Return to Transcripts main page

Connect the World

NATO Chief: Lukashenko Using Migrants as "Hybrid Tactic Against Other Countries"; Nigerian Panel Condemns 2020 Shooting as a "Massacre"; Iraq Pushing Regional Reconciliation with Syria; Violence Erupts in Belarusian-Polish Border Crisis; Syria Gaining Acceptance Among Other Arab States; Remembering an Influential Lebanese-American Artist. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 16, 2021 - 11:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN, Abu Dhabi. This is "Connect the World" with Becky Anderson.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Well, this hour dramatic scenes unfolding at the Belarus-Poland border CNN covering the story from

both sides' view. I'm Becky Anderson. Hello and welcome to "Connect the World".

Tensions have escalated in the Belarusian Polish border crisis. Polish guards have been firing tear gas and water cannon at migrants who have been

throwing stones as their anger boils over some 2000 refugees desperate to cross into Poland are living without any shelter in often freezing


Belarus says it will investigate today's border clashes but NATO echoing what Western leaders have been saying for weeks that this disaster for

stranded refugees has been orchestrated by the Belarusian Leader Alexander Lukashenko described as Europe's last dictator.

Well, CNN's Matthew Chance is on the ground on Belarusians side of the border where he and his crew have been on the receiving end of that tear

gas and water cannon witnessing the clashes firsthand have a look at this.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Just warming my hands and drying some of my clothes off because it's been an

absolutely tense dramatic situation here on the border between Belarus and Poland.

We've all been saturated with the water cannons that have been fired by the Polish border guards onto these refugees; as they tried to storm the

barricades you can see the border fence here if I bring you up towards it. It's been broken down by sheer force young men trying to get close as they

can to the border of Poland, the border of the European Union.

And look, the situation has calmed over the past several minutes, people have moved back. They're not firing water cannon anymore. Rocks aren't

being thrown anymore by the refugees towards them. But you can see the water cannons still there. The troops are still on the border, and

absolutely determined not to allow these refugees to pass. Look at them spread out here over this area on the border between Belarus and Poland.

The U.S., of course, accuses Belarus of orchestrating this refugee crisis in order to correct - create a humanitarian catastrophe on the border.

Let's say it's a cynical exploitation. This is Secretary Blinken saying this yesterday, a cynical exploitation of vulnerable people.

And the Poles have made it absolutely clear that they are not going to back down and they're not going to let people through. Earlier we saw dramatic

scenes here at the official border checkpoints with people rushing forward throwing rocks towards the barricades, the Polish security forces, the

border guards the water cannon, responded in kind pushing people back with water sprays, and pepper spray.

And you know we all got covered in it as well. And it's something accurate in the water that was quite stinging of the eyes made everybody coughing.

And yet, the result has been that it's pushed people back. And so this is all been an expression of the kind of frustration that's been building in

this camp in these areas along the border with Belarus and Poland.

For the past week or so since a couple of thousand people started to gather here with hopes that they would be able to go through into Poland and to

get political asylum as refugees in the European Union. The skills some sort of tear gas in the air as I speak to you now.

But of course that has not happened. And so it - still in this very severely bleak that situation here on the border and there's very little

sign this point of any side backing down. Belarus is still bringing people in the Poles; the European Union is still refusing to let anybody out the

other side.


ANDERSON: Well, last hour I spoke to Matthew, and he updated us about what's happening right now with those migrants and we are talking men and

women and children here. Have a listen to this.


CHANCE (on camera): Now it seems the Belarusian authorities are moving to lower the temperature a little bit and to bring these migrants away from

the border and put them in a situation which is at least for tonight, a bit more secure before they decide what to do with them whether they will

deport them back to their countries of origin and the majority of the people we've spoken to from Iraq from Iraqi Kurdistan.

You can see just what I've got you here. You can see some of those families are coming up behind us right now. That a father they're carrying his child

on his shoulders as you can see, and people are now just coming back. They're being moved back - they're walking back they're not being put on



CHANCE (on camera): They're walking back about a mile about a mile and a half maybe towards this processing center. But where they'll get medical

treatment where told where they'll get some food and we'll get some warm some shelter. And they can escape from the - where are you going to where?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are going to?

CHANCE (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going back to Iraq?

CHANCE (on camera): Back to Iraq so goodbye Belarus, right?


CHANCE (on camera): OK, no, Poland. OK, well, they have it. They have it, Becky, these, these migrants telling us here as we walked past that they're

going away from Belarus. Now they've decided they want to go back to Iraq.


ANDERSON: Which is hundred, thousands of miles away? CNN is well placed to cover this developing story. You just saw Matthew on the Belarusians side

of the border. And you just heard what those men women children are doing. They are returning they say to Iraq, because they've been pushed back by

the Polish police.

We're joined by CNN's Fred Pleitgen, who has got the view from that side from Poland, which has been vowing to defend the EU's border. I think our

viewers will find that live shot quite remarkable. An Iraqi man telling our Matthew Chance that basically they have nowhere to go and they are walking

home event effectively. What's the perspective there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Poles are certainly saying that they are going to continue to do what they've

been doing, which is obviously keeping that border close. They also said that the incident that happened to there today with obviously, a lot of

people there in that melee at the border between Belarus and Poland, that that was instigated when several of the mining started throwing rocks at

the border of Police.

It's obviously they're behind that razor wire. And then the polish forces responded with water cannon, we just got some updated numbers actually, for

you, Becky. Just a couple of minutes ago, the Polish forces are not saying that seven police officers were wounded, including two who were severely


So certainly it really does seem as though there was quite a lot of violence going on. Essentially, though, what the Polish are saying is they

believe that behind all of this are the Belarusian security forces and is Belarusian Strong Man, Alexander Lukashenko they continue to say that they

are firmly in the belief that he instigated all of this and essentially is using or was using all of those people as pawns in his bid to try and

destabilize the European Union.

And it's quite interesting, really remarkable, as you say, to see that live shot from Matthew to see those people who are now obviously very, very

deflated and disappointed now saying that they are going to go back to Iraq. The information, of course that we have is that Iraq is going to send

planes to Belarus to pick some of those people up.

There's apparently a flight scheduled for Thursday that is supposed to fly to Baghdad via or be Erbil to bring in at least 200 initially back also, of

course, some of the good news that we've also been hearing as well as at least some of the people who've been camped out there for such a very long


And of course, we always have to point out Becky how dramatically cold it is getting here, especially in the nights with the temperatures well below

freezing, at least some of them apparently are going to have shelter there on the Belarusian side of the border, what seems to be some sort of

warehouse that is now being converted.

But again, the Poles are saying they are going to remain tough on this issue. Of course, the European Union also starting a diplomatic full court

press with new sanctions as well, Becky?

ANDERSON: Yes, all right. Fred Pleitgen is in Poland. Thank you Fred! The tensions along the border between Poland and Belarus, part of a larger

European issue with Russia and its allies. But Belarus being one of those it comes as Russia maybe preparing new action against Ukraine, Russian

hardware has been spotted on the move near the Ukrainian border and Russian troops amassing close to an area that's controlled by Russian separatists.

Now France and Germany have expressed their unwavering support, and quote the countries there for Ukraine and want Russia to be transparent about its

intentions in the region. Well, my colleague, Sam Kiley has been in Russia recently covering a crackdown on the media there, amongst other things. He

joins me now the Europeans calling for transparency from Moscow, good luck with that and what's Moscow's strategy here both on Ukraine and indeed


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's multifaceted. And that's the whole thing about the Russians. They have this thing called

the - which is chaos in the ranks of the enemy, is victory, they've been applying it highly effectively against the Ukraine, against the European

Union's overtures towards Ukraine, including the illegal annexation of Crimea.

They've played it frequently in Georgia, where they're in occupation of Georgian territory, as well. And they have been blamed for the

weaponization of human beings, men, women, and children that we've just seen in that powerful reporting from Matthew.


KILEY: And the cynicism of that I think is going to perhaps backfire on them when we are seeing, you know, things like, you know, the Iraqis

feeling compelled to actually send planes to rescue their own refugees, if you like, even though they're actually propped up that's not directly under

control of Baghdad.

So you've got these extraordinary events unfolding all very low investment events from the Russian perspective --

ANDERSON: Opportunistic?

KILEY: --opportunistic but designed to rattle the other side. And they are highly effective. Nobody's come up with a counter argument really.

ANDERSON: Talking about the migrants and it's a word you know I've just been discussing, while we were listening to Matthews' reporting these

aren't men, women and children that's not dehumanized these people who are simply looking for a better life many of them coming from the Middle East,

where we are, namely, from a part of Iraq.

I spoke to the Foreign Minister over the weekend, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, have a listen to what he told me.


FUAD HUSSEIN, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: But we feel that Belarus is, is using these immigrants as a political tool against European Union and European

countries. And in fact, we had various discussions with Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs with Poles Minister of Foreign Affairs, with almost all

European Union Ministers about this issue.

We cannot forbid our people to travel abroad. So they are free. And this is according to our constitution. But when they arrived there in Minsk, we

feel that there are some organizations there, and they are organized for them, to get them to the border.


ANDERSON: Now, as we have been reporting, understand that there are planes to take some and we are talking some of those Iraqi citizens back to Iraq,

but we're talking something like 200, and there are reporting are at least 2000 at the border.

KILEY: Well, it's incredibly cynical move. We've heard now from the Iraqi Foreign Minister, pointing the finger of blame alongside the European Union

squarely at the Belarusian authorities, and by extension, really the Russian authorities.

I mean, today, it was reported locally here in the Emirates Airlines is no longer going to be carrying people without the correct paperwork for the

onward journeys, if they suspect to bring onward journeys into Belarus.

This is because there have been absolutely cynical campaigns to sell the idea that Belarus would be an easy route from this region, or a region,

particularly from Northern Iraq, into Europe, a passport to a fantasy, frankly, have a better life in Europe, and people are being forced to pay

large amounts of money and used in this deeply manipulative way.

But it's all part of a series of campaigns, as I was saying, to completely try and constantly destabilize the other side, that being the West, the

Europeans and NATO, who are at the same time making overtures to countries that the Russians consider absolutely central to their whole existence to

their national defense, but also to their idea of themselves as --. And as a consequence of that things are getting very tense with the European


ANDERSON: This is Josef Borrell.


JOSEF BORRELL, EU HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: By expanding the scope of the sanctions, we will be able to target those responsible for

exploiting vulnerable migrants and for facilitating illegal border crossing into the EU.


KILEY: So what you see there is yet more threat of sanctions. This is against Belarus in the shorter term; there are concerns from the airlines

and others that they could be sanctioned, too. But this is yet more pressure, counter pressure coming back from the European Union. Nothing

really been resolved you've got all of these plates that are being spun by Putin and nobody knows how to catch them.

ANDERSON: Sam Kiley is in the house folks. Thank you, Sam! Nigerian judicial panel investigating killing of unarmed protesters at the Lekki

Tollgate has finally released its report it calls the shootings last year, a massacre at the hands of the military one that authorities tried to cover


Well, this incident has prompted protests and arrests of people demanding justice. In October of 2020 Nigerian forces opened fire on peaceful

protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos afterwards, a CNN investigation found that the Nigerian Army had fired lethal live rounds into the crowd

killing and wounding several people.

The government continues to deny that shooting even took place. Well, 300 plus page report mentioned CNN's reporting 37 times. I just want you to see

a bit of that investigation by my colleagues Stephanie Busari, Nima Elbagir, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Katie Polglase, Barbara Arvanitidis, Muhammad

Darwish and Oscar Featherston.


ANDERSON: A warning, you may find the following video disturbing. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): People gathered at Lekki Tollgate protesting against what they called systemic police brutality, and

corruption. What they don't know is that the army is already on its way.

This is Bonny Camp, a military garrison on the south side of Lagos. We know through analyzing footage they left at 6:29 pm heading towards Lekki

Tollgate. We can see here the Nigerian government forces approaching; the protesters are gathered on the other side of the gate.

As Nigerian forces get closer, you can see shots at 6:43 pm we start hearing gunfire. We know this from the timestamp and data on this video.

Here's another angle. Nigerian authorities say they find blanks into the air and not at protesters.

But CNN obtained video that appears to show the army shooting toward the crowd here and at the top of your screen here. In the midst of the chaotic

scenes are DJ Switch, a Nigerian Celebrity and Activist she is broadcasting live on Instagram.

DJ SWITCH, NIGERIAN ACTIVIST: And I wanted people to see what was happening. I didn't want anybody to come on and twist the story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Witnesses tell CNN ambulances were stopped from entering by Nigerian authorities. You can see here people at

the scene trying to conduct CPR.


ANDERSON: Nima Elbagir joins me now. Nima, a year on a 300 page report which you will have been through I'm sure with a fine tooth comb just give

us some context to where we are at today, if you will?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the key findings are namely that the army should never have been deployed that this

was inappropriate from the outset that the demonstration was as it was called largely peaceful, and that the army betrayed its covenant with the

youth of the country.

Some of the language that this report is using and it's very clearly pointing the finger at Nigerian authorities not just for inappropriately

sending the army in. But the quote is, with the intent to kill and maim that they shot using blanks and live bullets with the intent to kill and


And also they carried out an intricate cover up there is some really heartbreaking testimony in that report that speaks to a survivor who was

scooped up, believed to be dead, placed in a van by officers and managed to escape but only after counting 11 other bodies that were being cleared from

the scene.

The key question that we have now is what happens next? The Nigerian authorities accused CNN of being fake news they threatened to sue and

sanction us. The inquiry, the report has asked that the authorities issue an apology to all that were mismatched. During the Lekki Tollgate

aftermath, we have yet to receive an apology.

But more importantly, those survivors and the families of the victims have yet to receive an apology. And the recommendations that the report has put

forward are very clear that there should be a memorializing of what happened at Lekki Tollgate on the 20th of October, and that there should be

accountability and sanction for those police and military officers that were there.

And the question that so many survivors are asking us, Becky is this government that has that has colluded in a cover up? Is it capable of

moving forward with these recommendations? We've reached out to Nigerian authorities and we've yet to receive a response Becky.

ANDERSON: And we will continue to push for that response and we will continue to do what we do which is report in a fair and balanced manner.

Nima, thank you for your reporting and to your entire team and that full investigation is online. Here witness accounts of what happened that

fateful night that is You're watching "Connect World" from our Middle East Programming Hub here in Abu Dhabi. We'll be back after this.



ANDERSON: This is "Connect the World" from our Middle East Programming Hub here in the UAE. It's a busy time here in this region. It's always a busy

time. We've seen a flurry of diplomatic activity there across the Middle East lately, with different countries jockeying for influence and making

big moves after years of war and internal conflict.

Iraq is emerging as a diplomatic player. Baghdad has been encouraging Arab countries to restore relations with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, as

the recent visited the UAE Foreign Minister to Damascus shows it might be getting its wish on that front. It is also mediating important talks

between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Well, earlier this week, I sat down with Fuad Hussein who's Iraq's Foreign Minister, he was in Dubai. And I wanted to find out what's behind Iraq's

recent diplomatic moves? He has - we also talked about his own country's recent parliamentary elections and a number of extremely destabilizing

events have a listen.


HUSSEIN: There are some political parties; they are not satisfied with the election result. And as a result, they organize some demonstrations. So I'm

not talking about militia but then they are political parties. And they were not satisfied there.

We have deep negotiations with all political parties so that we can reach a solution. Another end, I think this issue also will be managed. And then I

hope that everybody will accept the result of the election and then we can negotiate about formation of the new government.

ANDERSON: I have to ask what does the failed assassination attempt on the Iraqi Prime Minister carried out with the Iranian made drones indicate in

terms of Iran's looming threat to Iraq's security.

HUSSEIN: You see, we formed and the Prime Minister himself formed a committee to investigate. Still we are not there who did this and which

kind of drones? So I cannot accuse any party and any country who this attempt on the life of my Prime Minister, however, the investigation is

continuing. And I hope within a short time we can announce the conclusion of the investigation.

ANDERSON: How do you though contain the threat of Iran backed militia in Iraq?

HUSSEIN: The government is trying to keep them under the control. But we have got some problem with them. They are Iraqis, even if their loyalty is

to somebody else or to another country, but then they are Iraqi, so we must include them in our discussions.

ANDERSON: I want to talk about Syria, which is of course, a neighbor. We have seen the UAE's Foreign Minister in Damascus, you share a border with

Syria and you have a lot to gain to a certain extent by Syria coming in from the cold. Will or are you confident that Bashar Al Assad will be

welcomed back into the mix? Certainly the Jordanians and the UAE have offered some sort of reconciliation.


HUSSEIN: By the way we had Iraq always our diplomatic ties with Damascus we never break that. We are encouraging, in fact, the Arab countries to have

normal relationship with Damascus, why? Being unstable as a country, Syria, it creates a lot of problem for Iraq.

So having a stable situation in Syria is in the benefit of Iraq. At the same time, I think most of the Arab countries nowadays they started to

establish relationship with the Damascus. Some of them they announced that some of them they are, they didn't. But I think within a short time, there

will be a normal relationship between many Arab countries and Syria.

ANDERSON: Iraq has been mediating talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, will you continue to mediate those talks?

HUSSEIN: That is up to both countries, if they want us to mediate we will do that. But we are happy that the process of talks started, and it started

in Baghdad. They finished their fourth round, so we expect that the fifth will let's start once again.

ANDERSON: What was achieved?

HUSSEIN: Anyhow talking to each other, that is an achievement in fact. And so they are still talking and negotiation with each other. This is a big

achievement, because to change the language or logical for into logic of dialogue is a big achievement in fact.

ANDERSON: The Americans say they won't be leaving Iraq, and yet they say the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will conclude by the end of the year, what

does this all mean for the future of U.S. Iraqi relations?

HUSSEIN: For U.S., Iraqi nation is in very good shape. In fact, we had our fourth strategic dialogue in Washington and on the basis of the discussion

and dialogue. We reached this decision about the withdrawal of the combat forces American combat forces at the end of the year from Iraq.

But that doesn't mean that our relationship will be different with the American. In fact, we have got deep ties on economic level on a political

level on strategic level. So it is an important for, for us to keep and widen this relationship with the United States.

ANDERSON: The OPEC plus group of oil exporting countries has rejected calls by Joe Biden, to pump more oil you of course, were part of that decision.

What's the strategy from Iraq's perspective?

HUSSEIN: It is not only because of OPEC policy, or OPEC plus policy matters, it's also because of the fact that the world has changed and there

are problems in Europe, which has to do the importing of gas from Russia.

Winter is coming in Europe and of course, gradually we are reaching the period of post COVID-19 so this all affects the economy in the world. There

is - economy of the world is growing, it means more demands on oil, and that leads to higher price and Iraq in fact, for its economy, we need good

price of oil, because that will help our security. It will help our economy and it will help our people.


ANDERSON: Well, that is my interview with the Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. And later this hour I sit down with the UN's Special Envoy to

Syria for more on Damascus coming in from that diplomatic cold. Well, migrants from Iraq and other Middle East countries are among the thousands

hoping to cross into Poland from Belarus.

Next I'll speak to the Interior Minister of Lithuania, about the deepening border crisis and why she is blaming Belarus? Plus, tough words over Taiwan

a virtual summit between the U.S. and China leads to a heated exchange about the island.



ANDERSON: Well, learning more about Monday's virtual summit between the leaders of the United States and China. One U.S. official who was present

called the meeting and I quote here "A healthy debate".

Well, it started off with both Presidents greeting each other like old friends then getting into some thorny issues. A readout from the White

House as Mr. Biden raised human rights concerns over Xinjiang and Tibet.

The toughest back and forth they said was over Taiwan. President Xi said China would be compelled to take resolute measures if independence forces

cross the red line as he described it. Well, tensions remain high between the U.S. and China of course, and no major breakthroughs were announced

after the summit. David Culver takes a closer look for you.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A pandemic style face to face meeting.

XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT: I'm very happy to see an old friend.

CULVER (voice over): The first time President Joe Biden speaking virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The conversation lasted more than three

hours covering a range of issues that are broad relations between these two countries to an all-time low.

A senior U.S. administration official calling the talks respectful, straightforward and open, a healthy debate in which Biden was clear and

candid on a range of human rights concerns. In response, Xi telling Biden that China is ready to have dialogues on human rights on the basis of

mutual respect. But we oppose using human rights to meddle in other countries internal affairs.

On trade Biden also pressing Xi to uphold China's commitments to the phase one trade deal, negotiated under former President Trump, they also talked

Taiwan, China's so called Red Line. China has been putting Military pressure on the self-ruling democracy firm in believing it should be

reunified under Beijing control. Xi is stressing that on Taiwan, the U.S. is playing with fire.

Following the meeting Chinese state media immediately reporting their version tweeting, Biden reiterates that the U.S. government does not

support Taiwan independence.

But the White House had a different take in a statement stressing the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo

or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: To ensure that the competition between our countries does not vary in to conflict.

CULVER (voice over): China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation. The meeting as expected, there'll be no

major outcomes.

PAUL HAENLE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE NSC CHINA DIRECTOR: That sort of the long term structural challenges between the U.S. and China have really yet to be

addressed. This could be the start of a process for that to happen.

CULVER (voice over): Perhaps the warm gestures a sign of progress in countering the frigid relations. David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


ANDERSON: David Culver reporting for you. Well, let's get you back to our top story, furring frustration boiling over into violence on the Belarusian

Polish border crisis. Now stranded migrants desperate to cross into Poland and find a new life in the European Union have been throwing stones while

Polish guards have been answering that with tear gas and water cannon. This is on the border of Europe.


ANDERSON: Some 2000 refugees are living in the open in freezing conditions the Belarusian Border Agency tells CNN some of them are now being moved to

a processing center about one and a half kilometers from the border with Poland where they can certainly get a bit warmer.

Agne Bilotaite joins me now she's the Interior Minister for Lithuania. Thank you for joining us. There were reports that some migrants attempting

to cross into Lithuania from Belarus did them?

AGNE BILOTAITE, LITHUANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER: First of all, I would like to mention that situation on the Belarusian border is quite tense but stable.

But what happens it is not only illegal migration; it is a hybrid attack against Lithuania against whole Europe.

And that means that Lukashenka is unpredictable leader use illegal migrants like tools like weapons. And he needs attention and he needs to destabilize

situation in Europe and to make pressure to us.

ANDERSON: OK, let me ask you this. Lithuania's foreign minister has said that the country is and I quote here "ready to support its neighboring

countries Poland and Latvia". If either feels the need to invoke NATO's Article four, in response to the Belarus border crisis, will Lithuania do

the same?

BILOTAITE: This situation is really unpredictable, because regime - with this regime can happen to a lot of situation and Lithuania is prepared for

a different kind of scenario. And when it happens the border scenario of course, we should talk about this possibility. At the moment, we need a lot

of potential from our countries, because -

ANDERSON: So let me just be quite. So you're considering - let me just be quite clear here for the benefit of our viewers. So Lithuania is

considering asking NATO to invoke Article four in response to the border crisis with Belarus, is that what you're saying?

BILOTAITE: Yes, we are discussing about this possibility. And it is really can happen. So then we have the border scenario, because Lukashenka and

Belarusian regime it is not normal regime. It is undemocratically and criminal regime. And in this situation, we should talk about responsibility

of the situation. And it now it's not only illegal migration crisis, this is also communitarian crisis.

ANDERSON: And let's talk about that, because these migrants are being pushed back from the border. We are on the border. My colleague, Matthew

Chance is on the border on the Belarusians side.

And he spoke to migrants who have been pushed back by the Polish security guards by the Military there. They've been fired on with tear gas and with

water cannon. And they told Matthew Chance that they are going back to Iraq.

Interior Minister, these are men, women and children. We saw these children being carried on the shoulders of men walking in the freezing cold being

forced to return to Iraq. Is that what you and other colleagues in Europe hoped to see?

BILOTAITE: First of all, I would like to mention about these people that they are not asylum seekers. The biggest part of is people coming to

Belarus with a tourist visa. And the aim of these people is Western countries, better economic conditions.

And Lukashenka promoting this possibility for these people and invite these people and try to push, use these people like weapons. And my

responsibilities --

ANDERSON: Let me just ask you briefly, did you concede that the EU needs to do more for these people, though, let's not dehumanize them by calling them

migrants. These are men, women and children.

BILOTAITE: First of all, is very important to mention that we provide humanitarian supplies for these people. And also - with Baltic States

Austria and Poland in - joint letter to international NGO, because the communitarian crisis is in Belarusian site. And we need more attention in

the situation in Belarus.


ANDERSON: OK. With that, we're going to leave it there; we thank you very much for joining us tonight. Your perspective is extremely important. Thank

you. When we come back, serious, brutal civil war made its leaders into pariahs, but there are signs the country's neighbors was that in the past,

that story is coming up.


ANDERSON: If you're a regular viewer of this show, and I hope you are, you'll know that there are some major shifts in Middle East politics

happening right now starting, for example, with the return of the once shun Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back into the fold.

It seems he met with Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed the UAE's Foreign Minister last week. This would have been unthinkable over the last decade. But it

does seem some Middle Eastern States are now ready to accept Assad once again despite the atrocities that he's accused of during the Syrian Civil


Series neighbor Jordan also playing a pivotal role in all of this. Last month, Jordan's King Abdullah spoke by phone with Syria's president for the

first time in more than a decade, where I recently spoke with Jordan's Foreign Minister about his nation's outreach to Damascus. Have a listen to



AYMAN SAFADI, JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: On Syria, our position in Jordan has always been constant. We believe that this crisis has gone on for far

too long. It has caused so much suffering. And to be honest with you, we have not seen any effective strategy to try and solve the conflict.

So what we're trying to do in coordination with our partners and our friends are to again, try and gear our movements towards an effective

mechanism that will put an end to this crisis that has shattered the lives of millions of people.

And have had security implications, economic implications and social implications for all of us. But mostly for countries like Jordan, which is

a bordering country of Syria and the tremendous impact of that crisis on us is something that we have to militate against.


ANDERSON: Well, Jordan and other Arab States are then moving to reestablish ties with Assad and with Syria, western nations not quite ready to make

that leap. I sat down with the U.N.'s Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen to get his view on all of this. Have a listen to the discussion

that we had, this is fascinating.



GEIR PEDERSEN, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA: I'm used to saying that the Military phase may be winding down, but the conflict is not over. And this

is after 11, nearly 11 years. So obviously, something needs to change in the way we have approach this conflict.

So I have asked the Security Council and my Arab friends that why don't we approach this, you know, what I call a step for step approach, where we put

on the table, what we are prepared to do you know, what the Arabs are prepared to do for the Europeans or the Americans, the Turks.

And then the mosque is Iran and Russia needs to identify what they are prepared to do to move this forward. And it is my hope, when we see an

initiative like this, when we see the cold from King Abdullah to President Assad, that that would also need to have a response from Damascus, and that

it could sort of bring a new what I call the new psychological environment to this. If that is indeed the case, it will be very interesting to follow.

ANDERSON: Is it your understanding that the next summit of the Arab League in Algeria will open the door to Syria's return to the organization? And if

so, how will that help? We're talking about the wider Arab fold here.

PEDERSEN: This is obviously up to our Arab friends to decide in a manner they think is helpful and necessary. And I will follow it as closely as you

are following it.

ANDERSON: I have to say, these moves are widely seen as an effort to counter Iran's influence in Syria, is that how you see this?

PEDERSEN: First and foremost, this hopes that this is a contribution to end the suffering of the Syrian people. As I said, you know, the magnitude of

this conflict is still unbelievable. So then we also know that geopolitics coming into this. Many of other Arab friends are made clear that the fact

you have an Iranian presence, Turkish presence, but not really a strong Arab presence is, of course, our concern.

But in the end, I think we all understand that the solution to the Syrian crisis cannot be decided by you know, the Arabs alone, or the Iranians or

the Turks, or the Russians or the Americans, there needs to be an international cooperation's to move this forward. Because the tragedy of

this conflict is that no one is strong enough to force a solution to the different aspects of it.

ANDERSON: The U.S. is resolved to withdraw its troops from Syria. The exits, of course, would require the cooperation of Russia of Bashar al-

Assad of Iran.

And it's clear from my sources, at least, that the U.S. does have an open channel with Moscow, when it comes to Syria. Would that help your job,

which is ultimately to try and help reestablish peace, stability and security in Syria?

PEDERSEN: The fact that we have five armies operating in Syria is indeed a challenge. I think what I am heard from the American side is that they have

no plans of leaving Syria anytime soon. It's part of - Stacey's fight against Irish.

But obviously, I think it's clear that eventually American troops will withdraw from Syria. Hopefully that can be part of a broader solution.

ANDERSON: Do you applaud the region's efforts in trying to take some ownership to take a new approach at this point?

PEDERSEN: Yes, as I said, I think I will come on course new initiatives. And I hope it will be part of a broader strategy, where we move towards the

same goal, which is to create stability in Syria and the suffering of the Syrian people restore, so we're entity to the Syrian state, and defeat the

terrorist challenge that is still there.

But these are, as you know, very well, it's not by chance that we didn't reach a solution after 10 years. So there needs to be a real give and take.

ANDERSON: Will you describe the latest round of talks between Syria government representatives, opposition civil society as a big

disappointment? How do you move this process forward?

PEDERSEN: One of the many tragedies of course, is that we have such deep mistrust still between the parties. That mistrust is also partly there

between the international communities.

So what I've been trying to do with the work in the Constitution committee is too slowly to start to build a little bit of trust between the parties.

And I think if we managed to do that that could help to be a door opener to older issues that we need to address.


ANDERSON: In September, you told the Security Council and I quote, "following a decade of appalling suffering and losses in Syria, and amid a

current period of relative calm, now is the time to push for a political process to end the fighting". You also reported at the time on multiple

sources of concern in Syria, what are they, just explain?

PEDERSEN: Let's start with the collapse of the economy. And humanitarian situation, as I said, in a nine out of 10, living in poverty, a middle

class evaporated, these are big issues for the stability and the future of Syria.

The second is, of course, that we know have a ceasefire in place, but in the north, in the northwest, between Russia and Turkey, but we have more or

less daily skirmishes, you know, artillery shelling, and we have also problems in the Northeast and related to Kurdish, Turkish relationship.

And all of these create the pressure. So we have what we are afraid of is, if there is a collapse of the ceasefires of the relative calm, if it had

dramatic consequences, we have one and a half million internally displaced people in the Northwest. And if these people start moving, it's a tragedy

for them. But also it could have enormous consequences for the neighbors and also for European countries.

ANDERSON: In Syria, words been spreading for months that the easiest and fastest way to reach Europe is a direct flight to Belarus. What's your

perspective on this? And what's the role of humanitarian response here?

PEDERSEN: What we need to see is that they give hope to the refugees and to refugee communities. And currently, I'm afraid that the political process

is not delivering is not giving that hope that is needed.

So that's why we are going to continue to see efforts to leave and to come into Europe or other places. But that's why I also think this is also an

appeal, you know, to European leaders, to American leaders to refocus on these issues. If not, it may come back to haunt all of us.

ANDERSON: And is that your point that at the moment, 10 years into this or more into this conflict, it is beginning to haunt - the Europeans at this


PEDERSEN: Yes. But again, let me emphasize that. My focus is obviously on the suffering of the Syrian people. That's what it needs to be. But if we

focus on that, and start moving towards the efforts of stabilizing the situation in Syria, based on what I call a step by step approach, then that

will also address these other concerns.

ANDERSON: Are you though optimistic that things will change? Because otherwise, we're looking down the barrel of another decade of total misery

for Syrians and that can't happen shortly.

PEDERSEN: I believe there is a possibility to use this period that we are now in with what I call a relative calm and with the sobering message of

economic and humanitarian challenges to unite the international community, trying to create stability in Syria.

But if the altar judge from the history of the 10 years that have paused, because then I'm also afraid that 10 years from now, you will be sitting

with a different envoy and you will be asking the same questions. And that I think is a tragedy that no one can really afford.


ANDERSON: Yes, Geir Pedersen speaking to me at Inc this weekend, sobering assessment. Well, another country in the Middle East said they've seen so

much more in suffering over the past decade is Libya and all eyes are on Libya's presidential elections scheduled for next month.

The son of late Libyan Dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Saif Gadhafi has just registered as a presidential candidate. He is wanted by the International

Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.

On the other side strongmen and Military leader Khalifa Haftar, who controls wide swath as eastern Libya has announced his bid for office have

to lead a campaign to capture the U.N. backed government in the capital of Tripoli.

The very divisive figure is now calling for unity and reconciliation. The elections remain very much in doubt as rival entities bicker over voting

rules. Well, you're watching "Connect the World", I am Becky Anderson. Coming up, we'll take a look at the life and legacy of iconic Lebanese

American artists; do stay with me for that.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. Just before we go here on "Connect the World", I want to look back at the life and work of influential Lebanese American

artist and author Etel Adnan. She died over the weekend at the age of 96.

Well, Adnan was widely known for her writing exploring themes from political violence in the Middle East to feminism, one of her novels even

became a defining text on the Lebanese civil war. - years she became known for her visual art painting beautiful abstract landscapes often inspired by

the view from her home near San Francisco. In 2014, she participated in the Whitney Biennial Art Show in New York.

And the same year she was awarded France's highest cultural honor. Etel Adnan will forever be remembered as an iconic and inspirational figure in

the Middle East and beyond. Thank you for joining us. "One World" with Lynda Kinkade is next.