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CNN Speaks to NATO Chief; Finland Becomes 31st Country to Join Alliance; Duda: Must Obtain Security Guarantees for Kyiv at NATO Summit; Israeli Police Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque; Trump Rails Against Prosecution after Criminal Charges. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired April 05, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNNI HOST: In a blow to Vladimir Putin, Finland has now officially joined NATO, doubling the military alliances border with Russia.
This hour I'll speak to NATO Secretary General about what that means for European security.
First up though, dramatic and violent scenes emerging from Jerusalem today as Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Hundreds arrested police
appearing to beat some of the Palestinians inside who they call agitators. The raid came as Muslim worshippers were praying during the holy month of
Ramadan and as Jews prepared to celebrate one of their holiest days Passover.
Former President Donald Trump has slammed the prosecution in his indictments overnight after pleading not guilty to 34 felony counts of
falsifying business records. Mr. Trump is now a criminal defendant and a Presidential candidate.
Ukraine's President visits neighboring Poland and meets with his Polish counterpart President Zelenskyy thanked President Duda for standing
shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, pressing the West to keep up its military support.
Welcome, this is the second hour of "Connect the World" wherever you're watching, you are more than welcome. Finland has officially become the 31st
member of the North Atlantic Treaty Association now organization marking a major shift in the security landscape in North Eastern Europe.
This is what NATO's border with Russia looked like before Finland's accession it shared about 755 miles or 1200 kilometers land border with
five NATO members. After yesterday now looks like this adding some 830 miles or 1300 kilometers to the alliances frontier with Russia more than
Finland's bid for NATO membership was prompted by Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine last year. The Kremlin has warned of countermeasures in
response. So tonight we ask how Moscow responds will. Well, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joining us now live via Skype from Brussels.
Sir, it's good to have you with us! Moscow has accused NATO of threatening Russia's and I quote, security and national interest by officially
welcoming Finland into the fold. The Kremlin Spokesperson said the move will force Moscow to and again, I quote here, take counter measures to
ensure our own security, both tactically and strategically. So I'll put tonight's question to you how do you expect Moscow to respond?
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Well, what we have seen is that Moscow, President Putin has tried to deny sovereign independent nations in
Europe to make their own choices to choose your own path.
That was actually the clear purpose of the invasion of Ukraine was to prevent Ukraine from become a member. But also it was a declared policy
from President Putin that he wanted Finland and Sweden to never become members of NATO to close NATO's door. He's getting the exact opposite.
He's getting more NATO and eastern part of the alliance and he's getting more NATO members, Finland and Sweden. And that's the way free democratic
nations are reacting when an authoritarian power like Russia tries to control what neighbors can do and try to reestablish his sphere of
ANDERSON: In the past hour also, Vladimir Putin has said and I quote him here, the European Union has initiated a geopolitical confrontation with
Russia, your response?
STOLTENBERG: This is confrontation neither from the EU nor from NATO. NATO is a defensive alliance, NATO and Finland has never been and will never be
a threat to Russia. It is Russia that has invaded neighbors Georgia in 2008, Ukraine and Crimea in 2014, and then a full - nation last year.
And that's reason why countries in Europe like Finland, Sweden decide that they want to be part of NATO and Finland joining NATO means that Finland is
getting safer and NATO is getting stronger. And we demonstrate that NATO's door is open. It's not for Russia to decide who can be a NATO member it's
for independent democratic nations to decide.
ANDERSON: Sweden also looking for membership. The Turkish Foreign Minister was present at the ceremony yesterday in fact; he was standing right behind
you, as you welcomed Finland into the club.
You have urged Turkey and Hungary to let Sweden join and I quote you without delay. Canada's Foreign Minister, also with you in Brussels last
hour telling me she is confident in your leadership to get this done. Are you confident that you will get this done?
STOLTENBERG: I'm confident that Sweden will become a member, not least because all NATO allies also Turkey invited Sweden to become a member at
our Summit last year in Madrid. And Sweden also fulfills the criteria that demands that were agreed in connection with the Madrid Summit, that
trilateral agreement between Finland, Sweden and Turkey.
And then, of course, I also strongly believe that Turkey has some legitimate security concerns. No other ally has suffered more - Turkey and
the purpose of the dialogue we now have going on in NATO is how to ensure that those security threats are addressed in a proper way.
ANDERSON: You said recently that the failure to incorporate Sweden at the same time as Finland something you have spent considerable time on was not
a personal setback, you clearly believe that Sweden will still get membership but do you still genuinely believe that this is not a personal
setback at this point?
STOLTENBERG: I generally believe that also Sweden will become a member. And I've stated clearly that the most important thing is not that Finland and
Sweden joins the lines exactly at the same time. The most important thing is that also Sweden becomes a member in the near future.
And we need to understand that this is so far the quickest accession process in NATO's modern history. Finland and Sweden applied in May last
year already in June, all allies invited them to become members and only now, less than a year after Finland is a member and we are working hard to
also get Sweden as a full member in the near future.
We also have to understand that Sweden is in much better and much safer position now than before they applied because as soon as all allies invited
them they got the status as an invitee, meaning that they are now integrating into NATO's military and civilian structures participating
NATO, military and civilian activities and an allies provided bilateral security assurances.
And also with Finland in Sweden becomes even safer. And it's absolutely inconceivable that will be any military threat or attack against Sweden,
without NATO reacting so they are in a better place while we are working for the full-fledged membership also for Sweden.
ANDERSON: The Ukrainian Foreign Minister has welcomed Finland's accession to NATO and the speed at which this has happened. He said the best way to
guarantee security in Europe, which is what this is all about at the end of the day, was to have Ukraine inside the alliance. Do you agree and if so,
STOLTENBERG: So NATO's position is that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance. Our immediate task, our main focus now is, of course to provide
support to Ukraine to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation in Europe which is a precondition for any meaningful
discussion about membership?
And thirdly, we're also now starting to work on the more long term program where we can help Ukraine move from soviet era doctrines standards
equipment to NATO standards and also to increase the interoperability with NATO forces. We have not made any decisions on when a membership can be
decided. But in the meantime, we need to ensure that Ukraine prevails and that we are helping Ukraine to move towards - integration.
ANDERSON: Well, Hungary's Foreign Minister says that inviting Ukraine even to NATO meetings undermines the principle of the alliance's unity. What's
your response to that?
STOLTENBERG: Well, I think it's important to meet with Ukraine also in the well-established forum, the NATO Ukraine Commission, as we did yesterday
with Foreign Minister Kuleba to discuss how to sustain the unprecedented support NATO allies are providing to Ukraine.
But also to discuss reforms, but also to raise issues related to minority rights. So I think it is a good thing to have a platform where we can have
dialogue and also address a wide range of issues which are important for Europe, for NATO allies and for Ukraine.
ANDERSON: Short term long term for Ukraine here, short term is desperate for more ammunition, it is absolutely clear that Europe cannot manufacture
that ammunition quickly enough. What are you going to do about that?
STOLTENBERG: Well, we are ramping up production. We saw over the last fall that this has now become war of attrition, which is a war of logistics. So
we are working closely with the defense industry across the alliance to ramp up production, partly to be able to replenish our own stocks.
But also of course, to be able to continue to provide the support to Ukraine that they need to be able to launch new counter offensives and to
liberate more land. We also work with our partners outside NATO. We met with South Korea today. I went through some weeks ago.
And for instance, South Korea is a NATO partner that is ramping up production, delivering more ammunition to NATO allies, so we can replenish
our stocks, and then also be able to provide more support to Ukraine.
ANDERSON: I have to ask you, China's Leader visited Moscow, of course last month. It's been told reportedly by NATO members, they would be and I
quote, had consequences if China or Beijing supplies lethal aid to Moscow. Do you have any evidence that that is the intention? And what sort of
consequences are we speaking about here if indeed China did provide that lethal aid sir?
STOLTENBERG: We are not able to confirm that China has delivered lethal aid or weapons to Russia. But we are monitoring very closely what China does,
because what we do know is that China and Russia are working more and more closely together also in the military domain.
They have joint naval air patrols, big military exercises together. China and Russia has signed a joint declaration just weeks before the invasion
was there, where they stated clearly that their partnership is without any limits, no limits.
And then, of course, we also know that China has not condemned the illegal invasion of Ukraine by President Putin and Russia. And therefore, allies
are not least our biggest ally; the United States may declare that if China was to provide lethal aid to Russia, there will be profound consequences.
ANDERSON: But you're not prepared to explain what those consequences are with respect?
STOLTENBERG: I will not go into the detail details about that now. But of course, I think China is very well aware of the position of NATO and NATO
allies. And this has been clearly conveyed to prevent that from happening, because that will be extremely serious escalation of the conflict.
China is the member of the UN Security Council. They have the responsibility to uphold the UN Charter international law. And it is a
blatant violation of international law to invade another country with hundreds of thousands of troops and battle tanks and planes and missiles
and rockets, attack civilian infrastructure, civilian residential areas.
Ukraine has, according to the UN Charter, the right to defend itself and NATO allies have the right to help Ukraine uphold that right of self-
ANDERSON: Jens Stoltenberg, we thank you for your time. You're a busy man. We appreciate the opportunity to speak to you tonight. Thank you very much
indeed for joining us. Jens Stoltenberg here on "Connect the World".
Well, the United States calling for restraint and Jordan calling for an emergency Arab League meeting after a violent rage on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in
Jerusalem. It happened early on Wednesday. Israeli police storming one of Islam's holiest sites where authorities say they went in to break up a
group of rioters as they described them who they say were barricading themselves?
Well, some 350 people were arrested and removed from the mosque. Social media video appears to show Israeli forces beating some before arresting
them or the raid sparked rocket fire from Gaza. Israel responding with airstrikes on what it says are Hamas targets. CNN's Hadas Gold has more for
you now from Jerusalem.
HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem early Wednesday where Palestinians
worship during the holy month of Ramadan.
Video put out by the Israeli police shows officers entering the mosque by force as fireworks are launched at them. Videos on social media appear to
show officers striking people with batons. Eyewitnesses telling CNN police also fired stun grenades and rubber bullets.
The police said in a statement that they went in because hundreds of what they called rioters and mass desiccators barricaded themselves inside in a
violent manner and "Through fireworks hurled stones and cause damage".
The authorities arrested more than 300 people during the incident. The Palestinian Red Crescent saying at least two dozen Palestinians were
injured. Israeli police say two of their officers were also wounded.
GOLD (on camera): The holy sites behind me are known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound or Haram al Sharif, the third holiest sites in Islam. You can
actually hear the call to prayer going on right now. But it's also known as Temple Mount to Jews and it's the holiest site in Judaism.
Now there is a status quo that governs these holy sites. And the Israeli police entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is this building right here with
a black roof behind me, that is considered a violation of the status and then not only them entering, but them entering in the way they did firing
stuns grenades and rubber bullets well, that brought it to a whole other level.
GOLD (voice over): Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have denounced Israel for what happened. The Jordanian Foreign Minister saying the world must clearly
condemned the attack. Shortly after the raid rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, the militant group Hamas saying Israel's actions in Jerusalem
wouldn't go unanswered. Israeli military said it had struck Hamas weapons sites in Gaza in response Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.
ANDERSON: Well, last hour I spoke to the Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly and asked her to respond to the events we saw unfold at Al-Aqsa this
morning, have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIE JOLY, CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, clearly, these images are disturbing. So we strongly condemn any form of violence against Palestinian
worshippers. And we call also on the status quo of holy sites, particularly at this very important holiday season, which is Ramadan, Passover, and also
Meanwhile we know that there has been a rocket launched against Israel. So we condemn that violence, as well. And fundamentally, I would say, Becky,
we call for the escalation. We call for peace. It is important that be the case Canada will always be a supporter of a two state solution of the
respect of the rule of law.
And I've been in contact with my colleague from Jordan. I've reached out also from to my Palestinian counterpart and Israeli counterpart, as this is
a very important matter that we need to address.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Right and we're keeping a very close eye on the situation in Jerusalem. If you - across all of our platforms you can find a rundown on
what happened and all the updates as they come through in our "Meanwhile in the Middle East Newsletter", you can sign up for that at
And more this hour coming up next on "Connect the World" we'll have the latest on those escalating tensions with the Assistant Secretary General of
the League of Arab States also ahead the highest honor out one of his country's darkest times. Ukraine's President receives Poland's most
prestigious National Order while on a visit.
ANDERSON: Right let's connect you to some major developments around the war in Ukraine. Now, Poland's president says he wants to attain security
guarantees for Kyiv at an upcoming NATO Summit in Lithuania. Andrzej Duda made the comments as he welcomed Ukraine's president to Warsaw earlier. And
that is where Mr. Zelenskyy was awarded Poland's highest honor, the Order of the White Eagle.
This is the president of Belarus begins a two-day visit to Russia. The Kremlin says a new peace proposal by Belarus will likely be discussed. And
a push for help in achieving peace in Ukraine is one of the key reasons French President Emmanuel Macron says he is in Beijing for a three day
He is accompanied by a delegation of business leaders and will be joined by the European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen for a Thursday meeting
with China's President Xi Jinping. And in the United States, the president of Taiwan hopes to build democratic solidarity when Xi meets with U.S.
Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy and other U.S. lawmakers in California just a few hours from now.
While a lot going on. For more on the historic meetings that have a Ukrainian perspective and what they could mean for Ukraine. Let's bring in
CNN Senior International Correspondent David McKenzie who is in Kyiv. So, we have the Ukrainian president in Poland. We have the Belarusian president
And we have the effective de facto Head of Europe as it were Macron, Emmanuel Macron of France with the EC President Ursula von der Leyen in
China, all looking to sort of you know, raise some sort of solution as it were, for this conflict with Ukraine. What do you make of what you are
seeing at present?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we split it into two categories. The one would be Becky, Putin meeting with
the leader of Belarus. And in the case of Vladimir Putin, he doesn't have too many international friends who will have these kinds of summits. He has
But this is yet again solidifying that relationship that has been a very critical to Vladimir Putin in their fighting of this wall, a couple of days
of meetings will be interesting to see what comes out of those. Then you've also got, of course, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine in Warsaw
for this high profile meeting with the President of Poland.
And you see the pomp and circumstance of this meeting unusually, President Zelenskyy traveling with the First Lady Olena Zelenska and being given this
very prestigious honor in Poland now it speaks to the very close and increasingly close relationship between the two countries and between the
Zelenskyy Becky mentioned two specific things that are important. One is the, in the immediate aftermath of the start of this war, the fact that
Poland opened their arms to almost a million, if not more, Ukrainians fleeing across the western border and also the ongoing military and
diplomatic support from Poland to Ukraine.
There were some interesting comments from Zelenskyy after that initial meeting, saying that Ukrainian forces are under a great deal of strain. And
I'm using my own words here in Bakhmut in the east of the country, saying that there could be a situation if those forces are surrounded by Russian
and mercenary forces that they could look for a withdrawal from the area, but he said they still are depending on ammunitions and arms coming from
Poland and other countries to show up those defenses.
Let me finish with Macron in China. Emmanuel Macron unlike other some other leaders in Europe has kept this discussion open in terms of bringing a
negotiated end to this conflict. More, I think out in the open then some other leaders in recent months, who said that it's important not to turn
Europe's back on China, continue to have trade relationship with the Chinese government.
But you know it's unclear whether any of his treaties to Xi Jinping will lead to any kind of leverage over Russia on the ending of this war at this
stage. At least in the on the in the public sphere, Xi Jinping has kept very vague in China's estimation of how they will help in this world.
ANDERSON: David McKenzie is in Kyiv. Let's take a very short break, back after this.
ANDERSON: Right. For more on what could be a very dangerous spike today Israeli Palestinian violence. Israel has conducted airstrikes on suspected
Hamas targets after rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. The strikes came just hours after Israeli police stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque and made
hundreds of arrests.
Now this isn't the first time the Mosque has become a flashpoint. Of course, in 2017, Israel installed controversial security measures at the
mosque including security cameras and metal detectors. Those were later removed to May of 2021.
A confrontation between Israeli security forces in the crowd of demonstrators outside the mosque contributed to what was a deadly
escalation in violence that killed at least 248 Palestinians in Gaza and 12 in Israel. And last year, more than 150 people were taken to hospital
following violent clashes outside the mosque.
Well, the Arab League Secretary General has condemned the Israeli forces storming of the courtyards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque overnight saying, and I
quote, "These irresponsible behaviors in the holy places affect the religious feelings of millions of Muslims around the world, especially
during the holy month of Ramadan".
Well, let me bring in the Assistant Secretary General now of the Arab League. Joining me tonight is Hossam Zaki. Israel's Prime Minister,
Benjamin Netanyahu has said security forces and I quote him, he's had to act to restore order at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. And that and I quote, again,
"Israel is working to maintain the status quo". What do you make of that position?
HOSSAM ZAKI, ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL, LEAGUE OF ARAB STATES: I totally do not believe it. I think it's exactly the opposite the Israeli government
is, is bent on inflaming the situation, whenever it has issues in the domestic scene, it reflects immediately on the Palestinians. And that's
exactly what's happening now.
We could have predicted these confrontations several weeks before Ramadan, the situation was that bad, and it's still that bad. So, whatever the head
of the government is saying, excuse me, but we do not believe any of these words. And they do not need a pretext to storm into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
It's very unfortunate. And it's contrary to all what we all know that those holy places have a special status, but they do not care about that.
ANDERSON: And Hossam Zaki sadly, this was predicted by many, many people who are involved in trying to get a de-escalation of violence.
Unfortunately, this was a period when people really thought there will be flashpoints and there have been, of course, Israel's defense minister in
the last hour, visiting the site of an Iron Dome battery station in Israel's South had this to say, have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOAV GALLANT, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: I want to be very clear, we will hit anyone who tries to harmless and exact a heavy price that will make
them regret any threats against Israeli citizens or IDF troops. I hope you all enjoy a happy and peaceful Passover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Passover at the same time as Ramadan, and just ahead of Easter the Christian Easter of course, it was Israel storming of Al Aqsa two years
ago, that led to the intense 11 day war between Hamas and Israel killing almost 300 people. How concerned are you that we are staring down the
barrel of that sort of escalation once again?
ZAKI: Very, very concerned and we have warned publicly about these confrontations. We have seen this coming, unfortunately and we have spoken
with all our guests, with all our partners across the Atlantic in Europe, elsewhere.
We have several times that if you have friends in Israel; please advise them not to do what we all think they will do. They do not need a pretext
to do what they need to do. They - what the Minister of Defense has said, unfortunately, you have heard many, many times before from him or from
other people who occupy this position.
The situation is a desperate situation. We all need political, a political track to get us out of this. But we do not have a partner on the Israeli
side, unfortunately, to speak about peace. We have a government that is denying even the two-state solution, the one that has been recognized by
the whole international community. What do you expect the Palestinians to do in a situation like that?
ANDERSON: Hossam Zaki, Jordan's Foreign Minister commenting on the events today tweeting and I quote, "Muslims have the right to freely perform their
religious duties that Al Aqsa Christians have the right to worship at their churches in occupied Jerusalem racist, radical ideologies are denying them
The occupying power is responsible for the rising, dangerous tension. Jordan, the custodian of Jerusalem's holy sites, of course, has called for
an extraordinary meeting of the Arab League to take necessary measures to stop the dangerous escalation". Sir, what are those measures?
ZAKI: You know, Becky, we have just finished this meeting. And we agreed on a statement that will be out soon for the media, so we'll be able to see
it. It's, it's this organization, of course, the Arab League is a political organization. We have agreed on a set of measures, diplomatic measures and
political measures that will be applied.
We are going to lobby governments throughout the international community in the United Nations. And we're going to help the Palestinians get the
international protection that they need. They need protection from the settlers; they need protection from the occupation forces.
ANDERSON: Hossam Zaki, can you just -
ZAKI: Sorry, yes.
ANDERSON: Please, I mean, you're about to release this statement. So just please, if you can share with us, what you can have those measures as, as
you describe them.
ZAKI: Well, measured by metrics, again, diplomatic and political measures, those are spelled out in the political statement that they will, that you
will see, in a little wide distributed for the whole media. Diplomatic measures in the United Nations, diplomatic measures and political measures
with governments that recognize the two state solutions.
Governments like the American government, European governments, all of them friends of peace, friends of the two state solutions. They do not want to
see this type of violence, this type of unnecessary, brutal force applied against the Palestinians. No one wants to see things flare up like that; we
need a period of calm.
You said that this is a period of Passover, Ramadan and Easter; let us make this a period of calm and tranquility rather than a period of
ANDERSON: Well, as soon as you share that, to the extent of that statement, we will of course, get it to our viewers. It's good to have you on sir, for
what you can share at this point. And we appreciate it. Thank you very much indeed for joining us, sir. We're taking a short break back after this.
ANDERSON: Well, Donald Trump has been raging telling supporters in his words I never thought this could happen. His lawyer is battling 34 felony
charges stemming from an alleged hush money payment scheme; the first time in U.S. history a former president is facing criminal charges.
Prosecutors will try to prove that Trump sought to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election through that scheme. The case now poised to linger
over Trump's 2024 presidential run as he fights the charges both in court and in the public domain.
Well CNN Politics Senior Reporter Stephen Collinson joining us now. You've been writing about the case saying, "months ahead of the GOP primary, it's
impossible to know how Tuesday's events will play out. Past evidence suggests that the more extreme Trump gets the more popular he becomes with
base voters". Stephen, its evidence to suggest that as of yet!
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: While the Trump campaign say that it's done a lot of Gangbuster fundraising since he was indicted
last week and they're publicizing that a lot. We can't obviously check that until the official figures come out. But I think there's a clear pattern as
I wrote there that Trump's base voters respond to him.
His idea first, that he's being politically persecuted, that he's standing up for them. He's taking the hits from the government so that his most
loyal voters don't have to. So that his political method he, you weaponize this idea of victimization.
The wider question is whether the spectacle we saw last night on primetime TV when Trump came out and gave one of his most demagogic and self-
referential speeches for a long time is whether that plays with a broader audience, he seems to have a good chance to win the Republican nomination.
And while anyone in the 50-50 face-offs in American politics could win the presidency, that behavior was exactly the kind of thing that cost him the
election in 2020 and made it very difficult for Republicans in the mid-term elections last year in 2022.
ANDERSON: He described the journey as surreal effectively to the court yesterday. Stephen, I'm going to have to take a break, because I'm running
out of time. It's good to have you on. We will continue this because this will go on and on and on and you will be across it. Thank you. Stephen
Collinson live for you out of Washington, DC. That's it for us. CNN continues after this.
ELENI GIOKOS, HOST, MARKETPLACE MIDDLEAST (voice over): Increase in passenger demand check, airplane orders and new routes, check in the
middle-east airlines already for take-off.
GIOKOS (on camera): I'm Eleni Giokos. And this month on "Marketplace Middle east", we're in Doha, Qatar at Hamad International airport. Join us as we
take you on to journey to explore the regions aviation sector.
GIOKOS (voice over): Looking at a bustling airport, the COVID-19 lock down seems a world away. Travel is back and so is passenger demand.
RANA NAWAS, PARTNER, TRANSPORTATION AND SERVICES: Well, global aviation is almost at pre-COVID levels. A lot of passenger demand is sort of climbing
that. What we're seeing with passengers is a very interesting behavior. You can call it revenge travel post-COVID.
GIOKOS (voice over): And the Middle East is one of the fastest growing regions in the aviation sector.
NAWAS: Our recent global forecast estimates that the fleet in the Middle East will grow at about 5.1 percent per year over the coming 10 years
versus a global average of 2.9 percent. So, we will outpace a global suite increases.
GIOKOS (voice over): But problems that began during the pandemic remain today from issues in airline supply.
NAWAS: We lost a lot of airline capacity during COVID. In fact, we estimate we lost about four years of growth because of COVID. They are capacity
crunched today, and they are trying to seize a very special moment.
GIOKOS (voice over): To stop shortages--
NAWAS: In the Middle East alone, we estimate that we are going to be 18,000 pilot short by 2032. And it's just not pilot that was shored on, it's
general aviation staff.
GIOKOS (voice over): And as the region's carriers get back in the air and your airline is launching in Saudi Arabia, Riyadhair recently signed an
estimated 37 billion U.S. dollar deal with Bowing for 121 aircraft. An ambitious first step for a carrier which aims to create a new aviation hub
in the Gulf that is expected to contribute $20 billion to the Kingdom's non-oil GDP growth.
NAWAS: Saudi Arabia has invested - is investing to get a 330 million people by 2030. They are investing in infrastructure; they are investing in
destinations extra capacity hitting this market will definitely have an impact on other airlines.
So, I'm sure right now people are strategizing on how to differentiate themselves. What value bring the customer, is it destination, is it
customer experience, is it attractive price, what are you providing?
GIOKOS (voice over): Today the three major airlines in the Gulf, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar carry together approximately 42 million passengers per
year. I caught up with a man at the helm at Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker to get his take on whether the region is ready for another carrier.
AKBAR AL BAKER, CEO, QATAR AIRWAYS: It is always survival of the fittest.
GIOKOS (on camera): Do you feel you are the fittest?
BAKER: You know there is business for everybody. We want Qatar to be unique. We don't want to copy any of our neighbors. They have their own
plans, we have our own plans. They have their own wishes, we have our own wishes. We want Qatar to be a family destination, we don't want 20, 30, 100
million visitors. We just want a number that my country can sustain and give them an experience that is second to none.
GIOKOS (on camera): In terms of the oil price, how worried are you about the oil price right now? Do you ever put hedges in place to protect
BAKER: You know hedge is a double-edged sword. It could go either way. We have been fortunate in the last three years with our hedge that it's always
been positive. But now our hedges getting over and the oil prices are high. So, it is a chicken and egg story, should we hedge and take the risk or
take the risk without the hedge?
I would for the time being like to take the risk without the hedge. Unfortunately, we don't know where this oil price will go with the conflict
GIOKOS: Pulling off such a successful World Cup. Having a great airport experience for the people that did come in, having a fantastic experience
outside of the airport impact, you know the potential travelers?
BAKER: Well, we have a lot of people now. We have already crossed 1.2 million foreign visitors to my country in the first three months of this
year. So, you can see that this has made a huge impact. Introduce people to Qatar which they never expected. We have sand and sea. We have culture, we
have historical places.
The only thing is that we didn't promote it well. And now after FIFA, it is our job to make sure that Qatar is always remembered as a favorite
destination for people to listen.
GIOKOS (voice over): From ongoing reservations to embracing sustainability, it is clear to see that Akbar Al Baker believes promoting the destination
begins and ends at an airport.
GIOKOS (on camera): When you invest so much on your physical infrastructure doesn't that naturally just increased your cost of doing business?
BAKER: No, not at all. Because, you know, it's economies of scale. When you get millions of passengers using the airport, you're also generating that
much more revenue. So, you keep on doing things to attract more and more people into the airport. And this is how you make the airport income.
GIOKOS (on camera): I don't think I've ever seen anything like this indoors. It's spectacular, Look and you're also buying green fuel, buy a
few aviation fuel.
BAKER: Yes, we are buying SAF which is Sustainable Aviation Fuel. The problem is it's exorbitantly expensive, it's not available. And the oil
companies are more inclined to make more profit from the oil than they'll be able to from SAF, because the cost to produce is high. But they don't
realize that if they do the volume then they'll get the economies of scale, then they will be able to reduce the price.
GIOKOS: Welcome back. Airlines in the Middle East are expected to return to profit this year and that's according to the latest outlook from IATA. And
carriers across the region are hoping to take advantage of the growing demand for air travel.
GIOKOS (voice over): In North Africa, Egypt's air, the country's largest carrier has suffered significant losses during the pandemic. Its revenue
fell nearly by half in one year, from $1 billion between 2019 and 2020 to just over 580 million the following year.
It is a big blow for the country's aviation sector which contributed $14 billion dollars to the country's GDP, according to a 2020 report by the air
transport Action Group. Today as passenger demand increases globally, the state-owned airline is looking to recover and ramp up its operations. I sat
down with Yehia Zakaria, Chairman and CEO of Egyptair. [11:55:00]
YEHIA ZAKARIA, CHAIRMAN & CEO, EGYPTAIR HOLDING COMPANY: For the last two quarters, we offered like 7 million seats, which is very good for the
regions that we are flying. And we have a plan in the future to increase the destination.
So, you are flying to about 69 or 68 destinations, we are looking to increase it up to 111 or 110. Actually, we are using; we are flying to 1200
airports in the whole world through the direct origin to destinations and through the co-chairs.
GIOKOS (on camera): So, your seats are full right now? What's--
ZAKARIA: It's not like 80s, something close to 80s, which is good.
GIOKOS (on camera): There's been a lot of talk about whether you need to privatize or whether you're going to privatize.
ZAKARIA: No, we are not going to privatize, we are not going, we're still saying that Egyptair is the flag carrier. So that's why this is the only
bird that carry the flag of Egypt and, and flying all over the world. So, we keep saying that flag carrier is not for sale.
GIOKOS (on camera): Well, even with your positive outlook and increased demand, do you need a cash injection right now to carry on with your
operations? Because I know you're focusing on improving your fleet.
ZAKARIA: Yes, we are working on. We are taking care. We know, actually we can see the current, our current locations between the other competitors or
the other airlines in the regions. And we have, we already allocate some money to refurbish the old airplanes that we have because you know, the
market now recovery is very tough. Everybody needs airplanes so, the airplanes when you are talking, if we are talking about older airplanes,
now we will not receive it before two years.
GIOKOS (on camera): Yes, the order books are just you know, just completed. There's a huge backlog. So, you want to refurbish co-existing fleets.
ZAKARIA: Yes, some of the old airplanes that we have. And we actually we are receiving new airplanes, we were going to receive a two Dreamliners
soon and we start receiving the 321 names, the new one. And we will by the end of this year, we're going to have like seven more new airplanes, new
321 - challenge.
GIOKOS (on camera): It's a challenge. What is worrying you is that the financial element that's worrying you right. Now you've got to get your
finances in order.
ZAKARIA: No, it's not our finance, but the competition is very tough. And the situations in the wallet is you know, every day you have something you
know, you had a covet - and you have a Russian Ukrainian war. So, the environmental is not you know, balanced it.
GIOKOS (on camera): In terms of cargo that's been also one of the most important parts of your businesses and you've just restarted your route to
ZAKARIA: Everybody is now heading to China because there is a lot of potentials that China has, especially the trading and tourist start to go
flying out China to different destinations. So, we had alliances from Cairo to Guangzhou, which is the capital of Trade, you know.
GIOKOS: Thanks so much for joining us on this edition of "Marketplace Middle East". If you want to take a look at more of the stories we cover on
the program, you can check out our website from me Eleni Giokos here in Doha, Qatar. I'll see you next time.