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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Sri Lanka's President Flees, Protesters Storm PM's Office; Ranil Wickremesinghe Appointed Acting President Of Sri Lanka; Biden Arrives In Israel For His First Official Visit; Mykolaiv School Bears Brunt Of New Russian Assault. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired July 13, 2022 - 17:00   ET




BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London and this is THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Tonight, chaos in Colombo, Sri Lanka's President flees the country, as protests paralyze Sri Lanka amidst the political crisis. Then, "one of the

best friends Israel has ever known," Joe Biden is applauded upon arrival in Tel Aviv as he leans into his predecessor's legacy. And the ripple effects

of war, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations hold talks over the grain crisis.

We're here to save the country, protesters in Sri Lanka are demanding change after enduring a political and economic crisis. At least 75 people

were injured on Wednesday in the nation's capital after police used tear gas and water cannons.

Protests have been simmering for months and despite seemingly reaching a boiling point on the weekend, they're only continuing to grow. In response,

the president resigned over the phone on Wednesday and then fled the country to the Maldives. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been

appointed acting president but protesters are calling for his resignation, as one protester protect Sri Lankans still have hope and want a new regime.

Let's bring in CNN Senior International Correspondent Will Ripley for more on these developments. Will, so the President -- the Prime Minister,

rather, has agreed to continue as acting prime minister until another is appointed, but how much confidence do the public actually have in this

process and these people, and while this political crisis rages who's handling the economic crisis?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In terms of confidence, I think it's evident by the people out on the streets, they

don't have confidence in this acting president who was the Prime Minister that they were calling for to resign, who said he would resign after a new

all party government is formed. The question, will this government have credibility in the eyes of both the lawmakers who elect them and the eyes

of the people? And of course, the overall process, the economic process, well, that is one that is very much up in the air right now, in terms of

who's actually having a look at Sri Lankan situation. There were discussions with the International Monetary Fund those of grind to a halt.

So you have a situation where the previous presidents regime.

And by the way, as far as we know his resignation has not necessarily been formally tender yet, although given that the acting president has been

appointed by the previous president, we do now have a situation where there's essentially chaos amongst regular people because this isn't what

they felt that they agreed to starting off. And nobody is really looking at the core issue of Sri Lanka's crippling debt, you're talking about a nation

that has more than $50 billion in outstanding debt right now. It's so much debt, that they're not able to pay off their loans. They're not able to --

they're not able to even get basic essentials into the country, resulting in huge inflation. You're talking about everyday people's living expenses,

all but tripling in recent months. So people who used to be able to easily afford three meals a day and now can barely afford one meal a day. That

hunger is driving the anger and it's fueling people to, as we saw over the weekend storm, the Presidential Palace, which they continue to occupy.

They're also occupying the Prime Minister's office. They stormed the state TV broadcasting headquarters yesterday, and they are vowing to continue

their demonstrations until this new all party government is formed, which would include the resignation of the acting president, again former prime

minister under President Rajapaksa.

Now, why are they so angry at this particular president because he and his brother, who is also a former president and prime minister, have

essentially been trading positions of power in Sri Lanka for the better part of 20 years. And they ran the island much like a family business. They

ran the country, like a family business, making a lot of what analysts they are very bad deals, bad deals, you know, that costs billions and billions

of dollars, many of them involving China. So there's a lot of outstanding debt to China. There's a lot of outstanding projects that are still kind of

these white elephants that remain unfinished, vanity projects, if you will, built by the former president and his brother in their home province that

are basically sitting empty at this point, or still under construction. And not only that but in order to gain popular support back in 2019, they

impose this sweeping nationwide tax cut which essentially wiped out to 1/3 of their of their tax revenue.


So they're really in a situation now with the inflation that's coming as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, where they are stuck between a rock

and a hard place. And that is really putting it lightly, because they just don't know how people are going to get the essential supplies that they

need to survive without some sort of dramatic economic change. That's not happening because the country is so mired in conflict on the ground. And

they don't even have rule of law at this stage, the acting president has called a meeting of senior military officials, and he's ordered them to

restore order on the streets. But of course, Bianca, that raises concerns about some sort of violent suppression of these protesters who are out

there simply because they are growing more and more desperate with the situation in their own homes, unable to feed their families unable to get

medicine, and the rest of it.

NOBILO: Will Ripley in Taiwan for us. I have so many more questions to ask you. But we'll have to leave it there for today. But I understand you are

making your way there. So we'll be checking in with you a lot more as the week goes on. Thanks so much, Will.

Now, please do stay up to date on the story with CNN. We have a live blog on and the CNN app and you can also find analysis there such as

this one, how Sri Lanka's runaway president went from war hero to fugitive.

Now, Joe Biden is in Israel at this hour, on his first official visit to the country as U.S. president. He was welcomed by Israel's interim Prime

Minister Yair Lapid who praised the President for being "one of the best friends Israel has ever known."

Mr. Biden also joined Israeli military officials for a briefing on Israel's Iron Dome Air Defense System, and a new system that would use lasers to

shoot down drones. And he laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center, and met with Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem.

Let's bring in CNN's Hadas Gold and Jeremy Diamond, both are in Jerusalem for us. Jeremy, let's start with you, what have we learned about the Biden

administration's priorities in the Middle East? We've heard that they won't pursue high level shuttle diplomacy on Israel Palestinian peace process.

But they've said that that will likely fail. So is there disappointment actually that the administration isn't doing enough to try and make inroads

in the peace process?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are certainly a number of Palestinian officials who wish that the Biden administration

would focus more on trying to revive that political peace process between the two countries. But the reality and reality that is acknowledged widely

in the region, as well as in the United States is that the political realities on the ground both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories

are not conducive at the moment, they're full of gridlock instead, not conducive to restarting that political process, the two sides being too far


And what the Biden administration sees instead, is momentum on the ground in the Middle East for increasing partnership between Israel and many of

the Arab countries in the region. We've seen, of course, the Abraham accords that brought normalization between Israel, the United Arab Emirates

and Bahrain, Morocco also signed a separate normalization agreements. And now there are talk, there is some talk of small steps that could be taken

by Saudi Arabia and Israel to begin the process of the long road towards normalization. But President Biden, interestingly, today talked about the

ways in which he believes that normalization between Israel and its Arab neighbors could actually help in the long term, bring peace with the

Palestinians. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: The more Israel is integrated into the region as an equal and accepted, the more likely there is going to be a

means that they can eventually come to an accommodation with the Palestinians down the road.


DIAMOND: And you hear the President there saying the key words down the road. That is an idea, though, that I've heard from several Middle East

experts looking at the possibility that closer relations between Israel and these Arab neighbors who traditionally back the Palestinian cause could

actually help bring the two sides closer at the negotiating table.

Now, in the short term, what we're going to see from President Biden, this week on Friday, he'll be meeting with the Palestinian Authority President

who will also be going to a Palestinian Hospital in East Jerusalem, where he's expected to announce $100 million of U.S. aid to Palestinian

hospitals. The U.S. officials say that while they're not launching a large scale, peace negotiations effort here in Israel, what they are trying to do

is to bring small and incremental progress to improve the quality of life for Palestinians, particularly those in the West Bank. Bianca.

NOBILO: Thanks, Jeremy. And Hadas, there was a headline on the Jerusalem Post today, which struck me, which said when a politically weak president

meets an interim prime minister, with that in mind, how is Biden being received in Israel? How much can realistically be achieved when that is the

political reality?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is true that Israel's a very interesting political climate right now Yair Lapid, the Prime Minister who

received President Biden when he landed in Tel Aviv, only became prime minister less than two weeks ago and he's a caretaker Prime Minister until

elections will be held in November.


But Israeli officials seem very happy to be receiving President Biden today, especially during his remarks on the tarmac when he talked about how

-- he said things like you don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist, and how deep and how at his core, his relationship with Israel is.

And for the Israelis here, their main goals from this meeting are, first of all, just to reaffirm the relationship to show the world that this is a

state to state relationship. And it doesn't matter who is in charge, but that Israel and United States will always have a very strong bond. Then, of

course, as Jeremey mentioned, it's about expanding these regional alliances, expanding upon the Abraham Accords, for Israel to normalize ties

with Saudi Arabia, which even mentioning that -- those words together would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, that would really be the jewel

in the crown of the Israeli-Arab Country Normalization Agreement.

Now, we're not expecting that to necessarily happen in this week's and grand normalization announcement. But the Israeli officials are very much

looking forward to those small steps that Jeremy mentioned, things like allowing Israeli flights to fly over Saudi airspace, again, things that

would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. They're also very concerned and want to start this sort of regional air defense alliance with

countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain who will work together to warn each other against incoming threats, many of which they say, are

backed by Iran. Iran, of course, will also be a top subject between Israeli officials and the Biden administration, especially tomorrow, Israel pushing

back against any sort of return to an Iranian Nuclear Deal, and trying to push the Americans to provide them with some sort of coherent strategy a

Plan B, on what the Americans will do when -- if the nuclear deal falls apart and how they can counter Iran together.

And as Jeremy noted, did not expect exactly expecting major progress on any sort of peace process, because there's the political situation for both the

Israelis and the Palestinians is so calcified. there just doesn't seem to be any room, any flexibility right now for any progress other than the sort

of small Confidence Building Measures. And for the Palestinians, that's leaving very much a sense of disappointment, they were very hopeful when

President Biden took over from President Trump, and they are given about us a list of promises, many of which they say are unfulfilled. Take a listen

to what a Senior Palestinian Authority official had to say last week.


HUSSEIN AL-SHEIKH, SECY. GENERAL, PLO EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (through translator): The U.S. administration has been talking with us about these

issues for more than a year, but nothing has been achieved. Even so we continue to hope this visit will produce some serious outcomes that it

provides hope and a political horizon and a foundation for political process in the region.


GOLD: One of those promises that -- one of those promises the Americans made was to reopen the consulate closed by Trump and Jerusalem that mainly

serves Palestinians. But so far, it doesn't seem as though there's been any progress made on that. Bianca.

NOBILO: Hadas Gold and Jeremy Diamond in Jerusalem, thank you both for your valuable insights.

Now, Joe Biden is set Friday to become the first U.S. president to fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia, two countries that don't have

diplomatic relations. The symbolic flight comes after two years, Former President Donald Trump successfully brokered the Abraham Accords. The

normalization of ties between Israel and for Arab countries. Mr. Biden hopes to bring Israel and Saudi Arabia closer, as both countries fear a

mutual security threat, Iran's growing nuclear program. Talks between Iran and the U.S. aimed at reviving the original 2015 Iran Nuclear Pact have

been stalled for months. The deal put tight restrictions on Iran's nuclear program in return for relief on international sanctions. But President

Trump withdrew the U.S. from that deal in 2018. A move that Mr. Biden today called a gigantic mistake. And he vowed to restore that agreement.


BIDEN: The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons, and if we can return to the deal, and hold them tight, I

think it was a gigantic mistake for the last president to get out of the deal. They're closer to a nuclear weapon now than there were before. It

doesn't have anything to do with whether or not the Quds Force is going to stop or going to continue to be engaged in activities, we can act against

them and still have a deal where they curtail their nuclear program. And so I still think it makes sense. We've laid out on the table. We've made the

deal. We've offered it, and it's up to the Iran now.


NOBILO: But the U.S. and Iran disagree on how to get that. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is critical of Mr. Biden's trip to Israel and his

blasting America's handling of the nuclear talks.


EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The Americans have said that Iran should return to the JCPOA while the Islamic Republic of

Iran has never withdrawn from the JCPOA and it was America who violated the agreement.


Today it is a question not only for the Europeans who are allies of the Americans in negotiations, but also for all the nations around the world.

Why the United States did not adhere to its commitments in the JCPOA and withdrew from it.


NOBILO: Saudi Arabia has long tried to push for more substantial efforts to revive the original deal even hosting its own talks with Iran.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls it a ray of hope to ease human suffering and alleviate hunger around the world. Ukraine and Russia

made progress today in direct talks to ease Russia's blockade of Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea. Turkey hosted the negotiations and says

that a deal could be finalized next week. But the diplomacy isn't slowing Russia's fierce attacks on Ukraine, including the southern front. CNN's

Ivan Watson is on the scene tonight in Mykolaiv.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This used to be a classroom in school number 60 in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv.

That is until before dawn on Tuesday, when what appears to have been a Russian rocket slammed into the building. Nobody was hurt, thankfully,

perhaps due to the time of day and it's summer vacation right now. But look what's left. The principal says that the school was constructed more than

100 years ago. It's completely devastated now. And the Ukrainian authorities here they say the same morning, the city was hit by nearly two

dozen other impacts, including a hospital which just goes to show that nothing and nobody really is safe in this conflict zone.

VITALIY KIM, GOVERNOR, MYKOLAIV OBLAST: This is terrorism and not safe because this is like a strategy of Russian to scare civilian people to make


WATSON (on camera): What is your message to your own residents when a school can be blown up like this?

KIM: We will build it, once again it will be better than it was.

WATSON (voice-over): The fighting is intensifying on Ukraine Southern front. Ukrainian forces have succeeded in pushing back Russian troops in

some areas and the Ukrainians also claimed to have carried out some strikes deep behind Russian front lines destroying what they claim are ammunition

depots and even a Russian military officers position. The Ukrainian government is urging residents of the nearby Russian occupied city of

Kherson to evacuate if they can, they're anticipating even more fighting in the near future.

In the meantime, the Russian military continues to lob back long range munitions at places like Mykolaiv. And I want to show you this, the

teachers say that some other kinds of Russian artillery hit the courtyard of this school back in early April spraying the walls of the nearby

gymnasium with shrapnel. So this school has been hit twice since the Russians invaded Ukraine in February of this year, and with Mykolaiv, this

city so close to the front lines, things could get much worse here in the near future.


NOBILO: And from challenges around food security to wider challenges facing off plant, why Australia is among the countries hailing a new investment

plan from the U.S. That story ahead.



NOBILO: Pacific Island leaders are welcoming a new commitment from the U.S. Vice President to triple aid to the region. Funding will be ramped up to

$60 million a year for a decade to combat climate change, illegal fishing under enhanced security given concerns over Beijing's ambitions.


KAMALA HARRIS, (D) U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The United States is a proud Pacific Nation and has an enduring commitment to the Pacific Islands, which

is why President Joe Biden and I seek to strengthen our partnership with you. We recognize and in recent years, the Pacific Islands may not have

received the diplomatic attention and support that you deserve. So today I'm here to tell you directly. We are going to change that.


NOBILO: Australia is also praising the move saying climate change is a top priority for the new government. The antipodean country has just been

dealing with heavy flooding over the past few days. And the Prime Minister says that making commitments to the planet has never been as pressing.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, AUSTRALIA PRIME MINISTER: We have some real challenges in this region. There's no challenge more important than climate change. And

the new Australian government of course has adopted our nationally determined contribution of 43% by 2030. But we also have engagement with

the region, including increased funding and support for climate change infrastructure being a part of as well protecting fisheries here in the



NOBILO: Now, let's take a look at key headlines in Europe today. The British Prime Minister says that he'll be leaving office with his head held

high as the race to replace him as leader of the U.K.'s ruling party gets underway. Conservative Party members have cast their ballots in the first

round of the contest, reducing the candidates to six. The winner will be announced in September. Boris Johnson says that despite everything he's

proud of his leadership and office.

Italy's government could be on the verge of collapse as the 5-Star Movement threatens to quit the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Mario Draghi held an

emergency meeting with the leader of the 5-Star Movement, Giuseppe Conte, who made a series of demands on policy, tensions have fled over the

governance arming of Ukraine last month. A vote of confidence will take place on Thursday.

And the World Health Organization is issuing a new warning as COVID cases spike due to the highly transmittable Omicron variant BA.5. There are fears

that it could become the dominant strain in most of the E.U. by the end of this month. Health authorities that are recommending a second booster shot

for everyone older than 60.

Just like Jodie Foster's character and movie contact, scientists have come across a mysterious signal from a galaxy far, far away. In a study

published on Wednesday, the Journal Nature said that they've detected a very unusual radio burst. It has a pattern that's similar to a heartbeat,

and for now the exact location and cause of that burst is unknown.


I want to bring in CNN's Tom Foreman to discuss it. Tom, this strange and persistent radio signal seems like a pulsing heartbeat, what phenomena

could cause this? And do we know of anything that causes similar effects in the universe?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do, we know that this is about a billion light years away, or in scientific terms really, really far. And they think

what this is something called a fast radio burst or an FRB, they know it's that, it's picked up by radio telescopes here on Earth, they were only

discovered in 2007. Basically, what this is a little burst of energy coming through the cosmos out there, normally, these are very, very short

milliseconds long. This one is unusual, because it's very strong. It's very bright, as they say, and it lasted three seconds. That's an awful lot of

information to look at. And they're looking at it very closely right now, Bianca.

Now you, you ask what it might be, the real question would be, the source is most likely going to be something a version of a dying star out there.

As it passes away, those stars can give off these radio signals out there, a pulse or magnetar, those give these signals off. But those are really

important to know about because if you know where they are, if you get one as strong as this, and you can figure out where it is, if you can pinpoint

it, you might be able to triangulate it and get a sense of how fast the universe is expanding. That's why they're so excited about this. It's not

just a novelty. It's not just something from a movie, but something in real life they've never seen before. And with that repeated pattern in there,

that little heartbeat sound, very exciting to the scientific community.

NOBILO: Hugely exciting, and to laymen such as myself, Tom Foreman, thank you so much for joining us.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

NOBILO: We will keep an eye on that story. And I'll grab my tinfoil hat. Thank you.

And thank you all for watching. That was THE GLOBAL BRIEF. And "WORLD SPORT" is up next. We'll see you soon.