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Jordan Calling for Israel to Immediately Remove the Police from Mosque Site; Israeli Police Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque a Second Time; Ukraine Tops Agenda at High-Stakes Talks between Macron, Xi; French Unions Refuse to give in on Pension Reform after Talks with Government Fail; The Gulf Region's Hot Climate Makes Outdoor Farming Challenging; U.N. Warns of Accelerating Food Insecurity in Middle East. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired April 06, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: And this hour security in the Middle East on high alert after dozens of rockets from Lebanon were fired
into Israel that is after Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque again overnight, prompting more condemnation from Arab neighbors and beyond. I'll
be speaking with Jordan's Foreign Minister just ahead.
First up, though, I do want to get you to Paris. What you see unfolding there right now is union leaders and protesters who want the government to
withdraw its unpopular legislation rising the retirement age from 62 to 64. But the Prime Minister and President Emmanuel Macron say the option is no
longer on the table. Melissa Bell is in Paris for you.
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: 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 margin have now begun to turn a lot more violent.
It's something we've been seeing these last couple of weeks, free of protests and had been remarkably peaceful for the first few weeks of this
movement, Becky, that have become a lot more dangerous with the violence that we tended to see on the very edge is really moving front and center.
And that's where you're seeing those extraordinary live pictures up at the very helm of the march, the so called Black Bloc; there is most violence,
ultra left extremists who's at this direct confrontation with the police. There's been a lot more of that these last couple of weeks.
So much so Becky, that there is also - there are also now allegations of police excessive use of force that have been investigated 45 of them by
French police looking at those allegations. And we've seen over the last couple of weeks that said the increase of the kind of direct confrontation
you're seeing there.
We can hear, we can smell the tear gas from where I'm standing, and there seems much more violent ahead. As those more extreme elements seem that
connotation. For now, as for the mostly peaceful majority, Becky, we've been hearing from the unions again this lunchtime, saying that 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 and will plow on to the unions as long
as they continue with this idea to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 these were the kind of scenes I think you will see here in Paris.
We go through not just these many thousands of people protesting because the country but of course there's much more violent scenes at the very
front of the protests with the riot police as they try and keep some sense of order to the streets with the French capital but other French cities as
ANDERSON: Melissa Bell reporting from Paris for you! Right back here in this region of course this show; bro calls to you from our Middle East
Programming Hub right now a tense calm on the Israeli Lebanese border after dozens of rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel earlier today.
Israel says many, but not all were intercepted, and it has now closed down its northern airspace. Now this latest episode comes after Israeli forces
stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque for the second time late last night.
They deployed stun grenades and ordered the worshipping Muslims there to leave immediately. Israeli police say they entered Al-Aqsa after "Dozens of
law breaking juveniles some of the masked threw fireworks and stones and barricaded themselves inside" that the response on this from the Israeli
Well, this is a region on tenterhooks as we go to air this hour, and that is not necessarily a new thing. And I have to say, not a surprise to many
in this region. So tonight we ask how calm can be restored to Jerusalem's holiest sites.
Well, the storming of Al-Aqsa by Israeli forces is drawing condemnation from across the Arab and Muslim world including Jordan the Kingdom calling
for Israel to remove its troops from the site. Ayman Safadi it is Jordan's Foreign Minister and he joins me now live. And before we talk about
Jerusalem, sir you would expect me to begin with a situation unfolding on Israel's border with Lebanon.
Dozens of rockets fired into Lebanon from Israel - it's not clear as of yet who fired those rockets but clearly the potential for a serious escalation
in the security situation. What's your reaction, sir?
AYMAN SAFADI, JORDAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Good evening, Becky. The two are obviously interconnected. We're unfortunately at the exact moment a
dangerous moment, which we've worked for months to avoid, which is a moment where violence is erupting.
What we see unfolding on the Lebanese border is obviously a consequence reaction to what we saw happening in Al Aqsa, it is the outcome of the
unprovoked Israeli aggression on peaceful worshipers performing their religious duty. We are seeing it's almost deja vu what we've seen before.
You cannot do the same thing and expect a different reaction. We've always said that respecting Palestinians right to freedom of worship, allowing
people to worship freely not storming the Aqsa will prevent us from getting to the eruption of violence. Unfortunately, Israel did the exact opposite
and we are at this very dangerous moment.
ANDERSON: Yes, how concerned are you that this could seriously spiral out of control after all, this is the largest such attack across the border
since the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel?
SAFADI: Extremely concerned Becky. We have been warning that if a spark is provided to the powder - that already exists in Palestine as a result of
the absence of political horizon, the continued pressure on Palestinians, violence could spiral out of control.
And what happens next really depends on what Israel does if it stops its aggressions on worshippers if it upholds the status quo if it allows the
Palestinians Muslim and Christians to pray freely, then we'll have a clam. If it doesn't, then everything we've done over the past few months will be
cannibalized by events on the ground.
ANDERSON: Yes, and we'll talk about what has been done behind the scenes over the past couple of months because that's important. Jordan, of course,
is the custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which Israeli police raided for the second time in less than 24 hours.
The Israeli police spokesperson justifying the move as follows, in the wake of increasing incitement hundreds of youth and masked people came to the
evening prayers at the mosque. They did not come to pray. They said they came with the aim of rioting and causing disorder.
They came with stones, fireworks, wood plants and iron rods for the very purpose of violent fortifying. They prevented many worshippers from leaving
the mosque that is the Israeli police statement Ayman Al Safadi, your response to that?
SAFADI: Becky, I think the images and pictures that the whole world saw believe these narrative worshipers were doing their religious duties
peacefully. Hundreds of Israeli police stormed into Al-Aqsa and attacked them vandalize the place and left and then people reacted.
And this is not the first time that this has happened. It's happened before. And we've - again in the months leading to Ramadan because as you
know, in cooperation with the U.S. with Egypt, Emirates other regional partners Qatar everybody, we've been trying to work to avoid this exact
And we've made it very clear that if we are to go through Ramadan, peacefully, the right of worshipers has to be respected. And we haven't
seen that done. We've seen Israel imposing a ban on every Palestinian under the age of 40 from going to perform their religious duty.
We've seen a very overwhelming show of force. So and again, if Israel had left it for the Jordanian work to manage the place, we would have been able
to deal with any individual incident. But there is very little that the work can do 60 to 70 usher, when again police stormed the place and push
them away and provokes confrontation with young people who are frustrated angry already.
ANDERSON: Yes, please those guards who administer the holy site under Jordan's custodian ship, according to the Israeli police statement
attempted to prevent the, "Violent fortification from Palestinians inside the mosque" is that true?
SAFADI: First of all Becky, again, the pictures and videos that we saw proved that there was no fortification. And number two, what the work did
was, for whatever logistical organization reason, it advised people to delay their performance of religious duties at night.
Nobody can take away that right from worshipers, the right to worship is sacred, and certainly not the work or anybody else tells people not to go
to the mosque and pray. So that again, is a misrepresentation of the fact.
Ultimately, Becky, I think the simple question is the Aqsa is a Muslim place of worship that is recognized by the whole world that's recognized by
UNESCO decision. What business does Israel have going into the mosque storming into it and preventing people from worshiping? That's the
essential question, and that I think speaks to a broader reality.
Becky, when you put someone who was convicted by Israel itself, for racist incitement, who was a member of an organization that the U.S. itself has
categorized as a terrorist organization, you put this person in charge of the police force and I think I don't need to see a more on that.
ANDERSON: Yes, you're talking about the Israeli Minister, of course. Do Israel's actions at Al-Aqsa, and police presence in the holy site, violate
the status quo agreement with Jordan? Yes or no?
SAFADI: Absolutely, it does.
ANDERSON: Al-Aqsa and the police presence, you say violates the status quo agreement with Jordan, this is something that you have been arguing about
for some time now. Let's step back and just discuss what you have been trying to do in hosting talks in Aqaba and further talks in Sharm el Sheikh
to try to de-escalate tensions on the ground.
What was agreed in those meetings? And what do you think, given what's happening on the ground, have those meetings ultimately been a failure,
SAFADI: The meetings that were held for the objective of achieving a three to six month period of calm, that would be a prelude to re engagement in
serious negotiations to achieve just peace. And Israel committed in those agreements to uphold the status quo to freeze the building of settlements,
to respect previously signed agreements.
Unfortunately, the actions of the ground did not implement what was agreed upon. What we engage in, again, with the United States with Egypt and with
Israel, was an effort to avoid this exact moment, as I said, and to restore political horizons so that we can move towards achieving just and lasting
peace that all of us deserve and want.
The agreement the Aqaba and Sharm el Sheikh has political products were significant, but unfortunately, actions on the ground are just rendering
them void of any of any meaning. And that's putting us all under pressure.
Because our people are saying, why did you hold those meetings? What did you achieve? And this is the reaction and this is how Israel implements
those agreements, and then you're not getting anything done.
So I think, again, looking at the broader picture Becky, what Israel is doing right now is pushing all of us into the abyss of violence, making it
very difficult for us to continue to engage in peace talks undermining the peace treaty with Jordan and Israel with Israel and other Arab countries,
and making it impossible to engage in all that we've been talking about in terms of regional cooperation to better the lives of everybody.
The essential question is, and I think we have to go back to the drawing board here. There is an occupation that occupation power has
responsibilities. It is not meeting those responsibilities. It is consolidating occupation, it's violating international law, and it's
driving us all towards more conflict and tension.
ANDERSON: You must be extremely frustrated. I can hear it in your voice. I know how much time has been spent behind the scenes putting international
and regional actors together to try and carve route through. What you have said time and time again was a potentially very, very worrying situation
and we see it in front of our eyes now.
So the question is Foreign Minister, what happens next? The UN Security Council will meet in a few hours for a session at which they will discuss
the situation at Al-Aqsa Mosque. What do you hope will be achieved? And what can be done now, realistically, to avoid any further escalation?
SAFADI: Realistically, it all depends on what Israel does, as I said. If Israel stops those unprovoked attacks on the Al-Aqsa, if it allows people
to worship freely. Now we're in Ramadan. Very soon we'll have Easter. There's also pressure on churches, a suffocation of their space.
If Israel does what's right, and does not allow the radical agenda advocated by some of its - the members of government, then maybe we have a
chance of restoring calm and getting to the real important business of working towards peace and stability and security for all Palestinians and
If it does not, I think we're going to see the situation escalates in a very dangerous way. The problem is, yes, the Security Council will
convenient, it will issue a statement, they are oblique dead, the Organization of Islamic Conference dead.
But Israel feels it can do whatever it does with impunity. And that is the major challenge. What we tell Israelis is that, in order for you to have
security, Palestinians have to have job security. A very alarming piece of news came out in the last few days, Becky.
When an Israeli poll showed that 40 percent of Israelis agree with small text agreement - statement is mostly because the Israeli Finance Minister
statement that the Palestinian people do not exist. This is the product of incitement, dehumanization of Palestinians which will not help the Israelis
or the Palestinians?
What we want is peace for all peace for Israelis peace for Palestinians for that to happen, aggression on the Palestinian rights must stop, occupation
must end and engagement in meaningful talks to end this nightmare. And to free the region from the threat of sinking into violence year in year out
month in month out is going to be what's needed.
ANDERSON: It really does feel like we are at an inflection point at this point. Perhaps we've all said that before and then, you know, we revisit
that inflection point, but certainly in region and having spoken to you so many times over the past couple of months.
It is a very, very worrying situation. I thank you very much indeed for joining us. I know your time is precious, at present, the Foreign Minister
for Jordan, on the show with you this evening. And I cannot underscore how important that conversation that we just had has been.
Just to note, we have given the Israeli government a right to reply on this story. Since protests began over Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed judicial
reform we have been inviting representatives from the government as well as from Israel's security forces onto this show, and we will continue to
extend that invitation at present, our invitation has not been taken up.
Well, CNN's Hadas Gold following developments from Jerusalem. You've just heard the Foreign Minister say we couldn't underscore more how alarming
this turn of events is at present, just describe what you are seeing and hearing on the ground.
HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, there has been a sense of calm since this afternoon salvo of rockets from Southern Lebanon
into Northwest Israel. This number of rockets 34 rockets being fired. We haven't seen numbers that big likely since the 2006 war between Israel and
Hezbollah that cause of course, so much damage.
We've had one off to one rockets fired over the past few years or so usually in response to what's happening here in Jerusalem at Al Aqsa or
potentially in Gaza. But the number of this rockets that were fired, this is a new escalation.
Now the IDF says 25 of them were intercepted. Well, we are seeing images of damage caused by some of these other rockets damages to cars. We've seen
shops that have their entire front windows blown out shrapnel all over the place.
I mean, by chance today is the first day of Passover for Jews, and so many people were not at work not at the shops they were most of people were at
home. So likely the injuries were less because people were not out and about.
But it's still just alarming the number of rockets fired. We still don't have the answer of who is behind this. Nobody has yet claimed responsibly
as far as I know. But based off of where these rockets likely were fired from there is a good chance that they were fired by Palestinian militants
because that area has a lot of Palestinian refugee camps.
We have not heard an official comment from Hezbollah yet about these rockets fired but in the Israeli military eyes, and even that happens in
southern Lebanon is done so with the approval, or at least the tacit approval of Hezbollah.
Now, we know that the Israeli security cabinet has already convened to discuss their response, the Israeli military saying that they will respond,
when and how they choose to do so. So, the question will be, of course, what will their response look like? Will it be airstrikes? Who will they be
targeting? Will it be specific to these militants to the Palestinian militants? Or will they also include Hezbollah targets?
And could this potentially, you know, cycle spiral into something even bigger? And keep in mind of course, there's still tension here in Jerusalem
at Al Aqsa, we had, we had those two police Israeli police raids into the mosque itself within a 24-hour period.
Tomorrow, there will be Friday prayer that's usually a big day when tens of thousands of worshippers come to the mosque compound to pray. We're still
in the middle of Passover. There are still calls by some Jewish extremists to go up to the compound. So, things are still very much volatile on the
ANDERSON: Hadas Gold is on the story for you. She's in Jerusalem. Hadas, thank you and we have a lot more on this. The storming of Al Aqsa, the
barrage of rockets from Lebanon, into Israel and other news from around this region of course, all of that can be delivered straight to your inbox
three times a week.
If you've got a smartphone in your hand, you can scan the code right below me here or simply go to cnn.com/mideast newsletter, and click the subscribe
button there. That is "Meanwhile in the Middle East" our newsletter from this region. Well, still ahead a day of diplomacy.
French President Emmanuel Macron meets his Chinese counterpart in Beijing, top of the agenda ending Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Plus, while
Mr. Macron is in China, there are more protests back home in France, over the government's unpopular pension reform. Is there a way out of that
crisis? Well, more on that, after this.
ANDERSON: Russia's war on Ukraine topping the agenda at a high stakes meeting in Beijing today. French President Emmanuel Macron met with his
Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping urging him to "Reason with Russia and help negotiate peace in Ukraine". The talks part of what is Mr. Macron's three-
day visit to China.
And according to French diplomatic sources, Mr. Xi told Mr. Macron that he is ready to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the right
moment. Well, the two leaders were then joined by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who is also visiting China. CNN
Senior International Correspondent Will Ripley joins us live from Taipei with more on these talks.
And President Macron and Ursula von der Leyen, they're wearing two hats really. There is or are EU Chinese interests at play here, and that sort of
reset on that relationship. But perhaps, the more important and certainly the more important, perhaps, the thorny issue with Beijing, of course, is
what it can do to shake some sense as Mr. Macron might describe it into Vladimir Putin at this point. How far have the Europeans got to that
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, just the fact that that information was leaked out, you know, on the French side
shows the huge difference in the way that these two systems operate democracy and autocracy.
Remember, when Xi Jinping was, you know, lecturing the Canadian Prime Minister on the side lines of the G24, also leaking information from
sensitive discussions, that is something that Xi does not tolerate, his administration is stacked with people who all agree with him.
So essentially, he has all the power and he has people to back him up and not say no, whereas, you know, in democracies, people debate they go back
and forth. And so, you know, finding common ground talking about these things has got to be very, at times difficult during these closed-door
But the economic benefits are, are needed for both parties, you know, for Europe and for, for China. I mean, their economy is doing as bad as it has
in recent years because of the you know, the three years of pandemic restrictions, the draconian lockdowns and the knock off effect that had on,
you know, a number of different businesses and production capacity.
Just now, you know, it seems as if you know, China's now opening its borders, it's back open for business, at least diplomatically. And that's
why you have the French president, the European commission chief, this visit, you know, incredibly high profile and highly scrutinized, frankly,
because this comes after just years of deteriorating relations between the West and China.
They have a lot of disagreements on ideological issues, in particular. President Xi gets along much better with Vladimir Putin when it comes to
you know, their vision for the future of the world. But when it comes to dollars and cents, you know, China, the, you know, Europe and also the
United States, frankly, they all need each other because they're top trading partners. And they rely on each other this global, you know economy
that's just so interconnected, Becky.
ANDERSON: Will Ripley is on the story for you. Well, China in play today, Beijing, also giving a diplomatic hand to Iran and Saudi Arabia a short
time ago, the former rival signed an agreement to reopen embassies in each other's countries. The foreign ministers of both nations have been meeting
in Beijing which brokered talks that led to their announced reconciliation in early March.
Clearly, China is flexing its diplomatic muscles. Keep in mind, Beijing is growing closer to Putin's Russia, and Iran and the U.S. don't get on. So,
it is no surprise that the West is watching all of this very closely. Take a look at this.
ANDERSON (voice over): And Saudi Arabia two Middle Eastern powers overcoming years of hostility, signing an agreement to re-establish
relations and re-open 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 flew to Beijing, China acting as the guarantor of this agreement, and to "Contribute Chinese wisdom and strength to the security, stability and
development of the middle east region".
VALI NASR, PROFESSOR, MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: First of all, we're seeing a China that has gone 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 AL SAUD, SAUDI ARABIA'S CROWN PRINCE: He 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 re-establishment 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, SPOKESPERSON, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: We support dialogue, we support direct diplomacy, and we support anything that would serve to de-
escalate 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, with Beijing vowing to play an active role in the region.
ANDERSON: We are back after a very quick break. It's very busy news there, a lot more ahead, please do stay with us.
ANDERSON: Welcome back, you're watching "Connect the World" with me Becky Anderson. The time is just after half past seven here in Abu Dhabi
broadcasting to you from our Middle East programming hub. More now from France, where unions there are refusing to give in, these are the scenes as
we speak on the streets of Paris.
Police clashing with protesters who want the government to withdraw its unpopular pension reforms with the prime minister and president say that is
not going to happen. This is the 11th day of nationwide strikes this year. And sadly, these images from France are not unfamiliar.
Some union members stormed and historical building in Paris earlier home to several financial companies including BlackRock. Let's bring in Paris
Correspondent Melissa Bell who is standing by.
And Melissa, as, as you and I speak, will keep these images up because this is the police effectively attempting the shots that we've got attempting to
push protesters back. And what is the atmosphere like in Paris as we speak?
BELL: Well, pretty good turnout this Thursday afternoon for what you say is the 11th day of protests. And what we see when these protests take place,
these are the main organized one. We've seen a lot of spontaneous protests as well these last few weeks, because this is the 11th day of large,
organized by the union protests and strike action.
And what you see on along the marches is a very picture as you can see here, students are marching, some of it is very good nature, there's a lot
of singing a lot of chanting. And at other points, you'll see much more direct confrontation with the police as the riot police try and keep things
calm. As you can see, there's a lot of damage done along the march route as well.
You're seeing several fires lit a couple of restaurants attacked. But that happens all along the march route, as it makes its way up to the --. The
aim of the police is to try and keep it as calm as they possibly can. But as you mentioned in those images just a moment ago, that vital minority
really seeks to target the police.
They then come charging to try and clear the protesters so that the march can carry on. And you'll see that throughout the course of the day. Over
the course of the last few weeks of protests, Becky, there have been more than 700 police officers who did more than half of them, just these last
couple of weeks.
And that speaks to you about the fact that these protests are becoming much more directly violent than they had been before. With many more
confrontations along the way, as we've seen once again today, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, and I was hoping that you would talk about the allegations of some sort of aggressive behavior by the police. Thank you. I'm going to
let you go at this point. We're going to keep an eye on these images because they are worrying coming out of Paris. Melissa, thank you.
Coming up, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence could soon testify about Donald Trump in the 2020 election investigation. It's being called an
historic moment in the making. Some insight into what we might hear is next. And the UAE imports almost 90 percent of its food needs, but the
government here is determined to change that. We'll show you how new technology could transform the food industry in this country and the wider
Middle East that is after this.
ANDERSON: Well, its late afternoon in Paris and worrying scenes. Here you see police in a standoff against to protesters. Unions refusing to give in,
they want the government to withdraw its very unpopular pension reforms.
The Prime Minister and President Emmanuel Macron say that will not happen these reforms will come into play. Towards the end of the year they were
pushed through Parliament, of course, recently and this is the evidence of the discontent not just in Paris but across the country and this, the 11th
day of protests. More on that as we get it, of course.
Well, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is co-operating with a federal court ruling and is not appealing an order for him to testify. This means
that for the first time under oath, Pence is poised to recount his direct conversations with former U.S. President Donald Trump, leading up to the
January the sixth insurrection of 2021.
This is an extremely rare occurrence, since never before has, a former Vice President being ordered to comply with a criminal probe subpoena to testify
about the actions of a then president. CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid has more on that.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is potentially a historic moment. If Pence appears before this grand jury and
testifies under oath about conversations he had with former President Trump in the lead up to January 6, he can be an incredibly valuable witness for
investigators because he could talk about the pressure that he was facing from former President Trump and his allies to block Biden's victory.
Specifically, he could talk about that. He did phone call right around the time of the insurrection between him and the former president. Other
witnesses have testified about this and other investigations, and this one. Pence even talked about in his book, but here he would be discussing it
He could also talk about the threats that he faced from Trump's supporters while he was on Capitol Hill on January 6. Now he does have a carve out
from this judge, he will not have to answer questions about his role as president of the senate his official duties. But that's likely not going to
be a big problem because prosecutors are not especially interested in that.
Instead, they want to talk about his interactions with Trump and his allies, leading up to the certification of the electoral result. And at
this point, it's not clear when Pence will potentially appear because the shilling outstanding question of whether Trump will appeal this ruling.
Now I'm told his team realizes they will likely lose if they appeal this, but they may have to appeal as a formality so that they can preserve this
issue for later on down the roads. If they do choose to appeal that may delay this testimony. Becky?
ANDERSON: Thank you for that. Coming up on this show, "Connect the World" with Becky Anderson. Access to basic food needs is extremely stretched in
this region of the Middle East. And in a new U.N. report the organization that is responsible for food is warning it could get a lot worse. I'm going
to speak to one of the architects of that report about practical solutions. That's up next.
ANDERSON: Hunger and malnutrition have reached critical levels in the Arab world. That is, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the U.N. or FAO. It reveals that nearly 54 million people in this region suffered from severe food insecurity in 2021, an increase of
more than 50 percent from 2010, for example. The Arab world has historically struggled with access to basic food needs. But the COVID-19
pandemic and the war in Ukraine have made the situation much worse, the report says.
In 2020, at the peak of COVID, more than half the population, half the population in Arab states could not afford a healthy diet. Well, this
region of the Gulf is extremely food insecure, and that is why countries like the UAE are investing in what is known as AG-tech. I want to find out
ANDERSON (voice over): In the - desert climate of the United Arab Emirates, farming is tough, and food security, a major challenge. The country
currently imports at least 90 percent of its food needs, much like its neighbors across the Gulf region. One solution, investing in indoor
vertical farms, where crops grow in vertically stacked shelves without soil or natural light in controlled environments.
But that doesn't address the challenges of traditional outdoor farming. So, the government here is stepping up its plans. Earlier this year, leading
American vertical farming company AeroFarms announced that it was partnering with Abu Dhabi's Investment Office to build the biggest research
and development facility of its kind.
CEO David Rosenberg says, once ready, this 65,000 square foot facility will play a pivotal role in establishing Abu Dhabi as a global hub for
agricultural technology or AG-tech innovation, addressing farming challenges both in the Emirates and across the region.
DAVID ROSENBERG, CEO, AEROFARMS: If you think of the process of scientific experimentation, that's isolating a variable testing at assumption, that's
almost impossible to do in the field, because there are too many uncontrolled variables. The weather does what the weather wants to do. Here
we could isolate a variable test and assumption.
One wants to try seeds you to get to have growing temperature, humidity, pH nutrients, and micronutrients, all of that consistent and just test
different seeds. So, we really control the scientific method.
ANDERSON (on camera): How are you specifically working with farmers to improve their lot here as this country and other countries around this
region look to reduce their food insecurity, food insecurity is such an issue in this region.
ROSENBERG: We have experiments going on here to try to harden different plants, so they have better survivability out in the field.
ANDERSON (voice over): The UAE hopes that by the end of this year, local farmers will produce and supply half of some of the country's basic food
needs. That ambitious goal relies heavily on the sort of research and technology going on here.
FADI SABITI, GENERAL MANAGER, AEROFARMS ABU DHABI: Local production requires innovation and requires technology. And this is what we're
providing in this facility the plant science with scientists coming from nine different countries around the world, attracting them to come to Abu
Dhabi to do their research.
Most of the companies have invested heavily in growing leafy greens indoors. And the technology and the science that's that was put to grow and
optimize the growth of leafy greens will be put into practice growing the next wave of crops, which is the strawberries and with the wider berries.
We're trying to find a proper way to automate, whether it be from the pollination stage all the way to the harvesting stage. And this is where
we're building joint programs with local universities looking into machine vision and the drone flight indoors to assist us with the tracking and
monitoring of the future produce.
ANDERSON (voice over): Innovation and technology, helping provide local solutions in a part of the world where food security is a major regional
ANDERSON: And it is a major regional problem in this part of the world. In the - for example, the issue of food insecurity is different from that in
the Gulf for example. Here it is an issue about how much food is physically imported.
This report that has just been released is important. The author of the report writes, and I quote, "There is still a chance to reverse this
situation overcome these crises and challenges. This can be done by bringing about a transformation in the agri food systems of the region's
countries to make them more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient. Some countries in the region have begun to realize this".
Abdulhakim Elwaer is the FAO's Regional Representative for the Near East, North Africa and joins me now live from Cairo. And my report into AG-tech
here, the R&D that goes into the Agricultural Technology and Innovation world is specifically what you are speaking to there in that report.
The wider region is what we want to look at tonight. I just want to pick apart the solutions outlined in your report, "The report recommends
policymakers should focus on policies facilitating food trade, such as reducing trade barriers, developing new free trade deals promoting digital
technology and so it goes on".
Quite frankly, sir, not a lot of what you are suggesting, as policy solutions across this region are happening, certainly not at a palpable
scale. So, let's discuss that.
ABDULHAKIM ELWAER, FAO REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE NEAR EAST AND NORTH AFRICA: Becky, thank you very much. And thank you for giving this important
issue the attention it deserves. Just to give you a bit of background, and the audience's on the report, these are one of five reports that the Food
and Agriculture Organization issues at different regions.
So, there's one for Latin America, Sub Saharan Africa, this one specifically for the Middle East, North Africa, and there's for Asia and
Europe. And then these are compiled in what we call the global SOFI, or the Status of Food Insecurity for the whole world.
Now, this report, which captures the Status of Food Insecurity, and you rightly mentioned, some of the alarming figures. We have to understand that
this region has been going through a lot really since 2007, eight, with the global economic crisis, then followed by the Arab Spring.
And then we went in on some instability along the value chains and the food supply chains, then that led to the COVID crisis, and then the war on
Ukraine and lately the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. Now those have disrupted the whole food systems in the region. And has created more I
would say, in diversity and inequality among the different countries.
You've highlighted the progress in the GCC countries; They still import over 80 percent of their basic food needs. And they do need to invest more.
Now you rightly said that's not happening, simply because the policies have just got the alert and the sense of the importance of the food security.
And that's the purpose of such a report to draw the attention of those policymakers that they really need to review the way we consume food.
And it is not happening now at least not at an adequate level. Some countries are progressing much faster. And I tell you to tell you the
truth, some countries are really progressing towards achieving SDG 2 by 2030, the Zero Hunger whereas we still have other countries, unfortunately,
affected by conflicts are progressing on the opposite direction. And we see more and more serious figures coming out from Yemen, Syria, Sudan and other
countries in the region.
ANDERSON: Even where you are Sir, in Egypt, there is a significant issue, and like you say not least exacerbated by COVID and then by the war in
Ukraine. We've just got a moment or so 60 seconds or so. When you are talking to governments in this region, perhaps outside of the Gulf, let's
look to the sort of wider Middle East. What are you telling them to prioritize at this point to improve their lot?
ELWAER: I made a simple formula. I call it the ACT formula. Three A's former pillars of any food security system in any country those three A's
are built around availability of food, accessibility of food, food can be available but not accessible, that is not good. You need to invest in
Then affordability of food and this is where the subsidies packages come in to make it affordable to the low-income citizens and then adaptability or
adequacy for health. So, food that is not healthy or nutritious also does not achieve food security. Those four A's are challenged by four C's.
And here we're talking about climate, we're talking about conflicts and we're talking about calamities and that includes COVID, the war on Ukraine,
the earthquake and the economy crisis and the consumer culture.
We cannot Becky, talk about 30 percent food waste and loss in our region, when we have 800 million people in the world, go to the bed at the end of
the day without food. And then the four T's that's the part of the report which says how we overcome these challenges four T's, trade technology,
tapping your local resources, and transforming diet cultures.
And these are very important in order to address food. And that's what we tell policymakers. And they do these especially after the war in Ukraine
and the crisis in the Black Sea region. More of the countries are actually calling us to ask for advice, and providing the right numbers and the
figures for them to review their strategies and policies around food security.
ANDERSON: This report couldn't come at a better time and couldn't be more alarming. But it's full of practical solutions, which is what it's all
about. Sir, it's good to have you on, we'll have you back. Up next "One World" tonight with Eleni Giokos that's it from us.