he joins me now on the line from Sanaa.
And, sir, I'm getting reports of heavy fighting in Aden, of gunmen roaming the streets, diplomats being evacuated by sea, the pictures we
are looking at here on CNN are from yesterday, or earlier on in the week, which is in Ta'izz, which is the cultural capital about 140
kilometers away from Aden. Reports that the airport in Aden has now been taken by Houthi rebels.
Mr. Benomar, do you have any idea where the president is this hour?
JAMAL BENOMAR, UN SPECIAL ENVOY TO YEMEN: No. We don't know about the whereabouts of the president. But what we know is that the Houthis have
converged on the city of Aden. We have advanced the masked city. And this follows a pattern that we've seen in recent months.
Houthis were thought as a ragtag militia confined to a mountains (inaudible) in the far north of the country. They are now in the
capital Sanaa and they are marching now on the city of Aden.
The country is in turmoil.
ANDERSON: Well, earlier, unidentified war planes reportedly firing on the president's compound in Aden where once as you describe a ragtag
mob, as it were, of Houthi rebels. Are we any clearer who is responsible for those attacks from the air at this point? Who is flying
these war planes?
BENOMAR: Well, this is not the first time. We know that in recent days, you know, there were attacks on the presidential palace. And what
we know also is that the Houthis are in control of the air force. They're in control, in fact, of most state institutions, including
security and institutions.
So this is an escalation that we condemned. And this is an escalation that is condemned by the (inaudible) particularly the use of the air
force targeting the president's compound.
[11:40:16] ANDERSON: Well, foreign minister -- and indeed the prime minister who has now fled, have been appealing for intervention both
from the international community and indeed from neighboring Arab countries. Saudi Arabia now reportedly mobilizing troops on its
southern border with Yemen. What are the Saudis intentions at this point, do you think?
BENOMAR: Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries have very legitimate security concerns. They have been concerned about the recent turmoil.
And they have done their best, you know, to support the political transition that began in 2011 with the signing of a transitional
agreement in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
But, with the recent violence and the advance of the Houthis, their takeover of state institutions, they have been concerned. And the
security council also met several times in the last days. They issued - - they adopted (inaudible) to come (inaudible). There is a reason for his recent statement that condemned actions by the Houthis. But in the
end, the security council also call for the Yemenis, all sides, to come to gather to find a peaceful solution. and this is what we have been
trying to do in the last few weeks.
We have been facilitating a process of negotiations that involve all the political parties, including the Houthis. Definitely, the recent
escalation doesn't help find the peaceful solution. But at the end of the day there is no other way other than a peace agreement, you know,
that will settle the current competition, you kno,w for power.
ANDERSON: Wait -- OK, sir. For years experts in this region have been warning of the dangers of you know the UN's whole transitional model in
Yemen, as it were, a political path which is -- we can clearly see has resulted in more violence than peace.
Do you concede at this point that the international community bears at least some responsibility for a country that Europe describes as running
the risk of turning into something of Iraq, Libya and Syria combined?
BENOMAR: Well, until very recently, until a few months ago, it was a real model for a peaceful transition. Yemen was the only country of the
Arab Spring where the different sides came together and (inaudible) the way forward, a road map for peaceful change and for building democratic
It's the only country where that came together in a national dialogue process, that was truly inclusive. And they (inaudible) with the
blueprint for new democratic governance for a new federal state.
But immediately after (inaudible) process, mistakes made by the various sides, political sides, and then in particular actions taken by the
Houthis, the violent actions -- they used violence to achieve political means, all this complicated this transition. And the transition has now
been derailed and the prospects now are very bleak for you bringing back this transition back on (inaudible).
ANDERSON: All right.
BANOMAR: So all sides, including the Houthis in particular, their responsibility for what happened.
The international community spoke with one voice in support of this project for a peaceful change. For this peaceful transition. The
security council was unanimous, the GCC countries (inaudible)
ANDERSON: And when you talk, sorry, sir, with respect.
BANOMAR: The Yemenis bear responsibility for what's happening.
ANDERSON: With due respect, it's not the entire international community speaking with one voice, because of course Iran wasn't alongside the
international community in all of that.
What sort of scope do you think Iran has so far as its influence is concerned now in Yemen. Just how influencial is it? How involved?
BANOMAR: Well, it's very clearly, you know, that the group that is advancing now taking over various parts of the country has links to Iran
and its public knowledge. You know, in their statements and everything that we have seen, you know from their support, but this is also an
indigenous group. The Houthis did not come from outside the country. They -- their problem used to be a minority rights issue that got out of
control. But the patched it in the political process, (inaudible) conference. But it's the actions that they have taken since then that
have been problematic. Now with them advancing using violence to achieve political means and then taking over all government
But at the end of the day, if the Yemenis see that there is hope, looking forward for them to come in together , you know, to bring the
country from the brink of war. And that can only be a negotiated solution that will bring the Houthis and all other sides.
And there is a process underway that unfortunately has not been able to conclude with a solution...
[11:45:22] ANDERSON: Yeah, but Mr. Benomar...
BANOMAR: Whether this will proceed.
ANDERSON: Well, given this chaotic backdrop, sir, you really don't expect to be able to pull of f peace talked do you?
BANOMAR: Well, you know, the back drop is a back drop of violence and a trend towards fragmentation with al Qaeda hanging in the background and
hysteria and the violence and also a lot of rhetoric from all sides.
This is a very negative political backdrop. But nevertheless (inaudible) in 2011. And then they were able to step back and negotiate
a way forward. What we are hoping now is that they will come together and save the country from the horrors of that other countries have
witnessed like Syria, Iraq and Libya.
ANDERSON: All right, sir. And with that we're going to wrap it up for the time being. We thank you very much indeed for your time.
The UN envoy to Yemen and out of Sana tonight for you on the phone.
I want to get you to France now. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the French president and the Spanish prime minister ready to address the
news contingent gathered there at the site of the plane crash. Let's listen in.
(GERMANWINGS PRESS CONFERENCE)