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U.S. Issues Details On Retaliation Against Russia; Russian President Announces Syrian Ceasefire; State Department: U.S. Was Not Part of Negotiations; Refugees in Germany Fear Deportation; Fighting Human Trafficking Through Education

Aired December 29, 2016 - 15:00:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: I'm Hala Gorani. This is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. We begin with two breaking stories this hour. First, the

United States is issuing sanctions against Russian individuals and entities over hacking that it says played a part in the presidential election.

Also following very closely this hour, a ceasefire looming inside Syria. Could it finally end the war there? What are some of the possible issues?

Could it collapse as quickly as it was summoned? We'll look at all of those stories in a moment.

But first, let's start with Russia. U.S. President Barack Obama is taking unprecedented steps to punish Moscow for the campaign of cyber-attacks.

Just a short time ago, he issued an executive order against sixth Russian individuals and five Russian entities.

And in a separate move, he is ordering dozens of Russian nationals to leave the United States and apparently that's not all. Mr. Obama says more

punitive measures are coming in the final weeks of his presidency.

Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance. He is live in Moscow with that. Obviously too early for a reaction there, but

what kind of impact could this have? Who are these individuals?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right. It is too early for reaction yet, although, within the next couple of minutes

we've been asked to join a conference call with the kremlin where undoubtedly they will be setting out what their response is. This was

anticipated, of course.

Just yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that if any measures were taken against Russian diplomats operating in the

United States that would ricochet on to U.S. diplomats operating here in Russia.

So they promised just yesterday tit for tat measures if any kinds of expulsions took place and indeed we are seeing the State Department

announced that 35 Russian diplomats have essentially been declared persona non-grata and have, I think, it was being reported 72 hours to leave the

United States.

Again, there's been no official reaction yet from the kremlin or from the Foreign Ministry, but the chairman of the Russian parliament's Foreign

Affairs Committee has been speaking to Russian media telling the (inaudible) news agency that the outgoing Obama administration has no

grounds political or moral rights for such a harsh and destructive step.

And so I think that's the kind of tone of response along with actual concrete measures as we're going to be hearing from the kremlin within the

next few minutes -- Hala.

GORANI: They promised tit for tat responses in all of these. So we can anticipate, what, expulsions of American diplomats, for instance?

CHANCE: I expect so. We'll have to wait and see just not very long now before we find out exactly what that response will be. But yes, I mean,

they are saying this is going to ricochet on U.S. diplomats operating in Russia. And so yes, I would not be surprised at all if we see a similar

number of U.S. diplomats expelled from Russia in the same way.

And obviously that leads us to a major escalation of this situation. I mean, the Russians had been pretty sitting tight, you know, thinking while

this is going to blow over in a couple of weeks because Donald Trump is much more sympathetic to us is going to be taking over in the White House.

But this is a very strong broadside obviously from the Obama White House goes. In fact, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that this threat of

sanctions, this was yesterday, they were saying the threat of sanctions from the Obama administration is a last Christmas greeting from the Obama

team, which is already preparing for eviction from the White House.

And again, the Russian officials that we have spoken do have categorically denied any connection with the hacking or data dumping that sparked these

diplomatic expulsions -- Hala.

GORANI: We'll have more on our breaking news. Thanks very much, Matthew Chance is in Moscow. Do stay tuned for that. More on the U.S.'

motivations here in taking these actions, sanctions, against Russia just a little less than three weeks left in the Obama presidency and taking some

pretty harsh measures against Moscow. So do stay tuned for that.

But let's focus now back to our other breaking news story that we've been covering all day. It is now a little past 10 p.m. in Damascus, Syria. A

nationwide ceasefire is set to go into effect in just a couple of hours.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the deal between the Syrian government and opposition rebels. The kremlin now says Mr. Putin spoke

with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that Assad has agreed to comply with the ceasefire terms, but the Russian president warns that the

situation remains fragile.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The agreements reached are, of course, fragile, and needs special attention and

involvement with a preservation and development.

[15:05:04]But nevertheless, this is a notable result of our joint work, efforts by the defense and foreign ministries, our partners in the region.


GORANI: Well, so could peace or some form of peace finally be within reach after nearly six years of bloody civil war? Well, we have seen deals like

this fall apart before in cities like Aleppo, half of which was reduced to rubble in the process.

Let's cross now to Muhammad Lila. He is in Istanbul, Turkey. Turkey, of course, alongside Russia has said that they will be one of the guarantors

of this ceasefire agreement, Muhammad. So I mean, what -- of course, we have ISIS excluded from this, possibly the Nusra front which rebranded

itself recently also excluded. So it's not like all of a sudden all guns will fall silent, right?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that just speaks to the complexities of the ground and how difficult will be for both Russia and

Turkey to provide any kind of guarantees that these various groups on the ground who are not only fighting the Assad government, but in many cases

fighting each other.

Any kind of guarantee that those groups will be able to put down their arms. But you know, the key takeaway from the ceasefire announced is that,

Hala, in a best case scenario, what this does is that it establishes some sort of frame work that could lead to a permanent ceasefire.

And the reason why I say some sort of framework is because this is more than just some sort of nebulous, kind of vague agreement. There are

concrete steps that are involved, other mechanisms in place that Russia and Turkey both say they've agreed on to make sure that these rebel groups stay

in line.

And that they don't violate the ceasefire. And we know that those rebel groups that do sign on to the ceasefire are supposed to be safe. They

won't be targeted. They're not supposed to be targeted by Russian or Syrian airstrikes.

There aren't supposed to be any kind of combat operations on the ground. So on one level, if those rebel groups do comply, in theory, they should be

free to live in those areas that they already control without having to worry about being killed.

GORANI: Well, what about, for instance, Nusra Front, al Qaeda linked that rebranded itself in other name, but I mean, if they are excluded from the

deal, they operate in areas that are controlled by other rebel groups, sometimes even those groups that have cooperated in the past. There is

overlap. How is that going to work?

LILA: Well, actually so ISIS is one of the groups that's been excluded from the ceasefire. Russia, Turkey and Syria, all say that any groups that

the United Nations considers and has designated as a terrorist group will not be included in this deal.

Now we know the United Nations has labelled the Nusra Front, which recently rebranded and called itself (inaudible). But of course previously they

were linked to al Qaeda, so there is a question mark there about whether they will be included.

But we know ISIS won't. So by no means does this mean that the fighting will stop in Syria. Effectively what this ends at meaning is that they are

delineating which groups will be fair game for the Russians, Syrians and Turkish forces to target and which groups will be considered off limits.

Meaning that they can no longer conduct operations against them and that sort of like a weeding out process. It's an important process because it

establishes -- OK, these are the rebels that we accept and these are the rebels that we accept to hold on to territory.

But then you have other groups sort of a very hardline jihadi militant groups that will still be targeted by all of the groups on the ground.

GORANI: Sure. It still is going to lead to a lot of complexity. Certainly a lot more to be hammered out and announced and questions still

there floating around that we would like to be able to answer in the coming days and weeks.

But now we have an opportunity to speak with Syria's opposition. Hadi al- Bahra joins me now via Skype from Istanbul, Turkey. He is a member of the political committee for the Syrian National Coalition. Mr. al-Bahra, thank

you for being with us.

First of all, what is your understanding about the rebel groups that have signed on to this deal? Is the Al-Nusra Front the rebranded Nusra front,

is it excluded or included in this ceasefire agreement?

HADI AL-BAHRA, POLITICAL COMMITTEE MEMBER, SYRIAN NATIONAL COALITION: As you know, the parties involved in this agreement are the Free Syrian Army

and other armed groups. Not including any armed group which was classified as terrorist group by the U.N. Security Council.

By theory, it is all about Syrian territories. Everybody is included. The opposition groups are keen to implement in good faith. The big change is

the militias which are fighting alongside the regime.

These are more than 43 militias, all of them foreign militias coming from Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iran, and Afghanistan. So the seriousness about this

ceasefire now relies on Russia and to get Iran convinced to comply with the agreement.

[15:10:07]GORANI: Now I just want to get back to this Nusra question just because it has been confusing all day, and then I will ask you about

Hezbollah and other militias helping the regime. If it is included, it would imply that this group that has links to al Qaeda will be allowed to

control territories right now. If it's excluded, it means they will be targeted by military action. This is why it is an important question to

answer. Do you have any answer to it?

AL-BAHRA: According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the Russian Foreign Ministry, Nusra Front and ISIS are not included in the agreement.

GORANI: OK, so they would not be included and this is based on your understanding from the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

AL-BAHRA: This is their official statement.

GORANI: Let me ask you about, then, what you discussed and brought up, Hezbollah, other militias, Iranian fighters helping out the government and

the Syrian military, what happens with them in this agreement?

AL-BAHRA: Understanding that all foreign militias should withdraw outside of Syria. All of these militias controlled and brought by Iran. So Iran

would be the party responsible to have all these militias pulled out from Syria.

GORANI: And this is part of the agreement, and you believe that this is something that could be implemented?

AL-BAHRA: I think first stage it would be that all sides comply with the ceasefire. This is a challenging situation as it has been said a little

while ago from both sides whether from the terrorist organization. There is war against ISIS going on now where the Free Syrian Army on one side and

the Turkish assisting in north of Syria, and east, and there are also the complication of the Iranian-backed militias.

GORANI: What are your thoughts on this day? I mean, the deals have been announced. It is not vague. I mean, there is some elements in there that

we can at least -- that have been thought out and announced. Are you hopeful now for the future in terms of an end to the fighting?

AL-BAHRA: I think there is a lot of challenges, but what makes this agreement different than the one previously signed is that one of the main

regional powers which is Turkey is fully committed and backing this agreement. One of the international sides also backing the agreement,

which is Russia and also the whole agreement was with the demands of the previous agreement which was signed between Russia and the U.S.

GORANI: OK, so what though is left of -- do you see Syria now? If, indeed, this holds the ceasefire breaking up more or less into spheres of

control and influence, where you have the government controlling the big cities, rebel groups maybe controlling Idlib and other parts that they

occupy now. How do you see Syria evolving post this deal?

AL-BAHRA: I think it will take some time to re-emerge the country. I don't see any Syrian has any plan to see Syria divided. Previously Syria

has been divided to limit where you cannot divide it any more. On public popular level, nobody would support such an idea.

But it will go a long way because we have to win a war against terrorism, ISIS or whoever terrorist organizations. We have to provide some type of

stabilization, and some type of flow of (inaudible) assistance to the people.

Let the civilian get relieved a little and then we have to push with the political talks if the ceasefire holds on Syria's term with the assistance

of the international community to reach some type of settlement.

Actually you cannot really have a complete ceasefire and stop a war and win the war against terrorism without achieving the political settlement first.

GORANI: So would you accept finally that Bashar al-Assad, the current president, remain in power for what could be many more years while this

political transition takes place?

AL-BAHRA: I don't see any solution to be practical, be fully successful with the existence of Bashar al-Assad in power. The final transition

period has to be with a new leadership, with the first step to the country. It cannot be continued because Bashar al-Assad is one of the main sources

and root causes of extremism and terrorism in Syria.

[15:15:03]GORANI: Right. But if he is indeed remains president then is that a deal breaker?

AL-BAHRA: For sure. It's one of Syria's demand. We are talking about experience which being held (inaudible), for example. How the situation

developed and how it got worsened because the president of Yemen, the ex- president still in the country even his (inaudible) position. So we don't want to repeat the Yemeni scenario in Syria.

GORANI: Hadi al-Bahra, thank you very much, a member of the Political Committee for the Syrian National Coalition joining us from Istanbul on our

breaking news story. We appreciate your time this evening. Thank you very much.

Let's get back to our other breaking news story. It is a busy hour. We are talking about the sanctions that the U.S. just leveled against Russia.

President Barack Obama calls his unprecedented action, quote, "a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests." We're joined

now by Evan Perez, CNN's U.S. justice correspondent.

Evan, talk to us a little bit about how will this play out? We're talking about specific individuals, a couple, I believe, two or three entities and

also 35 diplomats asked to leave the country.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right. We're talking about six individuals, specific individuals, who are associated with the GRU, which

is the Russian military intelligence services. The sanctions extend to the GRU and the FSB, which are the two main security service agencies of the

Russian government.

Those two entities are being sanctioned under this order from President Obama. There is a total of five entities which are various companies and

others associated with the spy services of Russia that are also being sanctioned.

In addition to the 35 people who are right now in the United States as diplomats, and which the U.S. now says are actually spies, they're being

told that they have to leave in the next 72 hours.

The U.S. government is also cutting off access to two compounds here in the United States. One is a recreational compound that's on about an hour away

from Washington, D.C., on the Chesapeake Bay. Another one is in New York.

Both of those compounds which are essentially diplomatic compounds, but the U.S. is now declaring them to be especially spy outposts and those are also

having to be shut down.

That's all part of this package of retaliation, as you mentioned, that the Obama administration says is proportional to send a message to that

Russians that what they've been doing in the past year or so interfering with the U.S. election is not something that they can tolerate.

GORANI: OK. But what about potential more punitive measures, and then, of course, many people are wondering once Donald Trump becomes president on

January 20th, how much of this can be reversed if he chooses to reverse some of these sanctions?

PEREZ: Yes, exactly. The same way that President Obama has signed this executive order is the same way that Donald Trump can simply change the

language and rescind all of this. It is all being done by executive order, by presidential order.

But that is probably not as simple as it sounds, simply because there's going to be a lot of pressure from members of Congress, already we see

Republican leadership is embracing these sanctions saying that it's long overdue.

It's something that the Obama administration should have done a long time ago. So I think Donald Trump, if he decides that he wants to undo all of

this, he is going to get some pressure on the other side including from the Republican Party in Congress.

But as you said, look, I mean, a lot of this stuff is meant to send a message to the Russians. But it's also intended to make sure things don't

get out of hand. After all, we're talking about cyber-attacks, and the United States here is responding with things that we've seen frankly going

back to the cold war days, right?

We have seen expulsion of diplomats. We've seen sanctions, that kind of thing that the United States and Russia have done to each other over the

past decade.

So I think one of the things that we can take away from what is happening today is the Obama administration is trying to send a strong message, but

they are also trying to make sure that this doesn't get out of control. That there is not a cyber-war or perhaps even a shooting war that develops

from this.

GORANI: And the individuals that are asked to leave, the diplomats that have been asked to leave the United States, is the U.S., the Obama

administrating saying that they were actively taking part in these cyber- attacks against U.S. interests?

PEREZ: It appears at least a couple of them they believed were, if not directly involved overseeing the operation. We have on the list of six

people that they have named in these sanctions. We have some of the senior most people in the GRU, the military intelligence services of the Russian


And so you can imagine that they were sitting at their computer hacking into the Democratic National Committee or John Podesta's e-mail.

[15:20:03]They simply over saw the operation and we do know from talking to sources over the last few months that the GRU was first into breaking into

some of these entities.

And they have also been very, very active and aggressive. They broke into the White House, State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is -- this

is a lot of data that the United States has gathered on the operations of these security services.

GORANI: Evan Perez, our justice correspondent, thanks very much with the very latest on our breaking news story.

Coming up, a nationwide ceasefire set to take hold in Syria in an hour and 40 minutes. We'll have much more on this big new development and what it

means for the region.


GORANI: Let's get back to our top story. The nationwide ceasefire set to come into effect inside Syria in less than two hours. Notably absent from

the deal, the United States. The U.S. State Department is calling the ceasefire a positive development nonetheless.

However, Spokesman Mark Toner says the U.S. was not part of the negotiations that led to this announcement. So we would refer you to

Russia and Turkey for more details.

There is no military solution to this nearly six-year crisis. The international community hopes the ceasefire will hold so a Syrian-led

transition toward a more representative united and peaceful government can begin.

That is, quote/unquote, "Coming from the State Department." Let's talk about how the U.S. was essentially cut out of this deal or perhaps cut

itself out of the deal.

Let's cross to Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He's in Washington. So Michael, let's talk about the sort of

the ripple effects of the U.S. excluding itself some would argue from sort of being in any way a dealmaker or having the kind of influence Russia has

had over Syria in the coming years.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I think the clip you just quoted from explains why we are not involved in this deal

because we still have a policy that doesn't really add up logically or in any other way. We are still saying there has to be a new transition


President Assad thinks he just won the war. These are two radically different interpretations of where we are. And your excellent previous

excellent question to the previous guest from Turkey about whether or not opposition groups could tolerate Assad staying in power.

I didn't really hear him give a clear answer. I don't think there is a positive answer to that. So there will have to be a further development of

this concept. As you say it is a hopeful ceasefire development but it's certainly not a peace deal.

I think a lot of the opposition groups are going to keep fighting unless they have some degree of self-governance at a minimum in the parts of the

country where they tend to live and that means some degree of choice of their own local leadership and some degree of their own security forces,

and maybe some direct contact with the international community for reconstruction assistance.

[15:25:01]To me that's a bare minimum. It's sort like a rocky Kurdistan, if you will. That kind of autonomous arrangement. If they don't get at

least that, I don't see how they could tolerate living in a country where Assad is still potentially the president because I don't see him stepping


GORANI: Right. Well, absolutely. I mean, that makes sense, but also you have very extreme elements in some of these rebel groups. I mean, what

kind of self-determination or kind of model would they impose of self- governance there as well?

O'HANLON: Right. So what you are going to have to do is have some degree of access to these zones so the international community can get in and keep

working with the moderate groups or the relatively moderate groups to build security forces that then marginalize or if necessary defeat ISIS and al-


And again, you were right to hone in on the latter, the front for conquest, you know, the former al-Nusra, whatever you want to call it. It has ties

to al Qaeda.

If they want to disavow al Qaeda and reinvent themselves, I suppose people could work with them, but we have to be very aware of the possibility they

need to be defeated or at least pushed aside.

So you're going to need to find some way to strengthen local security forces so that ISIS and al Qaeda affiliates are in the majority in any part

of the country including those would-be autonomous zones.

That's going to take some time and doing. So you know, on top of everything else, we're going to have to stay involved with some

counterterrorism capability and I think there would have to be peacekeepers at some level for any kind of a deal along these lines.

GORANI: It's a very long term process. So what is in it for Turkey now? Just a few months ago, they shot a Russian war plane out of the sky and now

they are signing peace agreements with Russia. What is going on there?

O'HANLON: I think it is damage control. I mean, I would not call it what is in it for Turkey. Turkey as you know has 3 million Syrian refugees on

its territory. It's getting hit by a major bomb attack either from ISIS and other insurgents inside of Syria or from its own Kurdish extremists

every couple of months.

It is a country that is really on the precipice and what it needs is to reduce the pressure. There needs to be some way out from this degree of

conflict on its southern border.

And so I don't necessarily think of what it will get so much as taking off of the pressure. If Turkey can see some way towards a ceasefire, my guess

is, they began to decide they can live with Assad at least having some role in a future Syria.

I think they are a little bit more clear-eyed about the likelihood of that than we have been. I think the best case answer is you got Assad to govern

an autonomous zone in the western part of the country that's primarily allo-whites and Christians and then create some weak new central

government, but I don't see how you literally push Assad out at this point.

GORANI: But that's basically a partition?

O'HANLON: Well, yes, it's federalism, you know, and again, Syrians will say they don't like that, but they also don't like having a half million

other citizens killed and 12 million displaced. Federalism or confederalism, you know, whatever arrangement you want to envision, you

keep the country, but it's like Bosnia, it's three or four large by self- governing entities.

And you can build into the peace deal that ten years down the road there will be a new constitutional convention to reconsider tightening and

centralizing the governance of the country. I don't see how that happens now unless people have decided they can live under President Assad, which I

don't believe they will.

GORANI: Well, of course, you have millions of displaced, millions more have fled the country as refugees. I would not blame many of them for

being too afraid to return to government-controlled areas. So you have a big issue there as well.

O'HANLON: Yes. And one last piece of this, I think, this is an idea that the Chinese will understand well. We may almost need to help some of these

former refugees or returning refugees build new places to live, build new cities in a couple of cases.

Because I think Assad will insist on hanging on to Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Latiquia (ph) out by the coast, and so there is only Idlib and

maybe one or two other mid-sized cities where the insurgents or the opposition have any real kind of control and then a few of the Kurdish

towns along the north.

So that will not be enough infrastructure to absorb millions of returning refugees. I think we might have to help them literally build cities out of


The reconstruction task here is going to be more like what happened after World War II in Europe that anything we're used today from Iraq or

Afghanistan because as you know, neighborhoods have been just entirely levelled in this terrible conflict.

GORANI: Absolutely. Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings, thank you very much. It's a real pleasure having you on. We appreciate it.

O'HANLON: Thank you kindly.

GORANI: Still to come this hour, a dire warning by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is met with a stinging rebuke. Israel has harsh words for

Kerry's major speech on Middle East peace. So what is the road ahead? Stay with us.


[15:32:09] GORANI: Breaking news we're following this hour. U.S. President Barack Obama is taking unprecedented steps to punish Moscow for a

campaign of cyberattacks. A short time ago, he issued an executive order sanctioning six Russian individuals and five Russian entities. He's also

ordering dozens of Russian nationals to leave the United States. He's giving them three days to do it.

We'll have more details in a live report from Moscow later in the hour coming from the Kremlin.

Also breaking this hour, Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Syrian government and opposition rebels have agreed to lay down their arms and

enter peace talks. Turkey and Russia will try to make sure they stick to the agreement. They're the guarantors. It has been announced the

nationwide ceasefire is set to begin in about 90 minutes. We'll keep our eye on the clock for that.

Also among the top stories we're following, a Tunisian man arrested in connection with an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin has been

released. Twelve people, you'll remember, died in that attack, but German prosecutors said more could have died if the truck that had been driven

into the crowd had not been fitted with an automatic breaking device.

Also, the U.S. is aware of recent movements by ISIS leader Abu Bakar al- Baghdadi according to a U.S. official who didn't offer any more details including where he might be. There hasn't been any signs of him for

months. No public signs, we haven't seen any videos or anything like that. Unverified social media reports claim Baghdadi might have been injured or

killed, but several U.S. officials have said they are not accurate. This is old video from 2014 in Mosul.

Peace in the Middle East appears more remote than ever despite a last ditch effort by the Obama administration. A day after the American Secretary of

State John Kerry made an impassioned plea to salvage the two-state solution, both Israelis and Palestinians are speaking to CNN about what

that would take.

Palestinians say they'll negotiate immediately if Israel adopts a settlement freeze. They accuse Israel of taking land they want for a state

before borders are resolved through negotiations. An Israeli spokesman says settlements are not the problem and that John Kerry missed the point.



that it didn't really deal with the core issue of why this conflict continues to rage. And that has precisely nothing to do with the presence

of Jews in the West Bank and everything to do with the Palestinian leadership's continued refusal to recognize a Jewish state.

Israel's Prime Minister has called on President Abbas to meet literally hundreds of times for direct peace talks. He even invited him to speak in

the Kenizzite. And, unfortunately, President Abbas has said no to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, no to direct negotiations.


GORANI: A Palestinian lawmaker says Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist back in 1993. She says Israel has since changed its demands and

insisting on recognition as a Jewish state, but 25 percent of Israel's population is non-Jewish.


[15:35:07] HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR: We cannot accept a religion for an estate. We cannot talk about Jewish states or Islamic

states or Christian states, otherwise you will end up having to deal with the Islamic State.

We personally believe that there is no license to discriminate against any group, any ethnicity, any religion, or to give them any additional value

because of their ethnicity and religion. So if you want equality and if you want a state to be an equal among other states, then you'll recognize

the democratic state and that should be enough.


GORANI: Now, the U.S. has long positioned itself has an impartial broker in Mid-East peace negotiations, but the next U.S. President is making clear

he thinks Israel is getting short shrift. Oren Liebermann reports Israel is now watching the clock, counting the days until Donald Trump takes



OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new political day dawns on the Middle East on January 20th.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very, very strong on Israel. I think Israel has been treated very, very unfairly by a lot of

different people.

LIEBERMANN: President-elect Donald Trump says he can do what no president has done in half a century, solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling

it the ultimate deal and suggesting his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may be a part of the plan. Trump tweeting the recent U.N. resolution on

Israeli settlement was a big loss for Israel and will make it harder to negotiate peace but saying he'll get it done anyway.

The President-elect has promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the Holy City as the capital of Israel, the move

welcomed by Israel, condemned by the Palestinians as the death of a two- state solution. The unprecedented intervention from the President-elect coming as relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President

Barack Obama are as bad as ever.

The Obama administration led talks between Israelis and Palestinians in 2010 and again in 2013. The last round of negotiations led by Secretary of

State John Kerry broke down with both sides blaming each other. Two months later, Israel and Gaza were at war. Tensions have only worsened since then

as the region descended into another round of violence late last year.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last shook hands in September at the funeral for Israeli President Shimon Peres who

shared a Nobel Prize for forging a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. It was the closest Abbas and Netanyahu had come to talking

publicly in years. In time, we'll find out if President-elect Trump can change that.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.


GORANI: More now on one of our breaking stories, the sanctions the U.S. has slapped on Russian individuals and organizations over hacking. Let's

bring back our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance. He has more details from a Kremlin conference call.

What can you tell us?

CHANCE: Yes, that's right. Within the past few minutes, that conference call just ended, and it was the first indication we've got from Russian

officials about what their response is going to be to these sanctions against the six individuals and five organizations that have been

sanctioned over hacking and, of course, their response to the 35 Russian diplomats who've been expelled from the United States and who have 72

hours, apparently, to leave the country.

First of all, the spokesperson for Vladimir Putin -- Dmitry Peskov is his name -- denied all of the allegations, the hacking allegations, the

allegations that U.S. diplomats in Russia have been mistreated. He said they were groundless. He said the sanctions and the measures that have

been imposed by the United States against the diplomats and against the individuals that have been named and shown are illegal under international

law. But he went on to say this, "We don't know yet what will be the exact response, but there is no alternative to reciprocal measures."

So the Kremlin there giving its firmest indication yet that, in response to the 35 diplomats in particular that have been expelled from the United

States, there will be similar measures announced by Russia in the days ahead. Mr. Peskov said it is up to Vladimir Putin, the Russian President,

now to make the final decision, and he is in no rush to make that decision.

And so that's the word we've had, the latest word from the Kremlin to say, as that conference call came to an end just a few minutes ago. And we're

expecting some further clarity on what exact concrete measures are going to be announced in the hours or perhaps in the days ahead, Hala.

GORANI: And presumably, the Kremlin is looking forward to the end of the Obama presidency and a Donald Trump presidency with the expectation he

might be a lot friendlier?

CHANCE: I think it's probably fair to say that, yes. I mean, Donald Trump, even today, made some very kind of sympathetic remarks about Russia,

said he didn't believe that the Russians were necessarily involved in the hacking scandal. That's out of step with what many of his Republican Party

members have been saying, his colleagues in the Republican Party. But it's totally in lock step with what the Kremlin had been saying all along.

They've also categorically denied any involvements.

[15:40:08] And, of course, he's made sympathetic remarks about sanctions as well. And his pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has gone on the

record, saying he doesn't believe sanctions are an effective tool of foreign policy for the United States. And so, yes, I think there is an

expectation in Russia and a hope, if they just hang on a bit longer, that this whole crisis, this whole sanctionous regime will be somewhat diluted

under Donald Trump.

GORANI: So is it possible, perhaps, just to wait it out another few weeks and not reciprocate? Although I believe the exact quote the Kremlin

provided was, "no alternative to reciprocal measures," but if those measures are reversed by a President Donald Trump, say, in January, I mean,

is there the possibility out there that they might just choose to do nothing for now?

CHANCE: Well, it's difficult to say, isn't it? But, I mean, those diplomats have just 72 hours to leave the United States, and so they're

already going to be out. And I think it's going to be pretty hard for the Kremlin to wait for another three weeks and just do nothing. So I expect

we will see some kind of concrete measures announced by the Kremlin in the days ahead.

And then I think the hope will be is that when it comes to broader issue of sanctions and the economic impact they're having and the general sort of

divisions between the United States and Russia that have opened up over the past couple of years, then that can be really worked on and papered over

under the new Trump administration working closely with the Kremlin if that is indeed what happens.

GORANI: All right. Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks very much, following our breaking news story, the U.S. announcing new sanctions against Russia

over hacking. We will continue to follow this, and we just got this Kremlin response that Matthew was talking about, "no alternative to

reciprocal measures." We'll see what those measures are, but just to recap, the U.S. has said that it is targeting specific individuals, a few

Russian entities inside of the United States, and asking 35 diplomats to pack up their bags and leave within 72 hours.

After that deadly attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, refugees in Germany are increasingly concerned, they say, that they will face the

consequences of terror attacks in Europe, worry that they'll be deported amidst calls to send them home. They're using whatever means they can to

stay in the country as Chris Burns reports.


CHRIS BURNS, CNN JOURNALIST (voice-over): At an evening church service in Berlin, 15 more refugees are baptized as Christians. The flock includes

mainly Afghans and Iranians, many seeking asylum. Fighting to stay in Germany to stay alive, most of them fearful to show their faces on camera

and risk reprisal back home.

DR. GOTTFRIED MARTENS, PASTOR: Things have changed a lot since this year, and now more and more refugees are not accepted because they do not believe

that they're really converted from Islam to Christian faith. So the German government doesn't believe that.

BURNS: Pastor Gottfried Martens says his work has gotten much tougher after four terror attacks earlier this year. Last week's deadly truck

attack on a Berlin Christmas market by a Tunisian facing deportation is likely to make it even harder. Germany has already stepped up

deportations, 20,000 this year, and there are calls to ratchet up the effort even further.

MARTENS: Of course, the mood in Germany already has begun to change since this summer. So about half a year ago, you could notice that the political

parties got under pressure from the right wing groups and so they tried to accommodate to them.

BURNS: The far right Alternative for Deutschland, with an eye to elections next year, was quick to react to the truck attack. They call the victims

Chancellor Merkel's dead.

That's got Hamed Ahmadi worried. He lives at Pastor Martens' refugee shelter after Norway rejected his asylum application even though he had

converted to Christianity. He fled there eight years ago from Afghanistan where, he says, his uncle had sold him to the Taliban to be a suicide

bomber. He says terrorism by a few shouldn't jeopardize his bid for asylum.

HAMED AHMADI, AFGHAN ASYLUM-SEEKER (through translator): It's not right because of the bad things that some people do, bad things and everyone else

is painted with the same brush, that everybody else is bad and has to leave the country and be deported.

BURNS: Aref Mowasagh shows pictures of how he was arrested and beaten in Iran for proselytizing. He fled to Europe eight years ago on foot, by

boat, hiding underneath trains. He says deportation would mean death for him.

AREF MOWASAGH, IRANIAN ASYLUM-SEEKER (through translator): Even though it's a death sentence, God has taken away the fear. I would just continue

my testimony that God has called me to do.

BURNS: This immigration lawyer says the political climate points to more deportations. The E.U. and Afghanistan agreed on October to repatriate an

unlimited number of failed asylum seekers alongside promises of more aid.

[15:45:10] STEVE-MARC JEFFERYS, IMMIGRATION LAWYER: If we have high numbers of asylum seekers and there's an outspoken political need to reduce

the numbers, then it is clear the courts will react. They will be more harsh. They will reject more asylum seekers than before.

BURNS: But is conversion to Christianity not just a desperate attempt to avoid deportation?

AHMADI (through translator): I would say that is not true. Ever since I left Afghanistan, I have been looking for the truth and I have found the

truth. And I know that Jesus is with me and I have this peace in my heart.

BURNS: Having peace in one's heart can be difficult after the horror here, German President Joachim Gauck admits that, but the former pastor who led

the pro-democracy movement that peacefully toppled communist East Germany says, quote, "to transform the anger and rage from this attack into forces

that resist the hatred, violence, and contempt of others."

How that can impact Germany's asylum policy remains to be seen. So far, the political tough talk points to a harder time for refugees as leaders

look ahead to next year's elections.

Chris Burns, CNN, Berlin.


GORANI: We'll have a lot more in our top stories after this. Stay with us.


GORANI: Human trafficking is very much a global crisis especially in economically developing parts of the world such as the border between

Panama and Costa Rica, but there is some home. Migration officials there are now teaching students how to identify risky situations. Here is Shasta



SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an overcast day in northern Panama, ominous weather setting the stage inside one of the

classrooms at a progressive school just a few hundred meters from the Costa Rican border.

The subject matter today, the connection between migration and human trafficking. Officials say border communities like this one are especially

vulnerable because migrants regularly pass through on their journey north to the United States. In the past, this school has been used as a shelter

for migrants. Some of these students' families have even sheltered migrants in their homes.

Being the supervisor of this school district, yes, I'm sure you've heard some of the stories. What have you heard?

[15:50:02] FLOR BONILLA, PANAMA REGIONAL SCHOOL DIRECTOR: We have heard from students in the education center who live side by side with migrants.

With regards to people being trafficked, we have heard horror stories.

DARLINGTON: Eighteen-year-old Yuliana Santos has heard the stories, too. Her family welcomed four Cuban migrants into her home about a year ago

while they waited for immigration papers. Yuliana says they told her about a woman who went missing after paying someone to smuggle her across the


YULIANA SANTOS, STUDENT (through translator): She left alone, even though they told her to wait, so she could get to the United States faster. When

my friends got to the United States, they went to the place where their friend said she would be staying, and she had never arrived.

DARLINGTON: Officials with the International Organization for Migration or IOM say that story is typical. Traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of

migrants, offering passage across the border.


completely different, and so they end up in a place where they have to work and they've got no way to get away from it.

DARLINGTON: That's why IOM is running these schoolwork shops. The goal is to teach students how to identify risky situations, how to care for victims

of trafficking, and how to protect potential victims from falling prey.

ALEXANDRA BONNIE, PROJECT MANAGER, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: If someone of the school is having situations that can be

associated with human trafficking or if there is some trouble, these students can be able to speak with this friend, knowing to help him.

DARLINGTON: And IOM is arming the students with tools they can use in their everyday lives, like social media.

SANTOS (through translator): My friends and I agreed to begin using hashtags about human trafficking, so it'll reach more people and our

friends in social media. We are going to promote it so it spreads wider.

DARLINGTON: At another school just across the border in Costa Rica, IOM is teaching the same subject matter, but using softer language because these

kids are much younger. And the message is not just being delivered in schools. In a parade called "The March Against Human Trafficking," IOM

brings together hundreds of people from both sides of the border.

Talking to the kids here, most of them tell me they've never even heard of human trafficking. They live on the border so they knew about migration,

but they didn't know that it could end in slavery.

IOM hopes to change that through programs like this in border towns throughout Central America and by encouraging neighboring countries to work


Shasta Darlington, CNN, on the Costa Rican-Panamanian border.


GORANI: Don't forget to check out our Facebook page, A lot more after a break. Stay with us.


GORANI: Let's bring you up to date with one of our top stories. A ceasefire set to go into in effect in Syria in just over an hour. The war

has gone on for nearly six years, cost an estimated 400,000 lives, and caused millions to flee. Talks aimed at thrashing out a more permanent

solution are expected to begin in the New Year in Kazakhstan with Russia, Syria, Iran, and Turkey set to attend. Earlier, Turkey's President Recep

Tayyip Erdogan spoke about the agreement and he urged all sides not to waste the opportunity.


[15:55:14] RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): We have an opportunity to top the bloodshed in Syria with a political

solution. We must not squander this chance. This is a historic chance. This window of opportunity should not be wasted.


GORANI: A final thought this evening on Syria. In March 2011 when the Arab Spring protest spread to Syria, few anticipated what would come, years

of the most shocking and brutal violence, millions of displacements, and the dissemination of the country's civilian population. Today, we are

hearing that Russia, Turkey, and Iran have hammered out a ceasefire deal. There is potential in it because they are on opposing sides of the conflict

and have clearly come to the conclusion that it is in their best interest for this deal to stick at this point in time.

But it is important to note that this is not the end of the war. There will still be military action against ISIS and possibly rebels associated

with al Qaeda like the recently rebranded al-Nusra Front. And crucially, the U.S. has played no role in this deal at all. Some argue that the

winners are therefore Russia, Iran, and a Syrian regime, a government that has survived for years when its demise seemed almost inevitable in the

first few months of the uprising.

But regardless of what side they are on, it is the Syrian people as a whole who have lost in what was ultimately a tragically unnecessary bloodbath.

The millions who've lost their homes, who's migrated abroad or are stuck in desperate refugee camps, for those tormented by the government or terrorist

groups, for them, this deal will probably mean very little as they try to rebuild shattered lives.

So for all of the amazing Syrian people who suffered so much, let's hope that against all odds, this agreement manages to end at least some of the

suffering the country has endured for so long. This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. I'm Hala Gorani. Thanks for watching. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS"

is next.