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Isa Soares Tonight
Countries Around The World Race To Evacuate Their Citizens From Sudan; Russian Foreign Minister Chairs U.N. Security Council Meeting; Biden Expected To Pick Julie Chavez Rodriguez As 2024 Campaign Manager. Aired 2- 3p ET
Aired April 24, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, countries around the world race to
evacuate their citizens from Sudan as the conflict rages on. I'll be speaking to the French Foreign Ministry about their evacuation efforts.
Then Russia takes over the rotating presidency at the U.N. Security Council amid anger from the West.
The U.N. Secretary-General is warning the conflict in Sudan can engulf the entire region as well as beyond, saying the world must do everything in its
power to pull the country back from the abyss. His words there. Well, Sudan's doctors union is reporting heavy bombardment again in Khartoum with
a number of serious casualties.
Fighting is raging for a 10th day between the army and a powerful paramilitary force. And with no end in sight, countries around the world
are racing to get the citizens back home. Urgent evacuation efforts are underway, with many diplomats being airlifted to safety. Others are
traveling in convoys to the ports of Sudan on the Red Sea or escaping to neighboring countries including Egypt as well as Chad.
Sudanese civilians who have the means to escape are also fleeing. But many others are left behind, fearing that the world's attention may fade once
foreign diplomats are out of harm's way. I want to bring in CNN's David McKenzie, he joins me now from Johannesburg, we're also joined by Kylie
Atwood in Washington. And David, to you first. I mean, we have seen now many nations rushing to get their citizens out, but it is proving
difficult. It's also tricky. Of course, there is no ceasefire, and for those remaining, it's causing a lot of anxiety.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A huge amount of anxiety. There are many people, non diplomats, citizens of countries around
the world, Isa, still stuck in Sudan who want to get out and Sudanese, of course, in their millions figuring out what to do next. The country went
from relative peace and certainly in the capital peace to conflagration, as the U.N. Secretary-General warned Sudan could now become.
Even today, scores of injured, according to the doctor's union, the images of aerial bombardments and of the aftermath of attacks, certainly, striking
in at least many care or in some cases, evidence of civilian casualties there. The doctors are overwhelmed. The hospitals are largely closed. It's
an awful situation, people making the very difficult decision whether to stay or to try and leave.
And despite hundreds of U.N. international staff being evacuated out, the U.N. Secretary-General said they are not abandoning Sudan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: Let me be clear. The United Nations is not leaving Sudan. Our commitment is to the Sudanese
people in support of their wishes for a peaceful and secure future. We stand with them at this terrible time. We must all do everything within our
power to pull Sudan back from the edge of the abyss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKENZIE: Just how that will happen is unclear because the warring generals show no signs of stopping their fighting. Isa?
SOARES: Stay with us, David, let me go to Kylie. And Kylie, I know the U.S. has also been evacuating embassy staff diplomats there. How many have been
evacuated, and do we have a sense of how many are left?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of U.S. government personnel, there are none left in Sudan, over the weekend, there
were less than a 100 of the U.S. diplomats and their family members, and some diplomats from other countries that were evacuated from the country on
Saturday night in a military operation. It was quick and fast.
You had U.S. government airplanes that came in. They were on the ground for less than an hour and then they boarded up, they left the embassy, which is
now temporarily suspended operations and they headed out of the country to Djibouti. So that is where things stand with regard to U.S. government
But then, when it comes to American citizens, that's really the focal point for the State Department and for the White House right now. There are
potentially as many as thousands of Americans who are in the country, but we heard from the Secretary of State earlier this morning, saying that
there were dozens who had reached out to the State Department and actually wanted to leave the country.
And so, what we're monitoring now are the options for them because it isn't easy. The Secretary of State acknowledged that some of the over-land
convoys that are going out of the country right now have experienced robbery and looting. So that is obviously concerning, but what the Biden
administration is focused on right now, while they are not standing up these convoys on their own, they're actually telling Americans to hop on
the convoys led by the United Nations or allies like the UAE or Turkey.
The United States is providing surveillance over the routes that those convoys are taking out of the country. That's what National Security
adviser Jake Sullivan just explained to reporters from -- during the White House briefing. And the other thing that the U.S. government is doing is
putting some assets at Port Sudan to help facilitate support to those Americans who do actually make it on the convoys to Port Sudan, and then
you don't need to get out to another country.
The other thing, of course, it will watch for is when or if the U.S. is able to stand up its diplomatic presence in the country again. Listen to
what the Secretary of State said about that earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: We're taking further steps to support Americans and exploring options to return a diplomatic and
consular presence to Sudan as soon as possible. We also continue to engage directly with General Burhan and General Hemetti, to press them, to extend
and expand the ceasefire to a sustainable cessation of hostilities that prevents further violence and upholds humanitarian obligations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ATWOOD: And obviously, there continue to be complicating factors for the Americans who are on the ground, and of course, for the Sudanese who are on
the ground and experiencing, you know, the violence that has enveloped the streets right now, particularly when it comes to communication. We know
that there are some Americans that have not been able to contact their family over the course of the last 24 hours or so because the connectivity
And then, of course, resources, you know, getting in food and water while this violence is really -- you know, all over the country, that has been a
major challenge as well. And so we're continuing to watch that and what Americans here in the United States are hearing from their family members
who are still there.
SOARES: Yes, one lady told me about an hour and a half ago or so that, you know, she had intermittent electricity, she had very little water, and you
know, the fact that she can get food as well, not even mentioning a hospital. Let me go back to David, you know, for many remaining there, for
many Sudanese, David, I mean, they feel -- must feel completely helpless.
One lady saying in the last two hours or so that I heard saying that she felt that the world has forgotten them. What are the options if you're
Sudanese, you're making that decision, whether you stay or you go or the -- what are the routes? Because someone -- you and I were talking about two
hours ago, some people even going to South Sudan.
MCKENZIE: Yes, and then the majority of those going to South Sudan are in fact, South Sudanese refugees who had fled to Sudan because of the conflict
in South Sudan. So it shows you how desperate the neighbor's situation has become for them to go back home. I think the options are very challenging.
If you look at just the images of the conflict in Khartoum and elsewhere in the last few days and what people are just up against, and the -- because
of that lack of connectivity and the inability to get some of those stories out, it can only be worse than what you're seeing on your screens right
The options depend a lot on the resources of the individual Sudanese who may be trying to buy the largely inflated bus trips at North through Egypt.
If they can get to port Sudan, perhaps it's a trip by boat to Jeddah or other parts of Saudi Arabia. Those in Darfur have already been streaming in
the West of the country over into Chad, according to UNHCR.
That's a refugee agency's officials I've been speaking to you. They worry that if the situation continues, they could see a flood of rape refugees to
the west. And then something that really is a worrying prospect is if what has happened in many other countries that have faced these kinds of
situations, people displaced within their own country, leave the areas of fighting and end up somewhat stranded in villages or areas outside of the
But at this stage, there is very little humanitarian assistance coming into the country as foreign actors have been focusing on getting their diplomats
Now, I'm sure there are people and play -- I know for a fact, of course, that there are -- there are provisions by USAID and others that are getting
ready to go into Sudan, but the water, the food, the medical supplies, all of that is running low according to doctors in Khartoum, and that's in the
capital. This will all get more serious as this conflict continues.
And at this stage, at least, Isa, I have to say that it seems very little prospect of a diplomatic solution to these warring parties at this hour, at
SOARES: Yes, very troubling indeed. David McKenzie, Kylie Atwood, thank you to you both. Well, France is playing a big role in the evacuation efforts.
It says French military flights have managed to airlift nearly 500 people from Khartoum so far from dozens of different countries. Let's bring in
French Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre, she's joining us from Paris.
Minister, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. Can you just bring us up-to-date on the flight and the number of people that France
has been able to evacuate? What your plan is right now?
ANNE-CLAIRE LEGENDRE, SPOKESPERSON, FOREIGN MINISTRY, FRANCE: Yes, thank you for having me. So indeed it's been two very intense days of efforts and
complicated evacuation operation from Sudan. We've evacuated approximately 500 people, now they are safe and in security in Djibouti in our Air Force
base there. And we've been evacuating, as you know, the vast majority of our diplomatic staff and nationals, French nationals from Sudan.
But also we offered support to our friendly partners and allies. And there's more than 36 nationalities, different nationalities that have been
rescued, so almost 200 people from 36 other countries that we managed to evacuate. And actually, I'm very glad to say that we evacuated 12 American
citizens as well as British, Irish, but also from Africa, Asia and the rest of the world. So we've been supporting our allies in this matter.
SOARES: And I'm seeing, Minister, the French warship called Lorraine is heading to the Red Seaport of Sudan to pick up evacuees. Give us a sense of
when it will get there, and how many more people you think you will be able to evacuate?
LEGENDRE: So you may know that the U.N. decided to take the road to Port Sudan to evacuate the U.N. staff, so it's more than 1,700 people that are
now riding towards Port Sudan. And indeed, we have a boat, so -- the Frigate Lorraine with -- on its way in order to help and rescue people in
Port Sudan, and held then -- you know, be rescued back in Jeddah on the other side of the Red Sea.
So this is an ongoing effort, I don't have the precise timeline for this rescue mission, but this boat can rescue 500 more personal from the U.N.,
and we hope they will be safe very soon in Jeddah.
SOARES: And just explain, Minister, we've been hearing so much in terms of the difficulty, the logistics given, of course, the picture that's been
painting -- on the ground with these two generals continuing to flight. How complex is it to get people out right now? Right now?
LEGENDRE: It's been very complicated. As you were mentioning, the situation is very volatile with fighting still ongoing. So, of course, this was
military effort, but it was a military effort that's accompanied by very intense diplomatic efforts. Because we discussed with both parties, both
worrying parties in order to provide for the appropriate security guarantees for the operation to take place.
So very intense contacts. President Macron actually calls General Burhan, the minister, the Foreign Minister, Madam Colonna spoke with General
Hemetti and our ambassador on the ground was an intense contact with both parties locally in order to open the ways for this operation to take place.
SOARES: So clearly --
LEGENDRE: And I can add on --
SOARES: Go ahead --
LEGENDRE: You know --
SOARES: Go ahead --
LEGENDRE: Top -- as you were mentioning previously, you know, very dire conditions for our people on the ground. So the lack of few -- lack of
water, electricity, so it became quite urgent to proceed with this operation. And we had to rescue, you know, French people in their home
because some of them couldn't even move from their place in order to regroup at the embassy or at the French residence.
SOARES: And Minister, you know, in the last two hours or so, I've heard from several people in Sudan, one person said she felt that she -- you
know, that she'd be forgotten now that obviously, diplomats and foreigners were leaving.
One foreign minister of Sudan was saying, look, it's great to see so many people be able to get out. But she's incredibly worried for what this means
for the rest of Sudanese. What role will France play here in trying, of course, diplomatic efforts in trying to speak to both sides to bringing at
least, a more permanent ceasefire, or bring both men to the table here?
LEGENDRE: You know, this is our absolutely goal. We will continue this intense contact with both parties, but also with regional partners. We've
been in touch with the Arab League, with the African Union, with the IGAD, which is the Eastern African Organization and also some neighbors. You know
that Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt have been also very much involved.
And so, we are continuing to push for a ceasefire, which is absolutely critical. We need a humanitarian truce. We need to allow for humanitarian
personnel to have access to the Sudanese people who have been suffering for years, and we stand with them. So clearly, we will continue our efforts in
this regard and push for a ceasefire that needs to lead to a political dialogue.
SOARES: Anne-Claire Legendre, thank you very much minister, appreciate it. Well, Russia's Foreign Minister is holding court today in the United
Nations Security Council. Sergey Lavrov, chairing a meeting right now on the quote, "maintenance of international peace and security". Many members
already uneasy that Russia is holding Security Council's rotating presidency.
Western diplomats are slamming Lavrov for his country's actions in Ukraine, saying if Moscow cares about international cooperation, it will end its war
now. But Lavrov is accusing the West of making things worse. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA (through translator): As was the case in the cold war, we have reached a dangerous, possibly even more
dangerous threshold. The situation has worsened with the loss of trust in multilateralism when the financial economic aggression of the West is
destroying the benefits of globalization when the United States and its allies are abandoning diplomacy and demanding clarification of relations on
And this is all done in the halls of the United Nations, which was created to prevent the horror of war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Richard Roth joins me now from United Nations headquarters. And Richard, this would have been pretty hard, I think, for so many listening
to stomach, that the country that invaded Ukraine and trampled, of course, on the charter is now presiding over the presidency.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You can't miss it. It doesn't happen often. And if it happens, you know, larger number of
cases, we may not have a U.N. anymore. But it is somewhat incredible that the Russians are the chair of the Security Council for this month, while
they're also invading and attacking Ukraine and its citizens.
Here at the U.N., you heard from Sergey Lavrov, the U.S. ambassador said, there's a giant elephant in the room, and it's Russia and its invasion of
Ukraine. She -- the U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also held up the U.N. charter, the bedrock of the organization and highlighted key
points which say that Russia is illegally intervening another U.N.-member country.
Also attending the event, Elizabeth Whelan, the wife of imprisoned American Paul Whelan, who has been held for four years in Russia. She attended the
meeting, watching from the chamber before the session, she condemned Russia for its actions involving her husband.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH WHELAN, PAUL WHELAN'S SISTER: Russia's less-than sophisticated take on diplomacy is to arbitrarily detain American citizens in order to
extract concessions from the United States. This is not the work of a mature and responsible nation. It is the action of a terrorist state. And I
am here to tell Russia, free Paul Whelan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: That is Paul Whelan's sister, not his wife, I must correct myself. The Security Council meeting goes on, the Russian ambassador and Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov already left the chamber. He's likely to hold a news conference tomorrow. Isa?
SOARES: I know you'll stay -- we'll keep an eye on what he has to say. Thanks very much, Richard, I appreciate it. Now let's get to what is
happening on the ground in Ukraine. A Russian-installed official in the Zaporizhzhia region says Ukraine is building up troops and heavy equipment
at the southern front lines, about a 100 kilometers east of Zaporizhzhia city.
This information has not been confirmed by Ukraine. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins me now from Zaporizhzhia with more on these developments. And Nick,
Ukraine said, I think it was last week, that it wouldn't announce when its counteroffensive would start. But do the latest developments suggest that
it may be getting underway?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Look, it's extremely hard to tell, Isa, to be honest. And owing to some of the restrictions
placed on reporters here in Ukraine, we couldn't necessarily tell you all the details of what we learned if we indeed learned them without possible
ramifications. But clearly here along the frontlines, there is a multiple series of exchanges of information.
You were referring there to pro Russian official in occupied areas, saying that -- in his information, there were 10,000 Ukrainian troops building up
around the town of Hulyaipole, which is not far from where I'm standing, and certainly on the frontlines of Zaporizhzhia region, closer to Russian
occupying forces. Now, many analysts think that if Ukraine needs to get a strategic success for this long-held counteroffensive, essentially has to
push down towards the Azov Sea, and really cut off the Crimean Peninsula that it took in 2014 through occupying forces from the rest of occupied
Ukraine and the Russian mainland.
That would be a real blow to Putin's vision from what he wants to do to the occupied parts of Ukraine. Now, the suggestion that these forces are
building up around Hulyaipole might potentially suggest the Russians know something that we've not seen after a number of days in that area. We saw
no evidence of that ourselves, but you would possibly think that Ukrainian forces are smart enough to hide that.
And so, there's a continuing build-up of noise suggesting that something maybe afoot, be it suggestions by Russian officials that perhaps or western
analysts indeed, that maybe Ukrainian forces in very small numbers might be landing in Russian-controlled parts of Kherson near the Dnipro River. Also
reports over the past week of intensified clashes in the villages in the areas between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
A lot of noise here, very little coherent proof that a Ukrainian counteroffensive is underway. If we recall what happened around Kharkiv,
the last successful Ukrainian push at the end of last Summer, the Ukrainians didn't really let anybody know what was going on until it was
kind of done. And so, they are proving quite good operational security to some degree, and the Russians have proven themselves in the past they're
quite good at collapsing under pressure.
So we have no idea really, exactly how far advanced any Ukrainian maneuvers may be, even indeed if they're even happening. And so the important point I
think Ukrainians are making and their spokespeople keep reiterating is silence is important for the success of their operations. But the strategic
issues here are enormous. Ukraine clearly knows that the support it's getting from the West, from NATO, they can't rely on this forever.
They can't really rely on it this time next year, let alone maybe even through the Winter. Elections, economies, things change the whole time.
Will it exert pressure on that rare unification from NATO members. So, they know they have to achieve a change on the ground. At the moment, some of
their officials sounding bullish that they can do that, certainly, but when it happens, how it happens, something at times that is hard for us to see
and also tell you. So, a lot resting on what we see in the days ahead.
SOARES: Nick Paton Walsh for us in Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine. Thanks very much, Nick. And still to come, gearing up for 2024. U.S. President Joe
Biden set to announce a new run for the White House, but just how much support does he have from his own party? Jeremy Diamond joins me next.
SOARES: Well, U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce on Tuesday he'll run for a second term in the White House. But a recent "NBC News"
poll shows that just 26 percent of Americans think he should, while 70 percent, as you can see on your screen say he shouldn't. In the same poll,
nearly half of all those who oppose another Biden term say his age is a major reason for that view.
At 80 years old, the president's age is certain to be a central issue in the campaign. The fact that even many in his own party privately
acknowledge. Joining me now is CNN's White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond. And Jeremy, given the polling that we just showed, and the public
perception here over the president's age. Are the president's team confident he could win a second term when he does announce, of course?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they still do express that confidence. But there's no question that it's going to be one of the
major issues of this campaign. Should President Biden go ahead as we expect him to announce a re-election campaign, campaigning for a second term. At
the end of which, President Biden would be 86 years old.
And so, that's certainly something that this White House and this president's campaign are going to have to fight against. Right now, the
president's advisors are putting the final touches on this re-election campaign. We expect that the president could be announcing that re-election
campaign tomorrow with a video announcement.
But of course, advisors have warned us that President Biden sometimes chooses to delay things, and so there is still a possibility of yet another
delay. But nonetheless, the fact that we are now expecting this campaign to launch this week is a shift from what we have heard in recent weeks, where
people close to the White House and the president's advisors have told us and other Democrats across town that they -- that they did not expect
President Biden to announce this Spring.
That they thought that it would perhaps slide into the Summer, saying that the president felt no pressure to announce, given this Republican in-
fighting that is happening on the other side. But something seems to have changed. One of those factors potentially could be fundraising. Over the
Summer, fundraising tends to be quite slower, especially with some of those big-dollar donors.
And one of the things that the president is trying to do in pushing back against this notion that there is not sufficient enthusiasm for his
campaign, posting a big fundraising number at the beginning of the first quarter of his re-election campaign would certainly send a powerful
Now, we are told that President Biden has landed on campaign manager, that is Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who is currently a senior adviser and the
director of Intergovernmental Affairs here at the White House, to be his campaign manager. But he also was huddling over the weekend with his
advisors at Camp David, putting the final touches on some of those final staffing and operational decisions that have to be finalized before the
president can announce.
But as of now, again, with all the caveats included, we are expecting that video to potentially come tomorrow.
SOARES: Yes, indeed, and I know the age was -- it seems to be a concern for many Americans, but it obviously also represents as you well know years of
experience. But this will, nevertheless, Jeremy, be, you know, a bruising 19-month campaign. So who could potentially here, be his challenger in the
Republican side? Where does former President Trump sit in the polls?
DIAMOND: Well, there's no question that, as of now, former President Trump is certainly the leader in all of the polls in his head-to-head match-ups
with his closest potential contender, former Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, we see the president -- former President Trump sitting ahead of him in
multiple polls at this point. But it's important to note as the Florida governor did just earlier today as he is traveling abroad, he has yet to
actually announce his candidacy for president.
And certainly, once you enter the fray, you become a candidate, you put on the full force of everything that comes with that. There's obviously a
possibility a polling could change. But that being said, former President Trump as of now, not only has a lead in the polling, he has also racked up
more endorsements than any other potential Republican candidate, and he certainly does still maintain that very solid grip on the Republican base.
Now, should former President Trump be the Republican nominee, that would certainly be music to the ears of folks here at the White House who believe
that President Biden beat former president Trump in 2020.
They believe that he can do it again. And certainly, the polling of head- to-head matchups indicate that Biden-Trump would be better for Biden than Biden-DeSantis. But, again, still very, very early in this presidential
SOARES: Indeed. Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much, Jeremy.
Still to come tonight, more on Sudan where countries are racing against time to evacuate their citizens and new reaction from European leaders
after a Chinese diplomat questions the international status of countries that wants part of the Soviet Union. That story next.
SOARES: And we return to our top story this hour in Sudan where an international Exodus is underway as one of the Africa's largest countries
descends deeper into violence. Earlier today, I spoke with Mariam al-Mahdi, the former Sudanese foreign minister, who spoke to the mass devastation
families are experiencing in Sudan. Have a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIAM AL-MAHDI, FORMER SUDANESE FOREIGN MINISTER: It is a total devastation to all the families. And if you ask now, we are exchanging news
in the WhatsApp groups and so on, no single person had not affected directly, either by killing of his relatives or her relatives, or
displacement by himself or herself, or displacement of close families or bombardment of their homes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, as thousands are evacuated from Sudan. CNN's Sam Kiley reports from Djibouti, the first stop, of course, for many evacuees.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Global retreat, I think, is exactly the right way to put it. And if you see behind me here, we have
a French Air Force, long distance cargo plane, that has been, we understand, on about four rotations into Khartoum.
The French have evacuated close to 500 people in the distance. Beyond it, that is an RAF aircraft. Similarly the British have -- they joined the
Americans, indeed. British Special Forces were taken in by Americans during the American evacuation of their diplomats at the beginning of the
operation at the weekend, taking out about 100 people.
Both the United States and the United Kingdom, though, being criticized quite bitterly by their own citizens for what, in their words, has been
something of a failure to get those other people out. The people who are not diplomats, the people who are not lucky enough to be wealthy, or able
to get a vehicle out to a mustering point.
Now over in this direction here at Djibouti International Airport, Don, you can see what a major hub for military it has become. There are five or six
Hercules and similar aircraft, the kind of flying trucks of the military world, they're parked over there. They're part of this multinational
evacuation effort that is included Special Forces from Japan, South Korea, all the way through the Middle East, Britain, France, the Netherlands, and,
of course, the United States.
The problem is now that with the escalating fighting in Sudan, how do you get all of those other foreign nationals out? That would be a land move and
there's no yet -- there's not any clear planning as to how they're going to manage that or even if they're going to.
SOARES: That was Sam Kiley speaking to me earlier from Djibouti.
Well, there's new reaction now to a Chinese diplomat's comment, the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union have no status in
international law. French President Emmanuel Macron said today it is not the place of a diplomat to hold this kind of language. The Chinese
ambassador to France made the comments on Friday, and now China appears to be walking them back. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson
has the very latest.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Comments by China's ambassador to Paris on French television claims that former
Soviet republics don't have any real status according to international law. They triggered somewhat of a diplomatic firestorm in Europe with the
governments of three former Soviet republics, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, all saying that they would be summoning Chinese diplomats to try
to clarify these claims.
And meanwhile, a statement has come out on the Chinese Embassy in France's website today showing a pretty sharp 180-degree U-turn with the statement
quote the, "Ambassador Lu Shaye's remarks on the question of Ukraine were not a statement of policy, but an expression of his personal opinion. They
should not be the subject of over-interpretation." And going on to say that China respects the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of
all countries, and that China would like to help mediate a peaceful settlement to Russia's ongoing invasion and occupation of Ukraine.
But it appears the damage has already been done. The foreign ministry of Lithuania says his government simply does not trust China to negotiate when
it comes to this conflict. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABRIELIUS LANDSBERGIS, LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Because this is a narrative that we've been hearing from Moscow. And now, it's being sent out
by another country, which is, in our eyes, an ally of Moscow, in many cases, if not military then politically at least, and sending the same
messages questioning of, you know, of the whole concept of independence or sovereignty, which is very dangerous in these days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: There have also been statements by the European Union foreign policy chief calling the Chinese ambassador's remarks "Unacceptable." Also
from another former Soviet republic, Moldova, its foreign ministry saying it was surprised and it wanted clarification from Beijing. Part of this
gets to the suspicion in parts of Eastern Europe about China, which professes to be neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war, even as the Chinese
leader Xi Jinping continues to conduct face-to-face meetings with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, while he has yet to have any direct
communication with Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong
SOARES: And still to come tonight, breaking barriers with every report. We'll have more on the Palestinian reporter working on Israeli TV. That's
SOARES: Well, developing news out of Jerusalem where Israeli authorities say five people have been injured in a car ramming incident. Police are
calling it a terror attack. They said the driver of the car that hit pedestrians was neutralized, but didn't give more details. And it happened
near a popular market in central Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the attack vowing, "They will not overcome us, we
will overcome them."
Well, amid the latest Middle East violence, one reporter is balancing pressure from his community while also covering stories. CNN's Hadas Gold
has more on the Palestinian working for Israeli TV.
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Nearly every evening on Israeli news channel KAN 11, one of the top recorders speaks Hebrew with a very
slight accent. Suleiman Maswadeh is a rare entity in Israeli media, one of very few Palestinians reporting in Hebrew, and not just on Arab issues.
GOLD: How do you identify yourself?
SULEIMAN MASWADEH, KAN 11 CORRESPONDENT: I don't know because I was born in East Jerusalem to a Palestinian family to a Palestinian culture. And I'm
not ashamed to say that I'm a Palestinian. But I also live in Israel. I also feel Israeli in some ways. I don't know. I just say I come from
Jerusalem and I'm a journalist, and that's two most important things of my identity.
GOLD: Maswadeh grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem, playing soccer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, attending a strict Islamic Boys School. Though he
now reports the news in fluent Hebrew, he did not learn the language until he was 20 years old, which is just seven years ago.
GOLD: What prompted you to want to become a reporter?
MASWADEH: Back in the Second Intifada, I lived in the altar in Jerusalem. And you remember the explosions in the buses in Jerusalem, and I didn't
know what's happening, you know. I didn't speak Hebrew and I just looked at TV, and I felt that I want to be there, like I want to report. I want to do
GOLD: His journey to journalism was not a straight one. Working at a hotel, studying accounting at a Palestinian University, and then learning Hebrew
before attending an Israeli College. Maswadeh landed an internship with the Israeli public broadcaster KAN's Arabic channel. And after a jump to the
network's main Hebrew channel, he became Jerusalem correspondent where he's covered everything from clashes between police and Palestinians in refugee
camps, to Israeli politics.
His first major scoop put the spotlight on his constant internal dilemma, how to balance pressure from his community versus the story. In 2020,
Maswadeh showed how COVID restrictions were being violated at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam. The backlash was
MASWADEH: And I remember that my grandfather -- calling me and telling me that everyone there is, you know, talking to him and telling him that what
his grandson did was a shame to the community.
GOLD: Maswadeh says he feels like he is an important voice for Palestinians in the newsroom. Here, he breaks the Ramadan fast this year with dates at
his desk teaching his colleagues the lesson. Though he says his family is proud of him, he also says they want him to quit. When he visits them in
Shuafat refugee camp, he does so only late at night for his own protection.
GOLD: You said you receive death threats. Do these come from Israelis, from Palestinians, and how do you deal with that?
MASWADEH: I get death -- I got death threats from both sides, but it was mainly from Palestinians who don't like the fact that I work for Israeli
TV. My answer to that is this is where you make things different, like, I can make effect on people's life in Israeli TV. I feel that I'm, you know,
giving a message for Jewish people that if you give all the people, citizens of East Jerusalem a chance like I got, everyone can be like me.
GOLD: Last month, Maswadeh was promoted to be a political correspondent and is even anchoring, vowing to continue breaking barriers with every report.
Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.
SOARES: What a story.
And still to come tonight, if you fund it, they will win. How a little celebrity love turned an obscure Welsh football club into the stuff of
Hollywood dreams. That's next.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. There was a lower league football match in Wales on Saturday that really captured the world's imagination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll lift the trophy together. Back to the football league. There we go. Wrexham are the 2023 National League champions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: What a moment. That was BT Sport airing the happily ever after moment in a Cinderella story where two Hollywood Princess are free now that
Paul Rudd is involved. The Marvel Star recorded this video of his friends Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney as the full-time whistle blew on Wrexham
AFC's most important match in 15 years. Look at that crowd. And their faces, the hug there. This was the moment the team secured really promotion
into the English Football League by beating Boreham Wood 3-1.
And can you imagine partying with that trio in a small Welsh city after McElhenney, of course, dried his eyes.
Joining me now, two longtime Wrexham fan, Lizzie and Neal Smith, both kitted out, congratulations to you, too, as well. I know you guys were
there on Saturday. And Lizzie, I've been told that you took this beautiful photo we're looking at now that has become pretty iconic. It in fact is so
popular that you're now selling some merch at the Etsy shop Our Wrexham, right? How popular has it been?
LIZZIE SMITH, WREXHAM FAN: It's been unreal. The response to the image has been like nothing I could ever have imagined. I was just there, right
place, right time, and somehow had the presence of mind to try and capture a memory for Neil. And, you know, the next day we thought, you know what,
this is really amazing picture because it just -- it encapsulates everything that it meant to everyone.
That's why we've called it Our Wrexham because we feel that it just embodies everything that it meant to not just the players, but the fans,
old fans and new fans, everyone who it meant so much to. You can see it all in that picture. And that picture's just got a thousand stories within it.
So, we were so happy to be able to share it and now, you know, we're able to actually -- to put it out there and to actually give it to the fans who
it belongs to really.
SOARES: It's a great photo and it really captures the euphoria, the moment, the win.
And Neal, for you, I mean, you've been a relaxing fan since 2001. I know you introduced Lizzie to Wrexham. Explain what it -- what that moment there
meant on Saturday for you.
NEAL SMITH, WREXHAM FAN: It is -- thank you for having us on, by the way. That was a moment that was 15 years in the making, really. I -- it's -- how
long is it after the final whistle. And I still have absolutely no words to put in to you today of how that felt.
When that final whistle went, there was a friend that I just met two days before and we just embraced, and hugged, and cried, and screamed. And it
was just like that had been -- the pressure had been taken off for the past 15 years. It was finally our time. It's been our time for so long, but it
just hasn't happened. And now we can finally say that we're back where we belong. And as I say, I mean, I've still got -- not got the words. I'm
struggling to find the right ones even now.
SOARES: And the video that we just played, you know, that very moment, the win and you hugging, I'm guessing, was one of your friends, one of your
mates that, you know, that said so much in terms, you know, 15 years to get here.
I want to show our viewers, Neal, really a clip from Welcome to Wrexham that compares the work really that it's taken to get here. Have a listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine, if you will, the New York Yankees lose 150 games in a season they finished dead last and they have to drop down a
league and the following year, play against the likes of the Toledo Mud Hens and the Sacramento River Cats. And if they keep losing enough, and
they keep dropping leagues, and eventually they end up playing beer league softball in Ithaca.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then I called Humphrey (ph) and I was like you got a club that had an infrastructure that could at least support an evening of
the balance sheet? Can't you theoretically take a team that's in the lowest League and bring them to the top? He said, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: So Lizzie and Neal, I mean, did you ever think you would see this kind of Hollywood story? And it's wonderful to see Wrexham being celebrated
by so many Americans. I read one article interestingly over one lady saying she was learning Welsh on Duolingo just because she's fallen in love with
N. SMITH: Yes, it's amazing, the response from the whole world after these two guys shared an interest and looked into us. We -- we've had so many
fans from all over the world now that we've befriended. They're all learning well. Even the owners of, you know, you've seen on the Welcome to
Wrexham that they've been doing some Welsh speaking themselves. Fair play to them. They're doing really well. And the effort they put into it is
second to nothing. It's absolutely unbelievable, the response globally that we've had, and we never really thought that this would happen to us.
L. SMITH: And it's bringing so many of us together as well. So on Friday, we picked up a friend from Alabama from the airport to bring him to
(INAUDIBLE) and show him around the racecourse, you know, bring him to Wrexham for the first time. It's bringing these people from across the
globe together. And, you know, you can't even put that into words, because none of this would have happened without the input of Rob and Ryan.
Because it has given us that global stage, really, to show off just what -- just how welcoming we are, what we can do. And, you know, welcome everyone
with open arms.
N. SMITH: And who we are as well.
L. SMITH: Yes.
SOARES: And the future is looking very bright indeed. Congratulations to you both, Neal -- Lizzie and Neal. Thank you very much. I love that we're
all matching today for Wrexham. Thank you very much.
N. SMITH: Thank you very much.
L. SMITH: Thank you.
SOARES: Now if you could have imagined the magical conclusion when the two stars first brought in the alien football club they had never heard of as
they lifted the National League trophy to celebrate the historic victory. It was clear how much the moment meant to them, too, as you heard they're
only talking about. Rob McElhenney told reporters "For us to be welcomed into their community and to be welcomed into this experience has been the
honor of my life." Those words today, and it means a lot to them clearly as well as to everyone who supports Wrexham who's been waiting for this
moment, of course, for the past 15 years.
That does it for me. I love ending on a positive note. Thanks very much for watching. Do stay right here. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is up next with Richard
Quest. I shall see you tomorrow. Have a wonderful day. Bye-bye.