Return to Transcripts main page

Connect the World

AXIOS: Israel Approves Parameters of Red Sea Islands Transfer; Biden: The Palestinian People are Hurting Now; White House: Trip was "Strategic Decision" not a Request; Biden Arrives in Saudi Arabia, will Meet with Crown Prince; Wickremesinghe Sworn in as Acting President; Biden Arrives in Saudi Arabia, met by Crown Prince. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired July 15, 2022 - 11:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Well, welcome back! The second hour of "Connect the World" and we are live from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia,

where the U.S. President has just landed.

Well, from the moment he steps on to the tarmac, Joe Biden will have his work cut out for him. That is Air Force One and we are waiting for the

doors to open. Well, let's stick on this shot as I let you know what to expect here?

Mr. Biden saying he wants to reorient not rupture. Relations with the kingdom those relations, of course have been shaky under his

administration, whether they can overcome that remains to be seen. And let me just take you back to what he was doing an hour or so ago.

He was leaving Israel as Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to direct civilian flights to and from Israel just in time to accommodate Air Force

One as it took the trip from Tel Aviv to here in Jeddah. Earlier, I talked with a journalist in the region who says this is an important step.


BARAK RAVID, CONTRIBUTING CORRESPONDENT, AXIOS: As you said this thing was in the works for months. The White House has been negotiating quietly

between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt on a much broader deal than just the over flights. The over flights are one part the second part is the deal

around two strategic islands in the Red Sea that are going to be - finally are going to be totally transferred from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

And Israel needed to give an OK to this process which happened yesterday, only after Israel gave it's OK the Saudis agreed to the over flights. And I

think that the significance here is that this opens the way and creates this momentum that can, you know, down the road, six months from now, a

year from now, two years from now, get us to a whole new chapter of the Abraham Accords in some sort of a normalization agreement between Israel

and Saudi Arabia.

This will be a roadmap. It's not going to be like this one giant leap from zero to 100. We moved I think today, from 0 to 20 and in two years' time, I

think we can close this gap between 20 and 100. But it will happen very gradually.


ANDERSON: Well, I want to bring in CNN's International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson, who has spent a lot of time reporting on the dynamics in

this region. We were just listening to Barak Ravid talking about the significance of the opening of airspace here over Saudi Arabia, not least

to flights from Israel.

This flight on the right hand side of your screens, viewers has just done that journey. It is a direct flight. And that is the U.S. President's

plane, and he will be disembarking momentarily for what arguably is the most important leg of what is his first trip to the Middle East as U.S.

President Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It is and coming in as a sort of sort of symbolic first flight now the Saudis have taken away the

denial that they had for all aircraft to be able to fly across their space. It's significant.

It shows us softening. It shows the opening of the doors. But of course, this is at the core of what been laid out - what President Biden is going

to hear here from the Saudi leadership. He is going to hear that they want to be more open, they want to have better relations.

They want investment. They want to do business with the rest of the world. And they really want to shrug off that the tarnished image that they know

that they have from the Crown Prince being associated with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Both sides know the President when he steps down off the off the cuff knows that's what's going to be hanging over him. The Saudi leadership waiting

for him in the Royal Palace over here knows that that's what everyone's looking at and that's the prison that the view is going to be. But they're

going to try and break out of that prism.


ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. He will meet King Salman that will be his first business on his itinerary. He'll then meet the Crown Prince, the De Facto

Leader here with his advisors. And this is a man who runs this country. And this is a country which has much changed over the last six years since the

launch of what is known as vision 2030.

And you made the point that the Saudis, and those others that Joe Biden will meet that is leaders of the GCC Plus leaders of the three other big

regional heavyweights that being Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan, will want to hear more from the U.S. President than just a request to please pump more oil?

ROBERTSON: They want to hear the strategy. They want us - they want to understand--

ANDERSON: What are you bringing to the table?

ROBERTSON: What do you bring to the table? And where do you would like - where would you like to move the table to? Because we're waiting for you to

tell us that we've got a ton of ideas the way we want to engage the way we as a regency that we're developing and changing?

Look, I think, as journalists, where we are the skeptics of that first draft of history, or government press releases, whatever it is, then years

ago, here it was the country was going to change. And we've been able to witness that change. Now, there are a lot of issues with that change.

There are a lot of reasons to be cautious. There's a lot of potential overreach by the leadership. There are a lot of things where they've still

got to deliver. But what they're showing, and this is what they want to show President Biden is that they have a vision and they want to reach that

vision, but it needs to be done in partnership with the United States historically.

So yes, when he comes, it's like, OK, Mr. President, show us the way that you would like us to move forward because we want to move forward. And we

want to do it with you as a partner.

ANDERSON: And the message here and this was very cogently put in an op-ed, penned by the Saudi Ambassador to Washington earlier on, is that they want

to move this U.S./Saudi relationship beyond what she described as the "Olden Reductionist Paradigm of Oil for Security". I mean, there are

security guarantees this country are looking for?

ROBERTSON: And they want to know, the bucks there for sure. It's not the old paradigm. It has shifted, they want integration. They want to share

knowledge and learning on AI on cybersecurity on green and renewable energies. They want to be an energy hub into the future.

They know oil is going away. They know that's their lifeblood today. They know they need new lifeblood. They're committed to it, you hear these

statements, but they want partners to do that. They want investment from outside and to have that investment from outside they have to convince the

U.S. President and they have to convince U.S. investors.

ANDERSON: Well, that's the point. They have to they have to convince U.S. Congress as well. That's what's really important. So that begs the

question, as we look at these images. This is the welcoming party, as I understand it, I can't - my eyesight is not good enough.

But I'm pretty sure that welcoming party does not include MBS or King Salman you and I have been told by all sources. What you see here is

actually protocol. Oh, maybe it does. I can't actually see because we're looking at the back of these, but I'm pretty sure that that is. Correct me

if I'm wrong, likely to be the Governor of Mecca --?

ROBERTSON: Senior Royal.

ANDRESON: Yes a senior Royal. Yes. And that is protocol. Let's be quite clear about this. And we were told this by, by some of our sources in

Saudi, you know, the international media will say, well, hang on a minute, you know, he wasn't greeted by King Salman. He wasn't greeted by the Crown

Prince. What does that mean? What should we read into that very little is what we've been told?

ROBERTSON: The meeting is going to happen behind closed doors. We're all straining to see is there a handshake? What does this symbolize and

signify? And both the White House and our sources here are saying look, don't read into that.

The real business happens behind closed doors. Indeed, we've even heard that from the White House this afternoon, saying that we - believe in

President Biden said this, you know, I believe, or his National Security Adviser said that he believes that, you know, to get real diplomacy done,

some of it has to happen behind closed doors, so you're not going to see all of it.

So the relationship behind closed doors, our sources are telling us is going to be a good and productive one. Now, they would say that and there

will be a test and what the outcomes are down the road, that this is what they're expecting.

But to the protocol at the airport, as you've said, don't expect the top Royals to be there. The meetings they're going to happen here.

ANDERSON: So what I am seeing is the Saudi Ambassador to Washington, and that will be a familiar face. So as will be a familiar face to Joe Biden

and his national security team. ANDERSON: The White House team, Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, whose father has been imbued in diplomacy and

ambassadorial positions, not least in the U.S. for a very long time for decades and decades.

ROBERTSON: Long relationships with--

ANDERSON: And this is the point, isn't it? As she rightly pointed out in political cogently pointed out in her POLITICO op-ed. You know, the

relationship has been one built over the last 80 years. It is not unfamiliar for a U.S. President to come and visit Saudi Arabia. It has

happened, I would guess pretty much every cycle over the last 80 years?

ROBERTSON: I think, from sources we were hearing last night there's only one President there hadn't actually made it. You know, and I think it's

significant you know, Prince Bandar Al Saud the father of Princess Reema was Ambassador for so long in Washington. She grew up at his knee learning

instincts of diplomacy.

You know, it's no coincidence that the Crown Prince was put her brother - then Bandar Al Saud in the ambassadorship in London, both English speaking

obviously both very familiar with diplomacy learned from their father.

He was a great ambassador for the country, those relationships count. And this is significant that MBS has tried to keep the legacy of those

relationships that past generations of Kings here have put in place to keep that going that narrative, that conversation, that familiarity that's the

value. That's the sort of how you read between the lines the value?

ANDERSON: Here comes the U.S. President to be greeted by members of the Royal Family here on the Tarmac in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, taking his

glasses off. We've been told that the President isn't because of COVID regulations and concerns about the uptick in COVID cases around the world

isn't actually sort of shaking hands in his meets and greets.

Trying to stay away from the normal protocol as it were, you've seen fist pump in Israel when he arrived. We can't quite see how he's greeting these

two members of the royal family here.

There's been some speculation, Nic, of course, whether the idea of not greeting in the normal familiar way might be so that the President doesn't

have to greet the Crown Prince here with a handshake or something more familiar that might help the optics. I don't know, what do you think?

ROBERTSON: You know, we're being told don't look at the symbolism of it. Check out the substance after. OK so that's what we're being told. We will

have to check on that. Of course, we will. This is what will be scrutinizing what is the substance that that comes out from here?

ANDERSON: Let me tell you he is actually shaking hands with people?

ROBERTSON: --the Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas earlier today, that initial caution, perhaps at the beginning of the trip, as has

waned a little.

ANDERSON: Yes, interesting. All right well, we'll stick with these pictures, because this is President Biden, on what has been coming off what

has been an historic trip from Tel Aviv to Jeddah direct the Saudis just in time for this trip opening up their airspace, to all carriers.

And the significance in that cannot be underplayed. I mean, for a carrier like LL, for example, and the fact that they can now fly over Saudi Arabia

cuts an enormous amount of travel time for that airline of a trip to Asia for example, at a time of very high fuel prices and a travel industry under

real pressure.

Clearly, that's important, but it's not for that reason, we all know that this is about baby steps towards what Joe Biden wants to see as more

normalization between Israel and other Arab countries, specifically looking for some indication the Saudi Arabia will be at some point prepared to

normalize its relations with Israel.

ROBERTSON: It is but you're probably hearing the same from your sources. What I'm hearing from my Saudi sources is that is an aspiration, that

something that's along the road that's out there. But there is a lot of - it would be a huge move for the King here to make that kind of decision,

because he is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

He looks after the most, most cherished place within Islam. Millions upon millions of Muslims come here to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage in Mecca. So

there is with tradition and with history, a heavy weight on a leader here, who would enter into a relationship with Israel given everything that's

happened with the Palestinians over the decades.

So that additional burden the way the Saudis see it that kind of needs an additional price from them if you will. Price is perhaps the wrong word.

But do expect when these baby steps get to walk over the finishing line there will be something that Saudis feels that it can take away.


ROBERTSON: And I think the other important point that my sources tell me and I'm sure they tell you the same as they don't feel the time is right

because they don't think that there's a leader in Israel that can deliver on the commitments that they would need to open the door to that

relationship. These are two very - this is a big step to take for two very significant reasons.

ANDERSON: Well, Air Force One is officially wheels down at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. President Biden will first

head to a bilateral meeting with King Salman after that, to the larger bilateral meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and other Saudi


We will get images of those meetings in the hour or so to come do stick with CNN for that. And after that, of course, into tomorrow the U.S.

President will be meeting with other regional leaders, it's really important to point out leaders of the GCC will be here plus three other

countries, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq.

And it'll be really interesting to see what comes out of some of those bilateral meetings? Where the region is pinning its hopes on the

relationship with the U.S. going forward? Let's remind ourselves there's been a lot of skepticism about the relationship that the Middle East has

with Washington over the past months.

A real sense, certainly from Saudi Arabia, and the UAE that sort of security guarantees that they would otherwise expect from the U.S. have

just not been forthcoming. And to that end, there has been much talk in this region about why it is therefore, that these countries you know have

one eye on Beijing as much as they do an eye on Washington?

The relationship isn't broken. But certainly the U.S President here, it is here to ensure that it is more robust going forward. Well, earlier today,

President Biden turned his focus to the Palestinians. He urged a two state solution in speaking alongside Palestinian Authority; President Abbas

recognize the suffering of the Palestinian people.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know that the goal with two states seems so far away while and think these like restrictions

on movement and travel, or the daily worry of your children's safety are real and they are immediate. The palace the Palestinian people are hurting

now. You feel you can just feel it your grief and frustration in the United States. We can feel it. But we'd never give up on the word peace.


ANDERSON: All right, perhaps what Palestinians were most eager to hear from him was about the death of Al Jazeera Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. An MTC

faced the podium where the two leaders were speaking holding a photo of the late journalists where she would have been sitting if she's still alive.

The President called her death and enormous loss in view of the importance of sharing Palestinian stories with the world and said the U.S. will

continue to insist on a full and transparent investigation into her killing.

Well, Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem. Shireen's - who we're both spoken to in recent days it said that the Shireen - the family has been sorely

disappointed in American contact, and I've had to chase the Americans down for some answers about where they stand on Shireen's death? Are people

satisfied with Biden's remarks today?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that they are satisfied at least that she was mentioned. But there was even a question amongst some people

about whether he would mention her name mention her death?

I think that it was inevitable that he was going to talk about her you couldn't you can't ignore it you I mean, President Biden couldn't ignore it

when he came into Bethlehem because on the road he took into Bethlehem.

There is a huge mural on the separation wall of Shireen Abu Akleh and all throughout Bethlehem there were posters showing her face calling for

justice for Shireen. And as you noted, there was an empty seat for her because if Shireen was still with us, she would be reporting on this

historic visit, just like the rest of us are reporting as one of the top reporters for Al Jazeera.

And many of her Palestinian colleagues in the media community were wearing black shirts with her face on them. So as Biden was looking out to the

crowd, he was seeing a sea of black shirts with Shireen's face on them.

So I think it was expected that he was going to say something people were happy to hear it. There was an unfortunate stumble over the pronunciation

of her name, but I think more importantly. It was his acknowledgement of what she meant for the Palestinian people.

And there is still this pledge that they will continue investigating the circumstances around her death because that is something that is still

frustrating to so many Palestinians and to her family is how the investigation was handled?


GOLD: Her family says that they were not notified; they had no idea that the Palestinian Authority was going to hand the bullet that killed Shireen

that was extracted from her body over to the Americans to be identified to be examined.

And now we also know that the Israelis examined it. There's still some anger and frustration from the Palestinians about that as well. But now

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has invited the family to Washington to meet with them.

They're in lieu of President Biden meeting with them here. And the family says that they are considering making that trip to meet with the Americans.


ANDERSON: Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem earlier on in Bethlehem. Thank you. Well still ahead more on the U.S. President's visit to Saudi Arabia. Will

he be able to reset that relationship for a new and more enduring future, we will talk to a senior journalist up after this short break. Stay with



ANDERSON: Forging a long relationship, a picture of then-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Saudi King Abdulaziz sowed for more than 75

years ago. They met on an American cruise up in the Suez Canal on Valentine's Day. Well, it's a relationship that has endured but may need to

be reset as President Biden arrives in Jeddah. Let's talk about this highly anticipated visit and other issues with Faisal Abbas.

He is the Editor-in-chief of Arab News, which is a leading an extremely good, Middle East English language daily, it's good to have you. Just

explain how this relationship is evolving. Given the current set of global challenges, things aren't easy at present.

FAISAL ABBAS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, ARAB NEWS: Yes, absolutely. Things aren't easy anywhere in the world. It's never been easy in this part of the world.

But the one advantage and I think this is pleased to the bilateral relation is, for the first time in years and decades, Saudi Arabia is going towards

a very clear path to the future.

As I said earlier, we have vision 2030. We know the reforms that are happening. America has a golden opportunity here, not just in Saudi Arabia,

but we've interviewed Ambassador Dennis Ross recently.

And you know, there's a quote that I really liked that he said, you know, what happens in Saudi Arabia does not only affect Saudi Arabia, it affects

the whole region, it affects the whole Muslim world and the whole Arab world.

So if there's a time to reset the relationship and put it on the right path, it is right now.

ANDERSON: Yes. Any roads this region passes through, well, I would say Riyadh normally but we are in Jeddah where it's a little bit cooler that it

would be in Riyadh.

Just slightly I mean this is the summer humid heat. As we've been discussing straining the relationship with Saudi Arabia, it seems to be

something that Mr. Biden has come to regret. Have a listen to this.



BIDEN: I think we have an opportunity to reassert what I think we made a mistake of walking away from our influence in Middle East. I want to make

clear that we can continue to lead in the region and not create a vacuum, a vacuum that is filled by China and or Russia.


ANDERSON: Well, that's a really interesting statement. Look, he's not the only U.S. President Donald Trump, although we have a very good relationship

with the Saudis, and Obama all suggesting that the U.S. national security priorities didn't list the Middle East as a top priority in recent years.

And we know that, so it's not just Biden, but Biden says the relationship is problematic. And you know he blames U.S. for that to a certain extent.

And we know that Saudi Arabia and others around the region are pretty cozy with the Russians and the Chinese and they don't want to be asked to


ABBAS: No, absolutely. And I don't think we should. But let's acknowledge that there has been an American vacuum. And this is not me. This is

President Biden, in Israel yesterday, making a very important statement that it was a mistake to walk away from the Middle East.

America has its place here, and it keeps checks and balances in order across the whole region. And we've seen firsthand what happens when America

retracts from the region, the vacuum is filled by other countries.

But you know, sticking to the point that I've said earlier, there is a golden opportunity for the United States at this very moment of time. For

the first time you have a young leadership in Saudi Arabia in the United Arab Emirates in a very long time, we know where we're headed, and our

American partners should have a front row seat in that journey.

ANDERSON: So it'll be really interesting to see what comes out of this trip. I mean, the headlines, and for the optics and the benefit of his

domestic audience are going to be tough for the U.S. president, quite frankly.

But it'll be interesting to see how the narrative and this trip goes down around this region. You know, both of us live in this region. So that's the

prison that to a certain extent, we'll look at this trip through Iran front and center on this trip.

Biden visiting its two main regional foes Israel and more latterly, Saudi Arabia, and some analysts say the steps towards normalization between the

two countries could provoke Iran.

And meanwhile, in the Middle East newsletter, folks, one analyst says it's a terrible idea, because it's immense existing division in the region and

reduces the likelihood of diplomatic breakthroughs your thoughts?

ABBAS: Well, first of all, I think that is a discussion definitely worth having. Energy prices are a discussion definitely worth having. What has

been really troubling the past few days is the trivialization of the importance of this trip by talking about handshakes.

And who's going to be meeting at the airport. The point you raised is extremely important. Somebody needs to stand up to Iran for the sake of the

whole region, you know, a truck driver in Michigan now, do you really think he cares?

Who shakes hands with whom or what is the outcome of the meeting, you know, feeling the pinch of the energy prices feeling the pinch of the global

inflation? I just really regret the trivialization that has been happening on social media.

And I'm glad we're having this discussion. Yes, Iran is a clear and present threat that should be dealt with beyond just the nuclear threat.

ANDERSON: That being its ballistic missiles program, and indeed, its malign behavior around this region. It's always a pleasure.

ABBAS: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you very much indeed. Faisal Abbas is in the house. We'll have a lot more on Mr. Biden's historic trip Saudi Arabia, just ahead. But

if you want to take a deeper dive do check our newsletter out, that's meanwhile in the Middle East, you'll get an awful lot of analysis.

For example, we look at why Iran is keeping a close eye on this visit. Tehran certainly looking to see what comes out of it. If you aren't a

subscriber, you can sign up of course, that's newsletter.

Right, just ahead, this could be a testing time for Joe Biden in Jeddah as energy looms over his Saudi visit and I'll ask an oil expert why he may

have to tread carefully. That is coming up.



ANDERSON: Welcome back. Energy Security is a key theme of the U.S. President's meetings here in Saudi Arabia; crude prices have been volatile

and a major factor in soaring inflation.

The oil issue could also cause damage for the president at home if his diplomatic skills don't translate into more crude production to ease gas

prices. And that may be a little naive on the part of the White House to be honest.

But this is a thorny issue because it collides with his previous condemnation of the rule of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is

the de facto leader here. I want to bring in CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, just walk us through the pressures that President Biden is facing at home as he undertakes what are these key meetings, not just with the

Saudis, but with leaders from around this region?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the president has downplayed the fact that he is meeting with the Crown Prince

and instead emphasize that there are other world leaders here that he'll be meeting with. But that's not until tomorrow.

And tonight, the focus is going to be on the Saudi Crown Prince, because they are going to have a working session without the Saudi King President.

And that's the White House really confirming that for the first time that that's the case when they released this schedule.

We had an indication that would obviously be the case, given that king is in deteriorating health and not expected to sit in a meeting for over an

hour or something. So he'll be part of the brief formal meeting at the top.

But it's that second meeting with the Saudi King that has caused so much of that pressure for this White House. Because, of course, on the campaign

trail, it was President Biden when he was a candidate saying he wanted to make Saudi Arabia a pariah for what happened to Jamal Khashoggi and the

brutal murder of him.

He said that he believed the current government, which is still the current government had little to no social redeeming value, and there was a flat

out murder.

And so it's all of those comments that are going to be looming over it when it comes to face to face with the Saudi King here and so, the White House

has downplayed that. They've said, you know, he still stands by those statements. He doesn't regret them.

But it's basically their foreign policy meeting reality here, because they do want Saudi Arabia to increase oil production. They want to be able to

bring down those gas prices at home in the United States.

And so that is what has led President Biden here, though there are some other issues including the Yemen ceasefire to discuss when they're sitting

down together just any minute now.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Well, those are the images of Air Force One which landed in Saudi Arabia, just about what, half an hour or so ago. And

as Kaitlan rightly pointed out, thank you, Kaitlan.

The U.S. President is on his way now to the palace here to meet with King Salman, the leader of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He was met by the Prince

Khalid who is the Governor of Mecca and the Saudi Ambassador to Washington Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud.

They have then accompanied the U.S. president to the palace after this meeting with the King. The U.S. president will meet with what's back home

will be seen as a pretty controversial meeting with Mohammed bin Salman who is the crown prince here. He will be with his advisors. He runs this

country effectively the U.S. president will sit down with him to pretty much sketch out where this relationship goes next.


ANDERSON: And what the U.S. and the Saudis can do for each other when it comes to a world, for example, which is in a post oil era, at some point,

energy transition and diversification, investment and infrastructure.

You know, there is an enormous amount of narrative that certainly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wants to put on the table and see whether the U.S.

is prepared to play ball in a region, which is very much on the move and very different from the last time.

The U.S. president was here, some 10 years ago. Well here with me now is Amena Bakr, Chief OPEC Correspondent and Dubai Deputy Bureau Chief of

Energy Intelligence.

I just bring your attention to this speech from the UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed ally on, pledging support for global energy security. And

an address to the nation last week, he will of course be meeting Joe Biden, tomorrow as one of the leaders of the GCC and a very big oil producer. Have

a listen.


MOHAMED BIN ZAYED, UAE PRESIDENT: You will also continue to consolidate our nation's position as a reliable energy provider and support global energy

security as a fundamental driver of global economic growth and development.


ANDERSON: That's the message from the UAE, the buzzword there be being a reliable energy provider to provide energy security around the world. What

his highness wasn't discussing in that address to the nation was the idea that any one member of OPEC will be prepared to increase their oil output

anytime soon to satisfy the U.S. president.

AMENA BAKR, CHIEF OPEC CORRESPONDENT, ENERGY INTELLIGENCE: Absolutely, Becky, that's not something that the UAE's President or Saudi King Salman

will be saying out in the open that they are ready to increase their production by a certain amount.

Don't expect any of these announcements to be made today detailing numbers. So that's already expected.

ANDERSON: The New York Times reporting that Saudi Arabia and the UAE may add over a million barrels per day in September.

If that were to happen, what sort of impact would that have on the oil markets, but for President Biden's purposes on gasoline prices at the pump

in America?

BAKR: Well, Becky, let me just take you a little bit back. We've all heard the conversation between Macron and President Biden, when he told him there

is no spare capacity; the UAE has very little savings with Saudi Arabia.

What happened when he said that statement, the markets shot up? So the moment you have no spare capacity, the market goes into a mode of panic,

and prices go up. So it's counterproductive.

And that's why both the UAE and Saudi Arabia will not max out their capacity, they will continue being very cautious. You asked about gasoline

prices. Increasing production again will not mean that the normal person at the pump will feel any of the difference because we have a problem in the

refining capacity.

There isn't enough refining capacity. And it also has to do with crude grades, Becky.

ANDERSON: So finally, before I let you go, OPEC plus is OPEC plus Russia. Does Russia remain a member of that OPEC plus grouping going forward? Is

there any intention by any of the members to get rid of Russia from that? Let's be quite clear about it that oil cartel.

BAKR: Becky, there is no intention whatsoever by any of the OPEC plus members to push Russia out of this group. In fact, it's a top priority for

Saudi Arabia to keep Russia as part of this group.

There's the declaration of cooperation, which is remaining until the end of the year, meaning that Russia will continue to cooperate. But until the

foreseeable future as well, Russia is important part of this group and an important part because they needed to have this effective tool to manage

the market. And that's why you need Russia in the group.

ANDERSON: Couldn't be a more important time to be doing the job that you are doing, your insight and analysis is hugely valuable to our viewers.

Thank you very much indeed for joining us.

BAKR: Thank you, Becky.

ANDERSON: Coming up after the break from anger to celebration, Sri Lanka sees an end to a political dynasty as a new temporary leader is sworn in.

We're live in the Sri Lankan capital for you.

And we continue to monitor Joe Biden who is on the g round here and not very far away from where I am broadcasting to you at a meeting with King

Salman who is the leader here, the official leader here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.



ANDERSON: Sri Lanka has a new interim president following weeks of anti- government protests. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in earlier during a small ceremony in the capital of Colombo.

And he's replacing Gotabaya Rajapaksa who officially turned in his resignation letter to Parliament on Thursday. Let's bring in Will Ripley,

who is there now in Colombo. How did that resignation letter get to Parliament given that we know that the president is out of the country?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Becky. We actually had some footage of him arriving in Singapore on a Saudi

Airlines jet, where he then signed that resignation letter and it was couriered back here to Colombo, where it was officially received by the

speaker of parliament.

And there was absolute jubilation on the streets here. Really, you know, this time last night as the news was starting to break the huge crowds that

were gathered at the Secretariat, which is the president's office just beyond those trees there.

By the way, the reason we're not standing in front of it is because of the fuel shortage in the country. They turn off all the lights and its complete

pitch darkness, that government building; you can't even see it at night.

And that just speaks to the economic hardship that this country is in that President Rajapaksa was at the helm, and was one of the members of the

Rajapaksa family that basically drove the economy here into the ground.

So you have now this exile president and now the ex-president in Singapore, looking for somewhere to go, where he can hopefully be, he hopes to be

granted asylum, so he won't be prosecuted for these war crimes.

These alleged war crimes charges when he was the defense chief here under the presidency of his brother Mahinda, who is actually still here in the

country along with another brother Basil.

And both of those brothers have actually been ordered by the Sri Lankan Supreme Court not to leave the country, they cannot leave along with other

high ranking officials until at least July 28.

And so that prevents, you know, other high level basically, former officials from just running away, like the president did on a Military

plane after hiding out on a naval vessel when protesters breached the gates to his residence, which is just behind our camera.

Here you can actually see the gates that were breached by protesters. There's graffiti, one of it says go home Gota that's the name Gotabaya of

the now ex-President, Becky.

So there's still a lot of anger here against this family dynasty. People want, they want, they want to know what's going to be done to help turn

this country around. But also what's going to be done to those that helped run it into the ground. And things are not looking too good at least in the

short term in terms of stability.


RIPLEY: Because the prime minister who is part of this very much very closely aligned with the Rajapaksa family, he is now the acting president

and the ruling party here in Colombo has announced that they're going to nominate him as their candidate for president.

And remember, it's the members of parliament that select the new president next week. It's supposed to happen on Wednesday. You know, this is the

prime minister that protesters also demanded stepped down to prime minister whose residence was set on fire last weekend.

And so if he now does become the new president of Sri Lanka, what protest organizers are telling our teams on the ground here is that there could be

chaos once again in the streets, if people don't feel that this old guard is completely out. And that is still very much an open question right now,


ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Will, thank you. Well, the UK has issued its first ever red alert warning as a record heat wave bakes parts of Europe.

Meteorologists predict temperatures could soar to all-time highs early next week.

Elsewhere, the heat was sparking wildfires. In Croatia firefighters are using planes and troops to battle three major blazes. In France two large

forest fires have burned over 18,000 acres.

More than 11,000 people in southwest France have been forced to evacuate in parts of Spain and Portugal so being scorched. Officials in Portugal say

thousands of firefighters were battling several fires on Thursday. CNN's Vasco Cotovio has the latest from Lisbon.

VASCO COTOVIO, CNN PRODUCER: Becky, although temperatures have come down slightly here in Portugal, authorities say there's still no reason for

people to let their guard down just yet. And the reason is that in some parts of the country, there's still a red warning for weather.

That means that temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius are expected today and in the coming days. Now that coupled with rising winds from the East as

well as with low humidity after so many days with dry warm weather that could combine into an explosive cocktail that could lead to more wildfires.

And Portugal has seen dozens of them in the past week alone. Around 200 ignitions per day authority say obviously, only some of those turn into

major wildfires.

And now there are other health concerns especially for children for the elderly for people with chronic illnesses. And health authorities have said

that at least 238 people are thought to have died in the past week alone.

As this heat wave moves towards France and then the UK people they're already preparing in France. Two major wildfires have forced the

authorities to evacuate around 11,000 people.

And then the UK, the Met officers for the first time issued a red warning meaning that temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius are expected on

Monday or Tuesday, Becky.

ANDERSON: Vasco reporting there. While you're watching "Connect the World" live from Jeddah for you today. Still ahead, a look at China's worse than

expected second quarter GDP numbers after the break.

And the role that COVID 19 lockdowns have played in the country's economic slowdown.


ANDERSON: Right, I'm Becky Anderson in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia for what is a special "Connect the World" for you in the past hour or so. Joe Biden has

landed here, this is the second level for what has been a much anticipated trip to the Middle East and arguably, the most important leg is now.


ANDERSON: This is about resetting the U.S. relationship with this kingdom. I just want to show you some images of Joe Biden being welcomed at the

Royal Palace by the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, a man that the U.S. president called a pariah on the campaign trail.

That was in response, of course, to the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul back in 2018. Joe Biden

said this wasn't a country he wanted to do business with.

For that reason, and for other reasons associated with human rights violations as far as he was concerned. So the meeting of Joe Biden and the

Crown Prince has been much anticipated.

What we saw there in those images was a fist bump between the two; it was a pretty quick one. Let's bring in Nic Robertson, is he - actually Nic is

here. Come on, Nic, come on in. Stick up microphone on for me.

I'm just pulling in Nic; you can see this happens when you're on the road. Working between shots here, Nic, what we see is the Crown Prince Mohammed

bin Salman, with a very quick fist bump of the U.S. President. That's the image that people certainly the media has been looking for.

ROBERTSON: Yes. And it's certainly been reported on sort of, I might say, ad nauseam. But it's perhaps a little bit early for that. But that was the

moment, that's what everyone had talked about.

You know, the script had been that he would come from the airport, and he would go to the palace, and then he would meet with the king. Well, guess

what? The Crown Prince was there to meet him at the door of the palace.

And there was that fist bump; it wasn't particularly warm, was it? But it was, you know, it was that moment of connection between these two countries

between the United States and the Crown Prince.

The Crown Prince, I think is pretty much understood and accepted. And this is part of president. But I think part of what we read in between the

lines; President Biden's visit is going to be the king here for decades and decades to come. That's what Saudis expect. That's what the world expects.

And this is, if you were symbolic, acceptance of that. And on the Saudi side, I hope that the relationship can get on a track somewhere that both

countries can plot together now.

ANDERSON: So on the flight over here, Kaitlan Collins or certainly one of our journalists was on the flight. And Jake Sullivan, the National Security

Adviser to the U.S. president was asked about whether there had been a request by the Saudis to come here, or whether this was, as it were at U.S.

President Biden's behest. And the answer to that was.

ROBERTSON: From our sources, we heard last night that this was a request from President Biden from the White House earlier in the year. The initial

request had come just a week before the Eid holidays, that's a very, it's a time here, when everyone would be on holiday.

It would be a hard time for a visit to come here would not have been diplomatically appropriately, if you will. And the royal court here,

sources tell us demure and said let's do this. But let's try to do it right after Eid towards the end of May. That didn't become possible. This is the

first opportunity really since.

ANDERSON: Now, what was interesting because part of this trip, and we know this to be a fact is President Biden understanding that if he wants to keep

China in Washington's crosshairs and I use them, but obviously loosely, he needs the Middle East on board.

Clearly Asia, China is a massive priority for Washington. And the sense was certainly from this region that the Middle East had dropped down the list

of priorities.

Interestingly, there was much talk before we got the planning for this trip from the U.S. president that President Xi would be here and will be here

before U.S. President Joe Biden, what do you make of that?

ROBERTSON: Well, I think back to a conversation I was having now round about the time the White House must have been reaching out to the Saudis to

come. And the conversation I had when I said President Xi is coming and he's going to be offering a ballistic missile system.

The United States have pulled its patriot batteries out of here. Saudi Arabia has been very exposed to big cruise missiles flying in here even the

Jeddah from Yemen from the Houthis, Iranian back that were feeling exposed.

They were looking for ways to bolster security here. They were looking to China President Xi coming not only coming, but being willing to open a

factory this was what was being discussed to make more weapons systems, defensive weapon systems.

ANDERSON: This would be a really big deal.

ROBERTSON: This will be a really big deal and that was going to happen. President Xi was going to come right after Eid. Now we find out right

before Eid, Biden sort of put his hand up and said no, no, no I want to come and talk.


ANDERSON: So there is clearly some, you know, let's be quite frank. You don't have to be a scientist in all of this to understand that there's

clearly going to be conversations about security guarantees, you know, Saudis want that is the U.S. going to deliver?

ROBERTSON: Look, I think that's the price of what they want to get. I mean, we've talked about this is not the era of oil for security, but that is

something from which the relationship has grown.

Go back to 1991 when Saddam Hussein of Iraq invaded Kuwait, right on the border here, the U.S. and the Saudis mustered a half a million man army to

clear that the Iraqi Military out of Kuwait at that time.

So this is a region where substantial shifts and military power can happen, and they feel under threat from Iran. So you bet that's going to be part of

the equation. But what does it look like? It's complicated because it's a regional not just the Saudi issue.

ANDERSON: It's going to be a, one wishes one was a fly on the wall. We are not we're here we are broadcasting we wait for the statements. Thank you.

You see the sun setting behind as the sun is setting over the palace where Joe Biden is meeting with the King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Thank you for joining us. We will be back with more of CNN special coverage of U.S. President Joe Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia after this. Stay with