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UK Parliament Set to Debate Trump State Visit; Iraqi Troops Prepare For Fight to Retake Western Mosul; Violations of Cease-Fire Agreement Down in Ukraine. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 20, 2017 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:18] ZAIN ASHER, HOST: Mending fences. The U.S. Vice President is in Europe reassuring allies and strengthening relationships.

Next, a live report on his efforts from Brussels. But all the while, another American partner in Europe has a lot of questions.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES; you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden.


ASHER: Alluding to an incident, now the American president is trying to clarify what exactly he meant by those words.

But even Sweden is confused. We'll have the latest on this story coming up.

And up for debate, British lawmakers are set to take up President Trump's official state visit. We'll hear from a protest organizer.

All right, warm welcome to you at home.

I want to begin in Brussels where U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's comments have been met with open skepticism from European leaders. Pence is there

once again to reassure European allies and NATO as well that the U.S. will stand by its allies. And also, just as important, stand up to Russia even

as it pursues closer ties with Moscow.

But European Council President Donald Trusk said months of surprising opinions from u.S. President Donald Trump had left Europe's relations with

the U.S. in uncertain territory. Right now, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. They're expected

to make a joint statement any moment now. We're going to bring it to you live as soon as that joint statement happens.

I want to go straight now to Brussels for our Erin McLaughlin who has been covering this story.

So, Erin, you know, Mike Pence is about to speak. And he's going to have a joint statement with the NATO security-general council president.

Can we assure NATO allies that the U.S. does have their back?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Zain, well, it's not just reassuring NATO allies, he's reassuring the European Union, something seen

as very important during his meetings in Brussels today. He talked about how the U.S. president sent him to Brussels specifically to

reiterate the United States's strong commitment to the European Union, words that are very much welcome at this time.

He made this statement in sort of a joint press statement with the president of the European

Council, Donald Tusk. Take a look at what President Tusk had to say earlier today.


DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT EUROPEAN COUNCIL: So many UN sometimes, depriving opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations and our common

security. For us to pretend that everything is as it used to be.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now, President Tusk pointed to three things both he and the U.S. Vice President agreed upon, including international order, security

and perhaps most importantly, the new administration's attitude toward the EU.

This, though, seemed to be contradicted by things that the U.S. president said over the weekend at a rally in Florida. Donald Trump pointing to

Brexit, seemingly praising Brexit, saying that it was part of the same movement that saw him elected. And it's that kind of rhetoric that really

raises eyebrows here in Brussels. They see it as sort of promoting the fragmentation of the European Union.

I ask EU officials here in Brussels today apparent contradiction. And I was told that theyare sticking to what the vice president, the U.S. vice

president, had to say in Brussels.

At the same time, though, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, saying that it's time for both the Europeans and Americans to, quote,

practice what they preach - Zain.

ASHER: And, Erin, brings me to my next point, you know, in terms of Vice President Mike Pence's words, some might say, listen, it's easy to get on a

podium and say things that you know the audience wants to hear. But when will the EU actually know for sure that Mike Pence mean what is he says.

When will we see action?

MCLAUGHLIN: I think that is obviously what EU leaders are questioning, and in various

conversations that I have been having here in Brussels, they see the visit from the U.S. vice

president to Brussels so early on in the administration as reassuring, they see it as an important symbol.

But at the same time, much more needs to be done to reintroduce certainty and predictability

into this relationship, given the kinds of things that they have been hearing from the Trump administration so far.

ASHER; All right, Erin McLaughlin live for us there. We are awaiting this press conference with Vice President Mike Pence and NATO security-general.

We will, of course, bring it to our audience as soon as it starts.

You see the podium ready there.

Those men set to walk in any moment now. Once again, we will bring that press conference to you, that joint statement as soon as it happens.

In the meantime, right now street by street, house by house, Iraq is trying to retake all of its second largest city from ISIS. Mosul is torn in half,

pretty much torn in two at this hour. The terror group still dominates its entire densely populated western side. That's what Iraqi forces are trying

to get back, they're trying to get back the western side, just like they have done for the city's east, the city's east that's in green on this map


Now Washington has given Iraq a massive amount of support in its fight against ISIS. So, on one of his first trips out of Washington as defense

chief, James Mattis landed in Baghdad just hours ago to get a sense of how things are going.

I want to bring in our Wed Wedeman, who has been following this story very closely from the border in Turkey.

So, Ben, we often hear people talk about this idea that western Mosul is going to be a

lot more difficult to take back than eastern Mosul. Just explain why that is. Is it because of the

narrow streets? Is it because it's more densely populated than eastern Mosul. Why is that?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONALCORRESPONDENT: It's a combination of the above. The dense streets in the old city. I mean, the narrow allies are

very hard for, for instance, Iraqi tanks and armored personnel carriers to go into.

ISIS has had plenty of time. We're talking about two-and-a-half years they've been in control of Mosul and they have been preparing for this

offensive. And watching, seeing how the Iraqi army dealt in the eastern side. So they're probably very well prepared.

And one thing we've been seeing more frequently recently is their use of armed drones.

Now, they don't carry a very large explosive round, but it's enough to disrupt Iraqi forces as they're moving forward.

And of course similar to the east there's the problem of this massive civilian population. According to the UN, as many as 800,000 caught in the


And what we saw, I saw in the east, for instance, we would go into neighborhoods with the Iraqi army. Civilians were still there. They, in

fact, were told to stay in their homes if they could to avoid a flood of people leaving this city. And just blocks away, there was fighting between

Iraqi forces and ISIS.

So, it's everything put together, but drastically complicated by the presence of so many civilians - Zain.

ASHER: Yeah, 750,000 civilians.

So, Ben, this all comes as U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is in Baghdad on an unannounced visit. What sort of support is this offensive

getting from the coalition?

WEDEMAN: Significant support. There are 5,000 plus U.S. military personnel in the country. There are, for instance, American and French

artillery batteries that are providing support for the Iraqi forces. The U.S.-led coalition, which involves many countries both from the Middle East

and Europe as well as the United States are involved. Their aircraft are involved in hitting ISIS targets. So definitely a very important role, and

of course, Secretary Mattis came here to reassure and that's what Erin was talking about just a moment ago, reassure the allies, reassure the Iraqis

of American support in their fight against ISIS.

And one important part of that support is to essentially contradict what President Trump said a variety of times during the campaign and after his

inauguration, that the United States should have and maybe in the future will, seize Iraq's oil.

Secretary Mattis, before arriving in Baghdad, speaking to reporters, stressed that the United States has no designs on Iraqi oil.


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY : All of us here in this room, all of us in America generally paid for our gas and oil all along. And I'm sure

that we will continue to do so in the future. We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil.


WEDEMAN: And of course this is the second time in about 24 hours that the secretary has

contradicted the president. Yesterday, he also told reporters that we, the press, are not enemies of the people - Zain.

[10:10:12] ASHER: All right, Ben Wedeman live for us there on the Turkish border. Thank you so much. Appreciate that.

All right, time to bring you some other stories on our radar that we are following right now.

In Syria, four members of Russia's military were killed and two others wounded when their vehicle was blown up by a remotely detonated bomb,

that's according to Russian media quoting the country's defense ministry who say their car was driving to the city of Homs.

22 people were found illegally crossing from the U.S. into Canada over the weekend. Officail say that most of the migrants were from Africa. Nearly

100 people have crossed the border at the same spot over the past two months with many saying their fear for their safety following Donald

Trump's travel ban.

South Sudan has declared famine in parts of the country. The government says almost

hoof of the population, 5.5 million people, will be going hungry by the end this summer. The government blames it on three years of war, soaring

inflation and other factors as well.

All right, I want to turn now to a story that we've been following all weekend, the fallout from the U.S. president's comments about Sweden that

left people around the world pretty much scratching their heads.

Donald Trump said that Sweden is having big problems with immigrants. And he sort of suggested or intimated that there was a terror incident there on

Friday night.

Now, Mr. Trump did later say that his comments were based on a TV news report that he had watched the night before. The president now doubling

down this morning, tweeted, let me read it to you - he tweeted this just moments ago, saying, give the public a break. The fake news media is

trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully, not, exclamation mark.

Athena Jones reminds us of how this all started.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Donald Trump doing damage control after seemingly suggesting a terror incident occurred in Sweden

during his campaign style rally in Florida.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden,

they took in large numbers, they're having problems like they never thought possible.

JONES: The comments sparking confusion worldwide. The president later explaining it was something he saw on TV, tweeting "My statement as to

what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on FOX News concerning immigrants and Sweden." That FOX News report, an

interview with a conservative filmmaker who accused the Swedish government of covering up violent crimes committed by refugees, aired the night before

the president's rally.

AMI HOROWITZ, FILMMAKER: There was an absolute surge in both gun violence and rape in Sweden once it began its open door policy.

JONES: Swedish officials outraged, the Swedish embassy tweeting, "We look forward to informing the U.S. administration about Swedish immigration and

integration policies." The White House telling reporters the president was talking about rising crime in general and not referring to a specific

incident. Meanwhile Vice President Mike Pence trying to reassure European allies of the U.S.'s support for NATO. This as the Senate Intelligence

Committee tells the Trump administration to preserve...


ASHER: All right, we have to interrupt that report to take you to Brussels now where U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is speaking, issuing a joint

statement with NATO secretary-general. Let's listen in.


JONES: All right, you have just been watching a live press conference between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and NATO Secretary-General Jens


Both men pretty much stayed on message. Mike Pence reiterated that same message we've been hearing from him all weekend, that the bond between the

United States and its NATO allies is certainly strong, partly because, or mainly because, of the security of threats that are in the region, but both

men did also say that the NATO members must now continue to pull their weight and step up defense spending, that they can't sort of continue to

overly rely on the United States for security, that all NATO members must be pulling their weight.

I want to bring in our Erin McLaughlin, who has been covering this story. She joins us live now from Brussels.

So, Erin, just in terms of the general consensus, has the Vice President, has Mike Pence done a good job of reassuring, you know, NATO members, EU

allies, that listen, despite what President Trump might tweet now and again, the U.S. does have the back of its allies?

MCLAUGHLIN: I think for the most part, EU leaders as well as leaders at NATO are satisfied with the message that the U.S. vice president brought

here to Brussels. He reiterated the United States commitment to the EU and will he also reiterated there in that press conference United States

commitment to NATO, something that had been in question, given a previous statements from the U.S. President Trump in referencing, especially on the

campaign trail, NATO as being obsolete. That has been walked back not only by the U.S. vice president on this visit, but also by U.S. Secretary Mattis

as well.

However, that is caveated. Secretary Mattis on his visit saying that the United States could, quote, moderate its support for the alliance if the

allies do not spend more in the areas of defense.

And in that press conference you just heart there, the U.S. vice president was asked what the or

else was as part of that statement and he really couldn't give an answer other than to say that this needs to be done.

Secretary Mattis for his part had pointed to this shifting political sands that the American people do not want to continue to provide defense, so to

speak, for NATO, and not have the allies also increase their spending, meeting that 2 percent threshold of GDP spent that was an agreement back in


So what we're hearing from the U.S. vice president is the same on that front that we heard from the defense secretary when he visited NATO last


[10:45:56] ASHER: All right, Erin McLaughlin live for us there. Thank you so much. Appreciate that.

I want to turn now to the United Kingdom where protesters are gathering outside parliament

where next hour British lawmakers are going to be debating whether to withdraw an invitation to U.S. President Donald Trump for a state visit.

The trip is planned for later on this year. A petition to downgrade it from an official state visit has actually amassed more than 1.8 million

signatures. It's also another petition supporting Donald Trump. That's also going to be discussed, but that petition got a lot fewer signatures.

Also today, Britain's House of Lords is debating Brexit and Article 50, that's the mechanism, which kickstarts the official strategy on Britain

formally leaving the European Union.

I want to go straight now live to our Max Foster who is joining us from London.

So, Max, I want to start with this Brexit bill, because it's going to be debated - or it is being debated in the House of Lords. What sort of

changes, what sort of amendments are we hearing from peers in terms of what changes they would make to the Brexit bill.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are various concerns about it. And the government doesn't have a majority in the House

of Lords like it does in the Commons. So, for example, the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK, that's one amendment that many peers would

like to see in that bill.

The question is, are they really going to at lots of amendments, which went through the lower house, the House of Commons, which effectively would mean

bouncing it back to the House of Commons, and potentially holding up this whole process in starting off the Brexit process. And there's some doubt

that the House of Lords really wants to responsible for delaying Brexit because that would cause all sorts of tensions between the two houses.

So, we'll wait to see there is a debate, but it's unlikely - it's certainly unlikely it appears will block the Brexit process. They could possibly add

some amendments, but even that seems unlikely at this point.

We'll get a sense of that. Prime Minister going into the laws, actually Zain, to listen in on that debate. So all eyes on the House of Lords at

the moment.

ASHER: There's also another debate that everybody is talking about, and that is this debate about Donald Trump being allowed an official state

visit to the United Kingdom, and that is actually causing protests there in the UK.

FOSTER: There are some protests here. And I happen to be with one of the protest organizers who is Zoe Gardner.

The debate here is completely academic, isn't it? Because the prime minister said this state visit is going to carrying on no matter what. So,

what's the point in having a debate, what's the point in protesting against Donald Trump?

ZOE GARDNER, CO-ORGANIZER, STOP TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I think it's important that we speak up and say that when Theresa May supports Donald Trump. She doesn't speak for all

of us.

We're standing in solidarity with Muslim Americans, with American woman who are standing up against Trump's policies. And we're also holding up a

mirror to our own society and our own UK brand of Trumpism where we are preventing refugee children from reaching safety in the UK and building a

wall in Calais. You know, we are actually doing many of the same things that Trump is doing. And we are standing up against all of that.

FOSTER: One suggestions to me from one of the political correspondents was that this debate is only going to make Theresa May dig her heels in more.

So effectively, what it does is make a state visit for Donald Trump more likely.

GARDNER: Well, I think it can't really make it more likely when the invitations are already being given. And I think it's very interesting to

see how Theresa May, you know, always touts the will of the people when she's talking about taking power in Brexit negotiation situation, but when

the will of the people are very clearly opposed to to a state visit. She doesn't seem so interested in listening to us.

So, I think it shows up the prime minister for the rather authoritarian and opportunistic actor that she is.

FOSTER: But she's not saying that she supports Donald Trump as a person, she's saying, you know, this is the president of the U.S. They voted him

in. I don't have a right to decide whether or not he personally can come over for a visit.

GARDNER: Well, she does have the right to decide whether we have a state visit. Not every prime minister around the world, or president around the

world, gets that honor. And other countries in Europe, you know, there's no question that Germany and the U.S. won't work together on various issues

of international cooperation, but the leader in Germany has stood up and made it really clear that she rejects Trump's Muslim ban, that she rejects

the divisive, hateful, racist politics that he supports.

FOSTER: That travel ban came in after the invitation. So she was sort of caught up by that, probably as well.

[10:50:15] GARDNER: Yes, but it's not - it's totally in line with what he said he would do. You know, he said that he would do that during the

campaign. We know exactly what kind of politics Trump's foot puts forward, even without that ban it still would been entirely inappropriate for her to

give him this invitation.

But she's put our country into a position where we have to suck up to the horrible regimes. We've had to do it across the Middle East as well,

because we're cutting off ties with our own...

FOSTER: ...he was voted in by the U.S. He is a legitimate leader.

GARDNER: Absolutely, he is. But he didn't win the popular vote. And there's a lot of people across the world who want to stand up against


FOSTER: Elections work in the U.S.

GARDNER: Absolutely. That's fine. We're not pretending that we can change the result of the

U.S. administration. What we can do is stand in solidarity with the people that he is attacking in his

own country and stand up for a different brand of politics here in the UK.

FOSTER: So, thank you very much indeed.

That demonstration happening in a couple of hours and the debate will be going on into the evening as well, Zoe. So, there's lots to talk about,

although nothing substantive really expected to come out of it.

ASHER: All right, he still will be coming to the UK on an official visit.

Max Foster, live for us there. Thank you so much. We appreciate that.

And we'll be right back with more news after this quick break. Don't go away.


ASHER: Welcome back to the show. You are watching Connect the World live with me, Zain Asher, coming to you from New York.

I want to turn now to a conflict on Europe's fringes that is the center of attention this Monday. I'm talking about a cease fire between Ukrainian

forces and Russian-backed separatists in two eastern regions, that began at midnight local time.

International monitors say that there has been a drop in violent clashes, but Ukraine says

the new truce is actually already being undermined by Russia.

Joining me live now is Matthew Chance who is coming to us from Moscow.

So, Matthew, before I get to Russia's actions, just explain to us how this cease fire, how this truce, is holding up so far. I understand that

obviously the violence has been diminished, but the situation does remain tense.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATOINAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have spoken to the international monitors on the ground in eastern Ukraine over the past few minutes, actually, before we came on air. And they've indicated

that the ceasefire is holding up pretty well in the sense (inaudible) dramatic reduction, they say, in the number of violations they've recorded

since midnight, since this cease fire between the two sides came into force.

Latest figures, if you're interesting in them, is that there have been 140 cease fire violations in the Donetsk area, which is where the majority of

the fighting has been taking place since the end of January. That sounds like a lot, but it's actually far fewer than there are normally in that

area, and certainly far fewer than there have been over the past of weeks since the end of January.

The big problem is that there are still heavy weapons in the area. Now under the Minsk accords, which was supposedly agreed by the various sides

to scale down the violence, heavy weaponry like artillery and tanks were supposed to be withdrawn from these conflict points, from this front line

area, but they're still in place and it seems that both sides have been using them over the

course of the past several weeks to fire on each other's positions resulting in about 30 civilian deaths.

And so this cease fire is holding at the moment, which is a huge relief, of course, for the civilians that are trapped in the crossfire on the ground

in that region of eastern Ukraine.

[10:55:13] ASHER: But Matthew, the Ukrainians believe this cease fire is already being undermined by Russia and that's because of Russia's decision

to recognize separatist passports. Just explain the implications of that.

CHANCE: That's right. I mean, the Russians - the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, issued a presidential decree yesterday recognizing the use

of documents that are issued by the two rebel regions in eastenr Ukraine - driving licenses, birth certificates and passports and things like that.

Russia says it did that for humanitarian reasons, to allow these people that are essentially trapped in this war zone, not able for their own

security to travel out through Ukraine, to do business in Ukraine, to do that through Russia.

In fact, they've alreadybeen doing it for some time, but this was an official recognition of


It's been criticized by the Ukrainian President Poroshenko saying that this is evidence of Russian occupation and violation of international law.

It's also been condemned by the German foreign ministry, saying this is a clear violation of the spirit and objective of Minsk, that peace agreement

agreed by the various factions. And the United States has also criticized that move by the Russian government calling it alarming and something that

contradicts the goals of the Minsk agreement. That statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Ukraine.

And so there's been broad condemnation of this move. But again the Russians are saying this is not permanent. It's something that will be

lifted once there's a proper peace deal in the region. And it's just a temporary humanitarian measure.

ASHER: All right. Matthew Chance live for us there in Moscow. Thank you so much.

And the Connect the World team is always looking for many more stories than can actually

fit in the show. To check out other things that we are following just go straight to our Facebook page, that's

And you canalso get in touch with me directly on Twitter. Tweet me @ZainAsher. There's my Twitter page, rather. I always try and respond to

your tweets.

I am Zain Asher and that was Connect the World. Thank you so much for watching. Have a great night.