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U.S. Warships Headed to Black Sea; Bipartisan Resolution Introduced Calling MBS Complicit; U.K. Parliament Driving Brexit Talks; People Power Defeats Tax Hikes; Last Glance to a Great Leader. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired December 6, 2018 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] WILL RIPLEY, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to our viewers from all around the world. I'm Will Ripley, live from Hong Kong. And this is CNN Newsroom.

Lots of news to get to this hour. And we begin with Ukraine. the United States is sending a message to Russia about its recent actions against Ukraine.

Officials telling CNN that the U.S. military is asking the State Department to notify Turkey that it plans to send a navy warship in to the Black Sea near Crimea that connects to the Kerch Strait.

Last week, Russia seized three Ukrainian ships and two dozen sailors. Since then both countries have increased their military postures.

CNN's senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is live in Moscow. Fred, does this move increase the chances of a military conflict?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it certainly does. I think at the moment, Will, that cooler heads are still prevailing. But you do see that those tensioning -- that those tensions aren't dying down, and they certainly appeared to be ratcheting up.

It's quite interesting if you've been following the situation between Russia and Ukraine, there's really no sign that either side is backing down in that standoff over those three impounded ships that obviously tried to go through the Kerch Strait.

The Russians coming out just yesterday and saying that the Ukrainians were putting together what they call offensive capabilities in that area close to where those ships were impounded.

And the Ukrainians for their part are saying exactly the same thing about the Russians. Saying that the Russians have more military capabilities in that area than they have had at any time since Crimea has been seized.

So, you do see that those tensions certainly are still high. And there is a very real possibility that the Russians would see the U.S. sailing a war ship into the Black Sea. Which as we've noted as we can see on the map here, very close to that Sea of Azov in the Kerch Strait, that that would be seen as a provocation by the Russians.

So, certainly, that is something where the U.S. is showing force is showing that it is squarely on Ukraine's side. And it was quite interesting, because a couple of days ago, there was a meeting of the NATO foreign ministers where the U.S. said it wants to put together an adequate response to what it called the aggression from the Russian side.

Obviously, the U.S. very much blaming the Russians for that incident that took place about a week ago in the Kerch Strait where the Russians seized those three Ukrainian boats. And keep in mind, they still also have 24 Ukrainian sailors in their custody and say they are going to keep them for at least two months. And that's just awaiting trial.

The Russians obviously saying that the Ukrainians illegally sailed into their waters, Will.

RIPLEY: But this is conflict that's been going on for four years. How does this feel different to you?

PLEITGEN: Yes. You know what, you're absolutely right, the conflict has been going on for four years. And certainly, there have been times in that conflict where, if you will, there was a lot more fighting going on, a lot, and larger battles going on as well and some pretty big incidents.

If we think, for instance, of the seizing obviously of Crimea it's one of the big battles that took place with a lot of people being killed, for instance, their shooting down of MH17 as well. It had been going a little bit slower for a while but now certainly there are people who believe that this could escalate into something bigger.

If you look at the rumor mill, for instance, around the Ukrainian side. They believe that the Russians might be planning some sort of invasion to get together a land corridor going from Russian territory all the way to Crimea.

The Russians say that that's nonsense. They blame the Ukrainians for the whole thing. And they certainly are attacking especially the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko whom they accuse of fueling the situation because he's obviously up for an election in the not so distant future and wasn't doing well in the polls.

If you look at Russian media or Russian television, Russian politician right now a lot of them really blasting the Ukrainian side, blasting the Ukrainian president. And obviously the same thing is going on, on the other side as well.

So, it does seem as though, it's quite a dangerous situation right now between these two countries which obviously would put the U.S. in a giant dilemma as well, if in fact the situation here were to escalate.

So, certainly it does feel to a lot of people, I'd say in Ukraine, maybe to a lesser extent here in Russia. Because Russia does see itself as the stronger side in all of this, and it is quite a dangerous situation that's evolving here, Will.

RIPLEY: Yes. I remember being in Ukraine in 2014, and there was this sense amongst people that Russia was kind of this menacing neighbor. At least that was a view in Kiev. I know other parts of the country feel differently. But this could quickly shift from rhetoric to an actual escalation. We know you'll be watching it there in Moscow. Fred Pleitgen, thank you.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators just introduced a resolution calling Saudi Arabia's crown prince complicit in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Now the resolution says that Mohammed bin Salman should be held responsible not only for Khashoggi's death but also for Yemen's humanitarian crisis, the blockade of Qatar, and the imprisonment of political dissidents.

And it's not just Saudi Arabia being called out here. The senators are also implicitly rebuking President Trump. Because remember, he was casting doubt on the crown prince involving. One top senator from the president's own party says he simply does not agree with Mr. Trump on this issue.

[03:05:01] SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) TENNESSEE: The presentation was very damning. I mean, it's just -- so now, you know, we move ahead, at least in my mind with absolutely no question that he ordered it and monitored it. You know, knew everything that was happening.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you make of the president says he may or may not have done it, referring to the crown prince.

CORKER: Again, I don't know what presentation he is saying. I don't. But I don't know. All I know is, you know, I know they have access to the same intelligence I have taking have Gina come over anytime, I think she does daily briefings with him. And there's no question in my mind that the crown prince ordered this.


RIPLEY: Meanwhile, Turkish authorities are threatening to get the international community involved if Saudi Arabia doesn't start sharing details about its investigation into Khashoggi's murder. Turkish prosecutor just issued arrest warrants for two Saudis close to the crown prince were suspected of helping plan the killing.

So, let's go to CNN's Jomana Karadsheh. She joins us live from Istanbul. Jomana, despite Mr. Trump's rejection of his own CIA's assessment, could this new support from U.S. lawmakers changed for his approach here?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Will, it's very interesting watching how Turkey has handled this crisis back in October when this all started. They were moving in such a way that they were trying to avoid direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia and other regional power.

They have been at odds with on number of different issues here in the region. And the feeling is always been that they've wanted the United States to get involved. They've wanted to support from the United States in confronting Saudi Arabia in this case.

And you know, a couple weeks ago, it did seem that they were not getting not support they wanted, especially after seeing that statement from President trump, his various statements coming out in recent days in recent weeks in support at the Saudis.

But again, at the same time we haven't seen President Erdogan who is not really known for holding back or, you know, not saying what's on his mind. He's been very diplomatic about this whole thing. And the feeling is they have been sitting back to an extent now waiting to see what the next moves are going to be from Congress.

They pretty much put the ball in the U.S.'s court, now in the court U.S. lawmakers. And I think while Turkey continues to put pressure on with these various moves we have seen in recent days, whether it has been this drip feed of leaks of evidence that they have or moves like yesterday by the prosecutor issuing these arrest warrants for two senior Saudi officials really keeping this case in the spotlight.

At the same time, right now, they're waiting to see what U.S. lawmakers are going to do, and depending on that I think we will see what the next Turkey's move is going to be.

RIPLEY: And interesting to see how hard you're going against the Saudis in this case, especially considering Turkey's track record of, you know, jailing journalists. But we'll keep watching very closely. Jomana there in Istanbul, thanks so much.

The British attorney general says the U.K. could be trapped in endless negotiations with the European Union by Theresa May's Brexit deal. How to maintain trade between the E.U. and Northern Ireland would be the sticking point.

Downing Street was forced to publish the warning after M.P.s held the government in contempt for not making the full legal opinion public.


IAN BLACKFORD, WESTMINSTER LEADER, SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY: Is it time that the Prime Minister took responsibility, a responsibility for concealing the facts on her Brexit deal from members in this house and the public. Who should take responsibility?


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: He's absolutely wrong about that. We have not concealed the facts on the Brexit deal from members of this house. What he will see is the legal position that was sent out on Monday in the 34-page document together with the statements made and the answers to questions given by the attorney general on Monday very clearly set out the legal position. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RIPLEY: Lawmakers are debating Theresa May's Brexit plan ahead of next week's vote. And as you can imagine it is a heated debate. All of this has some people questioning whether Theresa May's government can actually survive this.

Let's bring in CNN's Nina Dos Santos live from London. So, how are things looking for the prime minister and this upcoming vote on her Brexit deal?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPPONDENT: Still looking terribly tough, Will, and obviously, you've been used of the publication of that legal advice and its stark reality that it depicts here about Northern Ireland's different custom status, potential different customs status and the rest of the U.K.

[03:09:55] And the fact that if Irish backstop does kick in that could be a protracted period of negotiations that the U.K. could have to enter into extricate itself from that backstop that really is a no-go area for some of the parties, in particular the party that supports Theresa May's government making up the majority, which is the DUP of Northern Ireland.

Now interestingly enough today, the DUP after yesterday calling the publication of this legal advice and the contents of it, quote, "devastating." It seems to be making overtures towards members of Theresa May's party. Saying that they may well support a confidence vote is the government decides to give up on this Brexit deal that they believe that they could just not -- they could not support and could not see passing through parliament.

In the meantime, the whips have been furiously active here in Westminster. We're on day three of that five-day debate running up to the meaningful vote on December 11th. A lot of the whips though, it's very unclear what really they could have to offer some of these rebel Tory M.P.'s to get them back on Theresa May's side.

Now because Theresa May lost her majority in parliament after that ill-fated 2017 general election that she called, she only really needs to love about seven key votes even from her own party for this deal not to pass. And it's looking as though, there's between 80, and potentially a 100 Tory rebels. And that's just within her own party.

Then of course, the labor opposition party doesn't look likely to go for this deal. You heard from the Scottish National Party there saying that the government had been potentially misleading parliament by being so unforthcoming with this legal advice.

And then you got other parties, as I said like the DUP of Northern Ireland really concerned about some of the legal technicalities, especially vis-a-vis this backstop arrangement that's included in this text that's going to be voted on next week. Will?

RIPLEY: I know there's been a lot of chatter but what are the chances of a delay or even overturning the Brexit referendum from 2016? DOS SANTOS: Well, that's something that is gaining more ways. And remember that, obviously, the start of the week, so Theresa May have her worse day in parliament of any British government in 40 years after losing three crucial votes. And as you mentioned in your introduction being held in contempt to parliament and being force into that humiliating U-turn over the publication of this legal advice surrounding the withdrawal agreement.

Based on that, what we're seeing is parliament taking a greater and greater control of the Brexit process which means that it's getting taken away more and more from Theresa May. And remember that, not all of her own party, as I said is behind her on the prescription for this withdrawal agreement that she has ink with Brussels.

So, the big question is, are we going to end up with a new deal Brexit, no Brexit at all as Theresa May has mentioned, or some kind of softer Brexit, and potentially even a second referendum. Well, some of these arguments are getting more and more weight particularly when it comes to the possibility of potentially a second referendum or a softer Brexit.

And also, members of her former cabinet like Sir Michael Fallon, the former defense secretary have started talking very openly now about the necessity for the E.U. to consider pushing that March 29 deadline by which the U.K. should be leaving officially the E.U. that's only 113 days away.

You're starting to hear this argument gained weight that the E.U. probably needs to look back at the calendar and find some wiggle room to change the dates here so that if there is the potential for a second referendum or softening the Brexit deal, or they would need to start getting the wheels and motion for that at the end of this year rather than the start of next year.

In the meantime, I should point out that there is still the possibility according to some Tory M.P.s that Theresa May will be convinced to pull this vote. Obviously, number 10 Downing Street hasn't commented on any of that, is still plowing ahead with her specific Brexit deal. But if say it doesn't pass or she manages to water down the language on the backstop arrangement to modify some M.P.s, then of course we have a big E.U. summit taking place just a few days after this meaningful vote on December 13 and 14th.

So, again, the ball goes back into the E.U.'s courts. So, lots of wrangling as we head up to this meaningful next week. And the picture looking less and less clear. What we do see is that Parliament is taking a greater and greater control over the process, though, Will.

RIPLEY: And so much at stake for the U.K. here. Nina Dos Santos, you're going to be very busy in the coming days. Thanks for joining us, live from London.

Next on CNN Newsroom live from Hong Kong, the power of a protest. France backs down giving in to the demands of demonstrators, but for some, the fights not over. With tears and tribute. The U.S. bids farewell to former President

George H.W. Bush. As we head to break some reflections from this son President George W. Bush.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity, and kind soul will stay with us forever.



RIPLEY: Now to an about-face from the French government, the rise in fuel taxes plan for next year has been scrapped. The decision comes after violent antigovernment demonstrations.

What started out as a protest over rising fuel costs has grown into a bigger movement. People are angry at the cost of living, and also the French president's economic policy.

CNN's Jim Bittermann joins us now from Paris. He's been following all of this. Mr. Macron has essentially surrendered to the protesters on this issue, but will it be enough to pacify them?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the question we're going to see on Saturday answered. Because the fact is that a lot of other demands have been made in amidst of this protest that's going on now for three weeks.

If the president had done this three weeks ago it probably and none of this would have happened probably. But in fact, during these three weeks a lot of people have joined in this yellow vest movement with blockades on the streets and the violent protests that we've seen.

And the government is really under pressure here. The -- all kinds of reports this morning that these big threats for violence this weekend the government seems to be wanting to make sure, at least try to make sure that that doesn't happen. But the protesters are threatening all kinds of things.

We saw last night a debate on our sister station, sister network here BFM in which one of the yellow vests said on the air that the target this weekend would be the presidential palace. And he was asked exactly what would happen when they got to the presidential palace, he said we're going to invade the presidential palace.

And the interviewer said, so you're threatening the republic. I think it's the feeling that the state of France, the government of France is under siege here, and that what's cause this turnabout on the idea of raising gas taxes.

But it probably a little too late in terms of heading for this weekend. The ones that have been talk to the one that people out in that protest lines in the blockade and whatnot that are willing to talk about what their plans are say they are going to continue on with the protest this week. Will?

RIPLEY: And the images of the violence have just been extraordinary, Jim. What does this mean for the political future of Mr. Macron, and perhaps, more importantly, his populist rivals.

[03:20:00] BITTERMANN: Well, in fact, this was (Inaudible) is really a question. According to one public opinion poll this morning the president, if you ask people whether the president should resign. It's now up to 48 percent of the French say that he should resign. Well, that's probably out of the question. Anybody who believes in the rule of law here, but in any case, there is growing pressure on the political front as well.

And one of the things that this turnabout has done is shown that Mr. Macron is not going to stick to his guns as he said from the very beginning of his presidency who said we're going to try of course and we're going to stick with it.

Well, here he is changing the course in midstream. And so that idea that he can't be dissuaded from his actions has just gone out the window over the last 24 hours, Will.

RIPLEY: Do you think they are surprise in the Macron administration about the extent of the anger? I mean, especially considering how popular he was in the early stage of his presidency?

BITTERMANN: I think from the very beginning, they underestimated the strength of the street. And in fact, they misjudged and miscalculated how deeply this gas tax increase was going to be felt. But it's not just the fuel tax, there's so many concerns about cost of living and they tried to come up with some compromises.

They tried to say (Inaudible) on the 15th of December we'll have a giant France-wide debate about how we should be taxing ourselves and what kind of services we should be providing. And that kind of thing but -- again, it's kind of thing that's happening a little bit too late.

One of the things that added fuel to the protesters fire overnight was the OECD announcement that France is now one of the highest taxed, the highest taxed country in the world, 46.2 percent of the GDP here is taxes. So, it's a huge percentage compared to other countries. And so, the protesters seem to be right that they're being overtaxed by their government. Will?

RIPLEY: Nothing gets people more fired up than seeing how much money goes out the window every month when the tax bill comes. Jim Bittermann, we know you'd be following it in Paris. Thanks so much.

BITTERMANN: Absolutely.

RIPLEY: Right now, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush lies in repose at the Houston church where his family worshipped. There's to be a second funeral service in a few hours before he is laid to rest at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

On Wednesday, thousands of mourners gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington paying tribute to America's 41st president.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports on powerful, emotional, and at times, awkward moments.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Washington pay tribute and bid farewell to George H.W. Bush, an American patriot whose presidency helped change the face of the world.


BUSH: When the history books are written they will say that George H.W. Bush was a great president of the United States.


ZELENY: After following in his father's footsteps, George W. Bush now stands as the family patriarch, praising the 41st president for peacefully leaving the world through the Cold War era.


BUSH: A diplomat of amassed skill, a commander-in-chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor.


ZELENY: A living be tableau of history, as leaders from around the world, the Prince of Wales, the king of Jordan, the chancellor of Germany joining 3,000 others at the Washington National Cathedral.


BRIAN MULRONEY, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: When George Bush was president of the United States of America, every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman.


ZELENY: President Trump coming face-to-face for the first time since his inauguration with his four living predecessors. His first official act as the newest member of the president's club.

The awkward protocol of the most exclusive group in the world on full display, shaking hands with Barack Obama, and Michelle, but not the Clintons. Bill Clinton glancing over but neither he, nor Trump extending a hand. Hillary Clinton staring straight ahead.

George W. Bush showing how to rise above it all, shaking hands with all first families, as Trump sat silently listening to accolades for a different brand of politics in a kinder and gentler time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: he was our shield in dangerous hours.


ZELENY: After being excluded from Barbara Bush's funeral in April, George H.W. Bush 41 wanted Trump to know that he, 45, would have a seat at his services, not for a love of Trump but for the love of office.

The elder Bush once called Trump an ash during a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Maureen Dowd. Trump had equally harsh words for most all members of the Bush dynasty.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But what did you said, I heard it myself? Why did you say it?




[03:24:57] ZELENY: Including Jeb Bush who ran against him. But inside the soaring cathedral today those feelings went unsaid as Trump played a rare role, silent and respectful spectator watching an emotional goodbye from one President Bush to another.


G. BUSH: And we're going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity, and kind soul will stay with us forever. So, through our tears, let us know the blessing of knowing and loving you, a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could have. And in our grief, by the smile knowing that dad is hugging Robin, and holding mom's hand again.


ZELENY: A rare day of reprieve in Washington from the vitriol and division as Trump lent the Bush family Air Force One to fly the late president home to Texas. As Trump returned to the White House still under a deepening cloud from the Russia investigation.

More uncertainty here at the White House about the Russia investigation, particularly as it pertains to former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Of course, he is the subject of the latest development from special counsel Robert Mueller who revealed two more investigations.

Now no one knows here at the White House what those may be. Normally this might have elicited some response from President Trump. But for now, at least, silence and respect as President George H.W. Bush is laid to rest finally in Texas on Thursday.

Jeff Zeleny, the White House.

RIPLEY: And you can stay with CNN. We will have full coverage of the final goodbye for this U.S. president who was loved and respected by so many around the world. You can watch that beginning at 3 p.m. in London, 11 p.m. in Hong Kong right here on CNN.

The chief financial officer of Chinese tech company Huawei is under arrest in Canada. Meng Wanzhou was taken into custody while changing planes in Vancouver. She faces extradition to the United States. And authorities are not sharing details of the case but the U.S. Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether Meng violated trade sanctions against Iran.

Huawei says it is not aware of any wrongdoing and they also say the company does comply with all laws and all regulations where it operates.

Next on CNN Newsroom live from Hong Kong, what new satellite images are telling us about North Korea's ballistic missile program ahead of another possible Trump-Kim summit.

Plus, the first talks in two years aimed at ending Yemen's civil war, who is taking part and what's at stake and what's been called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.


RIPLEY: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I'm Will Ripley, live in Hong Kong.

And here are the latest headlines this hour.

The U.S. is making plans to send a navy warship into the black sea in response to the growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Both countries have ramped up military operations after Russia captured three Ukrainian ship and two dozen sailors in the region last week.

Report from the British Attorney General say Theresa May's Brexit deal could trap the U.K. and endless negotiations with the European Union, how to regulate trade between the E.U. in Northern Ireland be the sticking point. Downing Street was forced to publish the warming after M.P.'s held the government in contempt for not making the full legal opinion public.

Satellite images obtained exclusively by CNN show North Korea is expanding a key long-range missile base in the mountainous region near the Chinese border and it appears that a new facility is also being built 11 kilometers away. This comes as U.S. President Donald Trump is considering a second summit with Kim Jong-un and at some point the two Korean leaders are also expected to meet. CNN's Paula Hancock is standing by live in Seoul, South Korea. So Paula, first of all this satellite images, do they come at all as a surprise to South Korea or the U.S.?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Will, what he had been hearing from the South Korean side, the ministry of defense. He is saying that yes they are aware of this one particular area. This is the Yeongjeo-dong missile base. It is in the north east of the country as close to the Chinese border and it is one that they said they had been monitoring very closely with the United States, but what the Middlebury institute of international studies in Monterey has find from these satellite images is that there is a separate area. Just 11 kilometers away that appears to be at built at this point.

They say that there are a number of drive-through shelters. It appears the tunnels that potentially could be used to store long-range missiles and ballistic missiles and they say that there was construction in 2017 and that is clearly continuing in August 2018. Now that is just a few months ago, and that is clearly after the Singapore summit as well between the U.S. and North Korean leaders. We are not having any kind of comment from the Pentagon and the State Department that they are both saying at this point that they don't discussed intelligence matters, Will.

RIPLEY: So what is President Moon's next move here as the intermediary between North Korea and the U.S.?

HANCOCKS: Certainly from the South Korean president point of view I is business as usual. They are going to continue to try and secure. That key meeting as far as South Korea is consent here in Seoul they are is still trying to get the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to come and visit. So they would like it to be before the end of this year and that is really only giving them a few weeks at this point it appears they are just waiting on the North Korean answer as to whether or not that he will be coming before the end of the year, but the President Moon, seems he got the green light from the U.S. President when he met him on the sidelines of the G 20 when he said at the that Mr. Trump would be meeting with Kim Jong-un early next year. January, February sometime early next year.

So as far as the South Korean side is concern they are going to downplay all of these reports of the new facilities being discovered. Just last month we had that CSIS report saying that they had identified more than a dozen military facilities that haven't been declared before and it is worth mentioning as well that these technically isn't in violation of any agreement between the U.S. and North Korea. North Korea has not agreed to state exactly what it has is not agreed to give a list of its facilities and hasn't agreed until this point to curtail its missile program. It said it will work towards denuclearization which is really vague enough to allow it to continue in this way, Will.

RIPLEY: Obviously there has been just really not much progress at all since Singapore, is there optimism in Seoul that perhaps with this restarting of diplomacy at the high level that the situation could get better?

HANCOCKS: I think this an appreciation here of just how he -- this visit by Kim Jong-un is, if they can get a North Korean leader to come to Seoul for the first time since the Korean war. It would be hugely symbolic. It would be hugely significant. It would be the fourth summit between the North Korean and the South Korean leader, but the fact that you would have a North Korean leader coming here to the heart of power of South Korea would be extremely significant and certainly that is what the South Korean is focusing on at this point. And the inter-Korean relationship is improving every single day, they

were constant issues that they are discussing the demilitarization of a certain area at the demilitarized zone, the laying down of arms between North and South Korean soldiers at the joint security area across the border and the fact that they are moving towards this military packed and then moving towards having a greater relations between each other.

[03:35:08] So for President Moon, what he is doing is carrying on regardless. And certainly these kind of reports will concern intelligence agencies. It will concern officials, but it is not going to slow down progress. If Seoul can help it, Will.

RIPLEY: They certainly love to protest there in Seoul. I can only imagine the crowds on all sides. What they would look like if Kim Jong-un was there just (inaudible) so, will have to watch very closely. Paula Hancocks live in Seoul. Thanks so much.

It's a scene that could not be more opposite than the devastation and destruction of Yemen. Peace talks are set to begin in the coming hours at a castle in Sweden. The goal is a cease-fire and an end to the crippling famine and what the U.N. calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is live at this hour in Abu Dhabi. Sam, nearly four years of civil war and frankly getting this sided into the table at this point is a breakthrough, but what was the most likely outcome of these talks?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The immediate aim is a cease-fire, Will. That would be a very significant moment. Indeed, because it would offer the opportunity then to the United Nations to advance its idea that it might be able to bring the data port under international control under U.N. control. Now that would be vital, because that would mean that the main pipeline for humanitarian aid could be secured.

It is in the Houthi side where most, but not all of the main threat of the famine is coming from. Now that is mostly in the north of the country so that I think is in the immediate term, Will, the absolute priority for all of the sides of the negotiating in Stockholm, it does represent a real problem for the Houthis though, because that portal is the principal source of income. Some $30 million a week at least is generated in terms of customs revenues through that portal they would lose that, and that would naturally in favor of them so they will try and drive a hard bargain over that if it came to U.N. control.

But nonetheless from the other side's perspective from the perspective of the Yemeni government, which is supported by the Saudi led coalition including the Emirates where I'm sitting right now, this whole war has become toxic in terms of their international reputation. The finger of blame fairly or unfairly seems be pointing fairly frequently at the Saudi led coalition as much as the Houthis in terms of responsibility for this humanitarian catastrophe.

That the U.N. says that could threaten the lives of 14 million people in that context. On top of the damage was done to Saudi Arabia by the alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi means that in fact that one of the main belligerence here. The Saudi led coalition really needs to try to advance the cause of peace and not least, because it would save them a lot of money, but also save a lot of reputational damage to the time when support for Saudi Arabia as we all know is waning in some of the key power centers in Washington, Will.

RIPLEY: In the horror at the people of Yemen have endured for so long. I mean, to think of the how many millions are starving and all of the other things. What is being done to help them? Are these talks renewing a sense of urgency here?

KILEY: Yes, but just today. Will, the (inaudible) program is published, it intends to advance its client list. If you like the number of people that it is feeding from some 8 million to 10 million that means that the United Nations has put out an appeal for $4 million in terms of foreign aid. The UAE in Saudi led alliance is saying that they have already put up $1.2 billion, but what does this translate to on the ground, well not very much if you can't get the food around. There is actually humanitarian sources tell us, no real shortage of food. What there is, is a real shortage of money.

There is no economic activity in the Yemen so even when there's food people simply can't afford to buy, Will. On top of the disruptions that are coming quite naturally from the spread of violence and civil wars that are raging there.

RIPLEY: A lot of people hoping for breakthrough maybe not realistic, just at this stage, but we have to watch very closely and see what happens. Sam Kiley live in Abu Dhabi, following all this. Thank you.

Now to CNN exclusive interview, a British academic who was sentenced to life in prison for spying in the United Arab Emirates. He says he was forced to confess and even threatened with imprisonment and torture. The UAE pardoned and released Matthew Hedges last week. He and his wife spoke to CNN's Max Foster about the ordeal.


MATTHEW HEDGES, FORMER PRISONER OF UAE: I was in the UAE for two weeks conducting research. I thought on and until in number occasions that I was being followed. I went to the pre-departure where they take your boarding pass and about 10 Emirati security officials came out. They are wearing the local wear, but also men who just wore in black and they had guns on them.

[03:40:10] And they told me that I had to go with them. They wouldn't confirm or deny if I was under arrest. I asked if I could have a lawyer. I wasn't allowed a lawyer. They said there was a case against me. Then they said there wasn't a case against me. But in essence I had to go with them. I wish it hadn't happened for both myself and my family, but also for the UAE, because I think they need to have a look and see what do they stand for?


RIPLEY: The UAE, they say Hedges was treated fairly and also insist that he was quote, 100 percent spy.

OPEC minister meet soon in an attempt to halt the slide in global oil prices. Coming up, we take you live to OPEC headquarters in Vienna, for a sense of what they might decide.

Plus, Facebook's internal e-mail reveals a company considering cashing in on all of the user data they collected.


RIPLEY: OPEC ministers meeting Thursday in Vienna are expected to see cuts in production in an effort to keep oil prices from falling further than they have. Crude oil is hovering just above 50 dollars a barrel. While it makes sense for OPEC, Russia and others to curb production to raise prices, U.S. President Donald Trump is leaning on Saudi Arabia to keep up current production so U.S. gasoline prices remain low. CNN's John Defterios joins us from outside OPEC headquarters in Vienna. Are they going to listen to President Trump?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, I tell you Will, there is a lot of factors that play here. This should be a fairly simple meeting if you are an OPEC oil producing. You say look, is the market oversupplied right now? We should just cut anywhere form a million to 1.4 million barrels a day to rebalance the market, but Geopolitics are nudging their way in to these headquarters in Vienna.

That is clear, first and foremost, yes, Donald Trump has been intervening. There has been throughout 2018. The latest was the tweet saying to OPEC and non-OPEC producers, don't restrict supplies right now. We want to keep prices lower. He is been banging these drum for the last three months. Secondarily he sent a special representative from Iran to Vienna with the OPEC producers saying we're going to tighten supplies in Iran and not allow them to export in 2019. So, you keep your output high to keep those price low.

[03:45:04] And finally, one of the members has been here for almost 60 years, Qatar which has an economic embargo by Saudi Arabia against it decided to duck out the organization in 2019. So, hints of perhaps disunity is the biggest concern. If you have disunity, you can't have a collective decision to cut say, 1.3 or 1.4 million barrels a day. And finally on the geopolitics, the U.S. feels it has leverage over Saudi Arabia, particularly because the president is backing for crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Bin Salman after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist. So the U.S. exercising that authority here at OPEC, once again trying to keep the prices lower, and back Saudi Arabia in. It is important for 25 members of OPEC and non-OPEC to back Saudi Arabia if they need to make the decision to cut supplies. And clearly Will, that is what they're looking for.

RIPLEY: The prices are already low. I mean, a 30 percent crash in oil prices in two months. Is there a sense there of crisis or are they been down these road before?

DEFTERIOS: Well, you talked about this crash in the last two months. Let's look at the chart for both Brent, the global benchmarked and West Texas Intermediate. We have seen a 25, 26 dollar correction over the last two months, the month of November was the worst month since the global financial crisis of 2008. That is what the OPEC producers are focused on. A source I spoke to right before I came in to these live shot with you, suggested I would expect the right decision would be to cut at least 1.3 million barrels a day and explain to the Americans why we are doing so, because we need to balance out this market.

We don't want to see a price crash. It also hurts U.S. producers as well. Can we get the collective, Will? They're waiting for a message from Moscow, from Vladimir Putin. Yes, these overall number of 1.3 is something I can accept in Moscow as well. And you can sell it in to your members in Vienna. We may find out today, that was the original schedule. If it doesn't happen today, it means there is challenges within the ranks, Will. Let's put it that way.

RIPLEY: I mean, crude prices are something that effect nearly everyone around the world or at least people who drive or drive in a car, so, I know you'll be watching all this very closely. A lot at stake. John Defterios, thank you so much.

Facebook is looking a bit red in the face. Hundreds of internal documents revealed that the company tried keep secret, well, now they had spilled in the public domain and it is not a flattering picture. Email among Facebook executives shows some proposed profiting for the company's user data. We have more here in CNN's Hadas Gold.


HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: More than 200 pages of internal Facebook e-mails released on Wednesday by a U.K. Parliamentary committee investigating disinformation and data privacy. The e-mails mostly from 2012 to 2015 include conversation among executives like CEO Mark Zuckerberg. As well as external companies to work with Facebook's platforms like Microsoft, lift, tinder and air B&B. Some of the emails show Mark Zuckerberg discussing had a better game value for the platform by leveraging access to user data. Others show how the company restricted competitors from accessing Facebook data.

The chair of the parliamentary committee Damien Collins said they released the documents because they raised important questions about Facebook's approach to user data. The documents stemmed from a lawsuit brought against Facebook by a small app company called 643. Facebook did not want this internal emails to be released and they are still technically under seal by order of the California judge. The last month, the U.K. parliamentary committee, caught their hands on them in a dramatic fashion when 643 CEO was escorted to parliament after Sergeant at Arms appeared at his hotel.

A Facebook spokesperson told CNN that 643 lawsuit is baseless and the documents are only part of the story and have been presented in what they say is a misleading way. The spokesperson emphasized that they had never sold user data. The U.K. parliamentary committee continues to request Mark Zuckerberg to appear before them to answer questions. Best far he has resisted. We will see if these documents change the equation. Hadas Gold, CNN, London. (END VIDEO)

RIPLEY: That is another tech billionaire Elon Musk in his space x company taking yet another leap into orbit. But the mission came to a watery end. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 3, 2, 1 ,0 and lift off as Falcon 9 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canavan on Wednesday. Everything looked normal. It had supplies for the international space station, but the return to earth of the rockets, reusable first stage, well that did not go quite as plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shortly after this burn initiated, the great fins which you can see right on your screen. Located near the top of the first stage are deployed, they help guide the rocket during decent. Following the boost back burn, Falcon 9 executes a re-entry burn to slow itself down before hitting the dense part of the atmosphere.


[03:50:00] RIPLEY: Take a look at this video here you can see the booster rocket began to spin out of control and then it started plunging toward the Atlantic Ocean. Elon Musk downplay the problem tweeting a fin hydraulic pump stalled during descent, but the booster he said appears to be undamaged. He also posted dramatic video showing the dissent, the rocket did stabilize just in time to make an impact. Sorry, I should say intact splashdown in an impact as opposed, it actually fell over on its side after hitting the water. Up next here on CNN Newsroom. Live from Hong Kong, saving the Great Barrier Reef. When we come back a promising project that aims to combat the effects of climate change.


RIPLEY: This is a story affecting every single person alive today and the nations around the world. They are gathered in Poland for climate talks trying to agree on how to keep global temperatures from rising by 2 degrees Celsius, but experts are warning that target may not even be ambitious enough after a 1.5 degree rising temperatures. The impact of climate change grows exponentially and it could be truly catastrophic. CNN is exploring the consequences of past in action. Now what comes next for us and our children and our grandchildren, well, that could be much worse. If warming doesn't stop at that critical threshold 1.5 degrees, in meetings in Poland come just as a new sobering report mourns that worldwide carbon emissions will hit an all-time high this year.

The global carbon project says the omissions which are blamed for global warming are expected to rise by 2.7 percent. The project blames the increasing use of coal for most of the increase as well as emissions from transportation. The biggest polluters and emitters in 2017, China, the U.S., the E.U. and India. They account for almost 60 percent of global emissions. One flashpoint in the war against climate change, Australia's Great Barrier Reef global temperatures rising that is already causing massive coral bleaching, essentially killing off the coral that could mean economic disaster for millions of people. But CNN's Ivan Watson explains, there is still hope.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An underwater snowstorm. That is how a veteran marine biologist describes the annual event when the corals on the Great Barrier Reef begins to spawn.

The coral spawning is always magical and that was great to see all these spawn (inaudible) coming of these corals.

This year, scientists are on the scene scooping coral spawn. It is an experimental effort to save this natural wonder of the world from the ravages of climate change. A private breeding project aimed at increasing the fertility of coral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The baby corals are going into big floating lava pools from the system, it is really exciting that we can go from these ideas capturing corals at small scale and starting to a much larger areas, many more pools and actually millions of larvae being develop from the reef.

WATSON: Off the coast of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is a sprawling marine habitat that is larger than Italy.

[03:55:01] But it is in trouble in the summer of 2016 vast amounts of coral suddenly started bleaching turning bone white.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we saw in 2006 until 2017, the marine heat waves that led coral bleaching and the death of corals was like nothing we had ever seen before.

WATSON: Scientists estimate the record warm temperatures killed more than half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef in just two years. CNN traveled to Australia last June, to look at a government effort to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into projects to help save one of the country's largest tourist attractions. With temperatures milder in early 2018. There were signs of recovery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we do see little ones coming --

WATSON: Have the tips of some of the dead coral you have little sponge like color right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will grow in, as long they don't bleach again.

WATSON: But with the Australian summer fast approaching, meteorologists are issuing ominous warnings. Heatwave in the nearby state of Queensland has already contributed to raging bush fires. For climate warming trend continuing, scientists have revise their previous target. They now say it is crucial to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels instead of 2 degrees in order to avoid grooming planetary disaster. Scientists fear marine heat waves will likely follow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we think about forecasting the weather for the Great Barrier Reef. The climate of the entire planet and the Great Barrier Reef has already changed and it is still changing and so it is getting harder for scientists to be confident about predictions of the future. You are entering into uncharted territory. Almost every year is warmer than usual. And in fact that is becoming the new norm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is why Professor Peter Harrison breeding project targets heat resistant coral. This corals has survive the last two bleaching events they are now heat tolerant. And therefore they are the ones that we really need to be kept, because they will provide lobby that gives us a parting chance to try and overcome the problems of increasing sea temperature and mass bleaching.

WATSON: It's an ambitious effort to save the marine habitat, but given the scale of the challenge for now it's just a drop in the ocean. Ivan Watson, CNN.


RIPLEY: It is an extraordinary. Thank you for joining us. I'm Will Ripley. You can contact with me anytime on Instagram, Twitter @willripleycnn, but stay with us because the news continues with Max Foster in London. This is CNN.