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Rockets from Lebanon Fired into Israel; Macron and Xi Discuss Ukraine, Trade and Climate; Israeli Police Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque a Second Time; China Mediates New Cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia; French Unions Refuse to Give In after Failed Talks; Tennessee Democratic Lawmakers Could Be Expelled over Gun Control Protest. Aired 10-10:45a ET

Aired April 06, 2023 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): I'm Becky Anderson live from Abu Dhabi, where the time is 6 o'clock in the evening. This is CONNECT THE


Coming up this hour, the IDF says dozens of rockets have been fired from Lebanon into Israel.

A day of diplomacy in Beijing with president Xi Jinping meeting the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

And China hosting Iran and Saudi Arabia as they cement an historic agreement to restore relations.

Plus nationwide protests rock France for an 11th day.


ANDERSON: The airspace over northern Israel is closed to civil aviation right now, after a barrage of rockets were fired from Lebanon toward

Israeli territory. Have a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ANDERSON (voice-over): We have not yet heard word from Israeli forces about how many of those rockets were intercepted. And we'll get a live

update on what is a fast moving story from Hadas Gold in Jerusalem in just a moment.


ANDERSON: Meantime I want to get you a tale of two diplomatic stories. China brokering talks that have led to another key step in reconciliation

between longtime regional Middle Eastern rivals.

After resuming diplomatic ties just last month, Iran and Saudi Arabia have now signed an agreement to reopen embassies in each other's countries. Now

the foreign ministers of both countries have been meeting in Beijing. We'll have more on China's role as mediator in a moment.

First, though, France and the European Union hitting a reset button on their relationship with Beijing. It was during a trip to China, where

French president Emmanuel Macron met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, earlier today, urging him to, quote, "reason with Russia" and help

negotiate peace in Ukraine.

The two leaders were then being joined by president of the European Commission, Ursula van der Leyen, who is also visiting China. CNN senior

international correspondent Will Ripley joins us live from Taipei with more.

It does seem today dateline Beijing is in vogue; all roads both on the E.U. and Middle Eastern front converging in the Chinese capital today.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And what was so remarkable about that Beijing brokered diplomacy is that there was not a

single official document allowed to be in English.

That's believed to be a deliberate attempt by China to assert itself and its Mandarin language in a sphere of diplomacy that the U.S. has been

actively involved in leading. Now you have a major diplomatic coup for Xi Jinping.

So this is not Beijing's charm offensive but their attempt to ease over these frosty relations with the West. So you have the meetings and they're

there with big business delegation to talk about trade.

That is crucial. China is essentially the number one trading partner for many countries around the world, including the United States; this island,

Taiwan, China number one trade partner although the Beijing government doesn't even acknowledge this as legitimate.

It goes to show how the economic -- the economy is being intertwined, interlocked. It is a major factor when we're talking about potential

geopolitical tensions over the Tsai Ing-wen visit transit to the United States, where she met with the U.S. House Speaker and other lawmakers in an

unofficial capacity.

And interestingly, Becky, even though, after Nancy Pelosi's visit, we saw these massive military drills.


RIPLEY: Aside from some Chinese warships sailing in the vicinity of Taiwan, probably on some sort of an unrelated prescheduled exercise, there

hasn't been any provocation to speak of from China -- at least not yet.

ANDERSON: What have we heard from Emmanuel Macron while he has been in Beijing?

RIPLEY: He has, right from the get go in his first comments publicly, he called on the Chinese president Xi Jinping to, you know, to shake Vladimir

Putin and you know, knock some sense into him.

Because the widely held view is that if there's any world leader that could exert influence to try to get Putin to, you know, look at an off ramp

that's actually realistic for his unprovoked war in Ukraine, it would be Xi Jinping.

I mean, China is the sole reason that Russia remains stable economically at this point, because they are buying. They're not participating in these

Western sanctions. So they're buying oil. They're selling microchips.

And potentially are supplying not just parts for weapons but U.S. says they might be supplying weapons and perhaps more lethal weapons or at least

considering doing that down the road.

Even though Xi Jinping, when he met with Putin in Moscow, his first overseas trip after getting this unprecedented third term, noteworthy in it

of itself, he did say that he is wanting to be an agent of peace.

An agent of peace with a 12 point peace plan that doesn't call it an invasion or condemn Russia's actions and a plan that he will not even

publicly discuss or respond to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy., when he wanted to reach out to Xi Jinping directly.

So it's interesting times that we're living in for sure.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. All right, back to Beijing and its brokered diplomacy, as it were, in a moment, I want to get you --

Thank you.

I want to get you back to Israel, where sirens have been sounding after a barrage of rocket fire from Lebanon in the last few hours now. CNN cannot

independently confirm this video but it is said to show some of those rockets heading toward Israel.

The prime minister's office says it is watching the security situation closely. All this comes just hours after Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa

mosque in Jerusalem for a second time in a day. You can see them entering here. This is, of course, one of Islam's holiest sites. Hadas Gold is in

Jerusalem for you.

Let's just start with the developing news in the past couple of hours and these barrage of rockets fired from Lebanon toward Israel.

What do we know at this point?

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, we know that dozens of rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into northwest Israel.

Becky, this is likely or very well could be the largest barrage of rockets since 2006, fired from Lebanon into northern Israel.

Of course, 2006, there was a massive war between Israel and Hezbollah. Now we know that at least two Israelis have been injured as a result of

shrapnel. We still don't know how many of these rockets were intercepted, how many may have landed and what kind of damage was caused.

But emergency services are saying two people have been wounded lightly from shrapnel. So clearly something at least fell and managed to hurt people.

The question, of course, is who fired these rockets. That area of southwest Lebanon, there are a lot of Palestinian refugee camps there. So it is very

possible that it was Palestinian militants who fired these rockets.

But as Israeli military officials tell me all the time, nothing happens in southern Lebanon, especially dozens of rockets being fired, without

Hezbollah at least having tacit approved -- excuse me -- tacit approval of those rockets being fired.

Now we have seen from Lebanese media that there has been some sort of artillery response from the Israeli media -- from the Israeli military in

response to these rocket fires. We have not yet seen confirmation of Israeli fighter jets potentially doing airstrikes in response.

But you have to keep in mind, again, this is the largest barrage of rockets seen here likely in decades. So there will be a response.

The question will be, what kind of response will that be?

Will Hezbollah be involved in some sort of way?

Will they be denying their involvement or not?

And you know, this is a very concerning time. This is, of course, in response -- or you can assume that it's in response to what's been

happening here in Jerusalem at the Al-Aqsa mosque. As you've been doing, the Israeli raiding it twice in the span of 24 hours.

We already saw two nights of rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel. But Israeli security officials, when I speak to them about, what's their

biggest concern?

What keeps them up at night?

They always tell me it's the north. It's Hezbollah. It's Lebanon, because the arsenal that Hezbollah has, their power, their range, it's something

that you can't even necessarily compare to what Hamas has out of Gaza. This is something that really keeps Israeli security officials up at night --


GOLD: -- is what this could -- what an escalation in the north could lead to and whether Hezbollah is willing to get into that sort of escalation and

the Israeli military.

So we're going to be keeping a close eye on how the Israeli military responds and who they target specifically in their response, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, this is potentially a very serious security deterioration at a time when tensions are so high between Israelis and Palestinians.

Next hour --

Thank you.

-- I'll speak to Jordan's foreign minister about the situation between Israelis and Palestinians. Do stay with us for that.

Once they were sworn enemies; now Iran and Saudi Arabia appear to be getting closer. These are interesting times. As we've been reporting,

Tehran and Riyadh expanding their cooperation. Their foreign ministers have been meeting in Beijing.

That location happens to be more than just geography; China flexing its diplomatic muscles. Keep in mind, Beijing is growing closer to Putin's

Russia and Iran and the U.S. do not get on. So it's no surprise that the West is watching all of this very closely.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Iran and Saudi Arabia, two Middle Eastern powers, overcoming years of hostility, signing an agreement to reestablish

relations and reopen embassies.

The two sides also taking steps to resume direct flights and issue visas. But this pivotal meeting not taking place in the Middle East; they've flown

to Beijing. China acting as the guarantor of this agreement.

And to, quote, "contribute Chinese wisdom and strength to the security, stability and development of the Middle East region."


beyond its usual only business to get into security matters and is also building a relationship of trust with Saudi Arabia.

I think it's a big deal that Saudi Arabia is trusting China to deliver Iran and to monitor an agreement.

ANDERSON (voice-over): The two broke off relations in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran

was ransacked. For years, the two have opposed each other on most conflicts in the region, from Yemen to Iraq and Lebanon.

Iran accused of being behind a major attack on Saudi Arabia's Aramco oil facilities in 2019, claimed by the Iranian-backed Houthis. And at their

lowest point, Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman compared Iran's supreme leader to Hitler.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, SAUDI CROWN PRINCE (through translator): Really wants to create his own project in the Middle East, very much like Hitler, who

wanted to expand at the time.

ANDERSON (voice-over): The reestablishment of relations comes after multiple rounds of negotiations between the two sides: Saudi Arabia trying

to tone down regional tensions as it seeks to diversify its economy; Iran trying to come out of its international isolation following months of mass

protests and years of sanctions.

The United States, apparently welcoming the agreement.

NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We support dialogue, we support direct diplomacy, we support anything that would serve to

deescalate tensions in the region and potentially help to prevent conflicts.

If this is the end result of what was announced in recent days, that would be a very good thing.

ANDERSON (voice-over): but it's a diplomatic win for a more assertive China, Beijing vowing to play an active role in the region.


ANDERSON: Saudi Arabia, also strengthening its energy ties with China. China an enormous customer for the kingdom.

So how will this big agreement signed just hours ago play out here in the Middle East?

And what role will China play in the region going forward?

Well joining me now, Dawn Murphy, associate professor of national security strategy at the U.S. National War College, specializing in Chinese foreign

policy and U.S.-China relations.

And Cinzia Bianco, visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, where she is working on political security and economic

developments here in the Gulf region.

And Cinzia, I'm going to start with you because it would be wrong of me not to actually just consider what is going on this hour as we speak. You heard

Ned Price in my report there, suggesting that the U.S. welcomes anything that helps to deescalate tensions across this region of the Middle East.


ANDERSON: On a day where we see a barrage of rockets fired from Lebanon to Israel, so you know, I don't think we can consider the kind of wider story

on the impact of this Chinese-brokered deal without considering what's going on today.

So before we move on, what do you make of what we are seeing today in region?

CINZIA BIANCO, VISITING FELLOW, EUROPEAN COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I mean, this is just another proof that the Middle East has several parallel stories happening at the same time.

And we know that Saudi Arabia was also in talks with the United States about the prospects of normalizing relations with Israel. And now instead,

you know, we see that the track of the escalation with Iran is progressing, while the track of normalization with Israel is frozen.

At the same time then an escalation by a local Lebanese group, most probably but with very, very significant ties to Iran directly against

Israel and, you know, not too long ago we saw again Israeli tactical strikes inside Iran.

So what we're seeing is that there are always parallel stories. Then if some tensions are deescalating, that doesn't really not mean that others

could cannot escalate.

ANDERSON: Dawn, just how significant do you genuinely believe this deal between Saudi and Iran is?

And how big a deal do you believe it is that this deal was brokered, mediated in the end by Beijing?

DAWN MURPHY, U.S. NATIONAL WAR COLLEGE: I see this recent deal as part of a much broader initiative by China over decades to represent its interests

in the Middle East and to serve as a negotiator.

They established a special envoy for Middle East peace, focused on the Middle East conflict in 2002. And in 2016 an envoy for Syria. So I see this

as part of a broader pattern and representing China's growing economic and political interests in the region.


ANDERSON: Growing economic interests in the region; also a sense of its interest in the security file in the region or not?

MURPHY: I see this more as China's bringing together two countries in the region. China is unique as a great power in certain ways in that it has

positive relations with every power in the Middle East. So it's bringing these countries together.

There is no indication that China seeks to play a role of security guarantor in the way that the U.S. does. I think it envisions its role of

bringing together parties and attempting to find resolution to regional conflicts but not wanting to play a unilateral military role in the region

at this point.

ANDERSON: I'm interested to get your perspective on this deal through the prism of Washington, Cinzia. I know you want to come in at this point,

please do.

BIANCO: Yes, I mean, it's interesting to compare and contrast the perspectives and expectations on the major three different signers to this

agreement because, on one end, we've heard that China is reluctant to step up to the role of security guarantor.

But certainly the Saudis are expecting the Chinese to deploy some kind of guarantees; perhaps to use their economic ties with Iran, to leverage those

ties against Iran should Iran break the deal.

And I think particular should Iran -- should the Israeli-Iran escalation also tempt the Iranian security establishment to lash out and spill over in

against the Saudi interests.

The Saudis very much expect Beijing to play some kind of guaranteeing role and I think it's going to be quite a complex if we get to that point.

ANDERSON: This was a deal that some are suggesting was only -- was only really sort of completed by Beijing, the I's dotted and the T's crossed.

After all, there have been a number of significant meetings between the Iranians and the Saudis in Iraq and in Oman.

How important do you believe it is that, in the end, this deal was brokered in Beijing?

BIANCO: I think it is quite significant and this is also because the Saudis and the regional players in general, they've always been clear that

they wanted an international guarantor to any kind of regional deal because, from their point of view, the kind of resources -- in particular

energy resources that are to be found in the region -- are sort of a global interest.

And so deescalation must be a global interest and there have to be -- there has to be global involvement by a major world power, such as China, sitting

on the United Nations Security Council.


BIANCO: But also again, to be able to use the Chinese-Iranian economic ties against Iran, I mean, at some level, if you think about it, China is

basically the major line for economic survival for Iran.

Therefore they -- their involvement is sort of -- sort of a guarantee from a Saudi point of view, that the Iranians will behave or either lose the

only way out for their own economic survival, given the also deterioration of the talks to restore the JCPOA, which is basically now as good as dead

and other increasing sanctions against Tehran.

ANDERSON: Dawn, we're looking at images today in Beijing of the two foreign ministers there. And the optics are impressive. At the end of the

day, Ned Prices, as we say, has welcomed this deal on behalf of the U.S.

But was the U.S. caught flatfooted when this happened?

I mean, what do you make of the -- of the U.S. file on China and this region?

And how does it change given what we have seen here today?

MURPHY: So statements up to this point have been that anything that promotes stability in the region would be encouraged by the U.S. And also

an emphasis that China is not the strongest factor in this.

You know, as you mentioned, these negotiations have been occurring for a while between Saudi and Iran. So I do think at this point this is being

looked at as potentially a positive development.

But it is a much broader indication of China's role. And I would say that, up until the last year or so, China was engaged heavily in the Middle East

through cooperation forums, special envoys, other foreign policy tools.

But it tended to be very quiet about its engagement. And what we've seen with Xi Jinping going to Saudi Arabia in December, as well as these

negotiations with Iran and Saudi, is they clearly are willing to play a more visible role at this point.

ANDERSON: If you live in this region, it has been a -- it's been a story that we've been watching develop for years really now. And these very

visible sort of optics -- and we are seeing in these images, surprise, you know, when they when the deal was actually brokered. I don't think it's

actually shocking anybody in region.

Thank you both for joining us.

We're taking a very short break. Back after this.




ANDERSON: Let me get you to Paris, where French unions refusing to give in after talks with the prime minister failed to find a solution to their

dispute over pension reform. So this is the scene, at least on the streets of Paris.


ANDERSON: This is the 11th day that union leaders have encouraged people out onto the streets to protest these pension reforms. Union leaders, of

course, want the government to withdraw its unpopular legislation, raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

But the prime minister and president Emmanuel Macron, of course, who is in Beijing today, says that that is not going to happen.

Protesters are marching across France today, as I say, the 11th day of nationwide strike. Some union members storming a famous building in France

earlier on today.

And these are now becoming very familiar to us, aren't they?

Paris time, 4:25 in the afternoon. For many of you who have been to Paris, you'll be aware of the tree-lined streets of Paris. This is sadly becoming

all too familiar a scene. And we have seen some very aggressive scenes over the last few days, as police and protesters stand off against each other.

There have been pockets of agitators, Black Bloc movement on the streets of Paris as well. But it has to be said, you know, these are protests full of

people who genuinely have a real grievance with the government, who pushed through that legislation, raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The French government tried that before and they hadn't got it through before. President Emmanuel Macron absolutely determined that, this time, he

would. These reforms come into effect toward the end of the year, unless these unions and these protesters can actually effect a U-turn on this.

The streets of Paris, then today, these are the these scenes. Let's just listen in for a moment.

Video that came into CNN Center just moments ago.

And this building on fire, if we can bring these images up as well, Paris for you today.

And these images of a French Parisian cafe. I know that cafe well, middle of France for you moments ago. And those these scenes of a cafe on fire

caught up in what are these very emotional, let's call them, protests that we are seeing; 11th day of protests.

Of course, across -- from today, we're bringing you scenes from Paris but in cities across France, we have seen significant marches. The unions and

those who support the unions not prepared to stand down in the face of what they believe is inadequate action taken by the government that represents

them in the face of these pension reforms.

Let's get you back to the live images coming in to us today from the streets of Paris.

And the French president, Emmanuel Macron, of course, is in China today. He's speaking with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

And of course, the story there for Emmanuel Macron, who may indeed be aware of these images out of Paris today, is his story of course today is trying

to get the Chinese president to reason with Russia and help end the war in Ukraine.

The two leaders met for talks in Beijing today, part of Mr. Macron's three- day visit to China. But he, I'm sure, will be well aware of these scenes once again in Paris. And I believe we've got Melissa Bell who is in amongst

these protesters, where there's now --

Melissa, can you hear me?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I can. It is, of course, here in Paris, as you said, the 11th day of planned protests and

strikes, another day aimed at getting the government to back down from its planned pension reform.

And as you can see the images, just at the very start of that march, have now begun to turn a lot more violent. It's something we've been seeing

these last couple of weeks, protests that have been remarkably peaceful for the first few weeks of this movement that have become a lot more dangerous

with the violence that we tended to see on the very edges really moving front and center.

And that's where you're seeing, extraordinary live pictures up at the very helm of the march, the so called Black Bloc.


BELL: They are the most violent, ultra left extremists, whose aim is direct confrontation with the police. There's been a lot more about these

last couple of weeks, so much so that there is also -- there are also allegations of police's excessive use of force. They've investigated 45 of

them by French police, looking at those allegations.

And we've seen over the last couple of weeks that steady increase of the kind of direct confrontation you see here. We can hear, you can smell the

tear gas from where I' standing. And there seems much more violence up ahead as there's more extreme elements in that confrontation.

For now, as for the mostly peaceful majority, Becky, we've been hearing from the unions again, (INAUDIBLE) saying the they intend to carry on with

this movement. Last night, there were talks between the unions and the government. They broke down; the government, insisting it will plow on with

the unions as long as they continue with this idea to raise the retirement age to (INAUDIBLE).

These are the kind of scenes you will see here in Paris week after week, not just these many thousands of people protesting across the country. But

of course, there's much more violent scenes at the very front of the protest with the (INAUDIBLE) some sense of order.

(INAUDIBLE) the French have a little bit (ph) of (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: Melissa Bell in amongst it in Paris.

We're going to take a very short break. You can see a number of stories developing across the world at present. We're in Paris, we're in Jerusalem

for you. We've been in Beijing. Back after this.




ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. The time is just after half past 6 in the evening from your Middle East broadcasting hub.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD and here are your headlines this hour. And it is a busy day.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Israel has closed its northern airspace to civil aviation after dozens of rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Israel. Now

this comes just hours after Israeli security forces stormed the Muslim holy site Al-Aqsa mosque for the second time in a day.

Former rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia have signed an agreement to reopen embassies in each other's countries and to expand their cooperation. The

foreign ministers of both nations have been meeting in Beijing, which brokered talks that led to their announced reconciliation in early March.

And French president Emmanuel Macron told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that he's counting on him to reason with Russia and help end the

war in Ukraine. The two leaders met for talks in Beijing today.


ANDERSON (voice-over): It's part of Mr. Macron's three-day visit to China.

ANDERSON: Well over the last few months, it has become obvious that neither Ukraine nor Russia has the firepower to decisively end this war.

Both sides have dug what seems like a semi-permanent network of deep trenches across the eastern front, a grim reminder of the trench warfare

from a time long since past. Here's CNN's Ben Wedeman.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the trenches, the deeper you dig, the better. The front lines in the open

plains of eastern Ukraine are a zigzag of earth works. In this area, positions have been static for a while.

Oleksiy (ph), from the first tank brigade, has been here for six months. Sometimes it's quiet, he says and sometimes it's loud. Sometimes

they, the Russians, try to break through. So far, they haven't succeeded.

WEDEMAN: OK. You might want to get down. OK. We are told that Russian lines are just one kilometer from here. We're hearing occasional shelling.

But nothing coming on this position, yet.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): This soldier, also named Oleksiy (ph), peers through binoculars across no man's land but only briefly to avoid drawing sniper

fire. To be honest, at first, I was scared, he says. But humans can get used to everything. They're yet to get used to one threat hovering


All right and we've now taken cover because the soldiers say there's a drone flying over in the area, which they tell us occasionally drop

grenades on their trenches but not this time.

To the rear Sergeant Oleg (ph) checks that his Soviet-era T-64 tanks are in good working order. It's like an old car, easy to repair, Oleg (ph) tells

me. With new cars, you have to take them to the mechanic. These are like a simple tractor.

But these tractors may soon be replaced by newer models. He says some of his comrades are in Poland being trained to use German-made leopard tanks.

Spring has arrived in these parts and with it growing anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive, new, more modern weapons than these old hulks could

make all the difference.

Back in the trenches, all is quiet. But as we leave, a drone appears above us. Then our ride out arrives; 30 seconds, 30 seconds, OK?

You got the treeline and artillery. No time to waste -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Eastern Ukraine.


ANDERSON: Well, in a bold, symbolic move, representatives from several Western nations walked out of a U.N. meeting on Wednesday as Russia's

commissioner for human (sic) rights began speaking.

Maria Lvova-Belova appeared virtually at an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council called by Russia to discuss the removal of Ukrainian

children from the war zone. Yet last month, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for both her and Vladimir Putin over an

alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

Right, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me. Becky Anderson. Still ahead, in "WORLD SPORT" instant classic. We relive last night's hat trick

by Real Madrid's star striker.





ANDERSON: In Tennessee in the United States, state lawmakers are set to vote on whether to expel three representatives, who took part in a gun

control protest last week.

The lawmakers in question, who are Democrats, used bullhorns on the state legislative floor to call for stronger gun control. And this followed a

school shooting that killed six people, including three kids. Expulsion would require a two-thirds majority vote.

More on that, as we get it, of course.