Return to Transcripts main page

One World with Zain Asher

Zelenskyy Takes Part in Arab League Summit; Floods Leaves At Least 14 Casualties in Northern Italy; Spain Wildfire Forces Hundreds of Evacuations; Photo Agency Rejects Harry and Meghan's Request to Get Photos Back; Zambia Attempts to Restructure Debt After 2020 Default. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired May 19, 2023 - 12:00:00   ET




ZAIN ASHER: Hello everyone, I'm Zain Asher in New York and this is One World. It's an unlikely meeting involving two of the world's most

consequential leaders, one whose country is on the receiving end of Vladimir Putin's war machine, the other actually enlisted Vladimir Putin's

help for his own brutal conflict at home. The Ukrainian and Syrian Presidents are both attending the Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia.

Bashar al-Assad was warmly welcomed by regional heads of state after more than a decade of isolation following his ruthless crackdown on protesters

that triggered his nation's civil war. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meantime, is urging those same leaders who have remained largely neutral over Russian

aggression against his country not to look the other way.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Unfortunately, there are some in the world and here among you who turn a blind eye to those cages and

illegal annexations. And I'm here so that everyone can take an honest look, no matter how hard the Russians try to influence.


ASHER: The Ukrainian President is also traveling to Japan, where he appealed to global allies gathered at the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, meetings

there already underway. Earlier, leaders of the world's wealthiest democracies announced tough new sanctions against Moscow. And we're just

learning about what could be a game changer in Russia's 15-month war.

A source tells CNN the White House says the U.S. will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets. Intense combat,

meantime, continues on the ground in Ukraine, much of it focused in and around the eastern -- east city known as the "Meat Grinder". This new video

alleges -- shows -- allegedly shows Ukrainian troops walking in the woods and throwing grenades towards enemy positions near Bakhmut.

Russia still holds most of the city, but in recent days, Ukrainian soldiers have claimed significant gains on the outskirts. Nic Robertson joins us

live now from eastern Ukraine. So, Volodymyr Zelenskyy -- they're addressing the Arab League. Nic, just walk us through what was said. He's

urging Arab leaders not to look the other way.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think this is an opportunity for Zelenskyy to interrupt a message that's really pervasive -- Putin's

message in the Gulf states and in the Arab world on the Arab street and with the leaders there, as well. It's Putin's message that Russia's the

victim, that it's Western hegemony at work here, that it's NATO is ganging up on Russia. It's a message that finds a level of acceptance because,

frankly, the efforts of the United States and allies and partners in the Middle East, so many people who live there have looked like an abject

failure and have not bought stability to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

And therefore, Putin can sell that message consistently and relatively easily. And I think what President Zelenskyy is trying to do here is to

reset that and say, look, this country, Russia, has taken a third of my country away, is taking children from my country and trying to re-educate

them in Russia. If that were you and your country and your children, how would you feel?

So, it's an emotive message, but it's trying to break Putin's narrative. And he'll need traction eventually because long term, the support and

understanding of all partners for Ukraine around the world, be they the Western allies support sending military aid, Gulf partners sending

humanitarian aid or further abroad. They're the ones who'll be potentially sitting around -- sitting around tables and discussions in New York at the

U.N. ultimately when a piece, a real piece will be discussed for Ukraine.

So, this is long-term strategy by Zelenskyy. But also I think it recognizes here, as well, that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia,

is determined to be a regional power broker, wants to be involved and engaged in bringing peace between Ukraine and Russia.


He is economically close, if you will, to Putin because they both are massive oil producers. He has a personal connection with Putin. Saudi

Arabia is a heavy investor once before the war in Ukraine. They've offered several hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid and are

engaging behind the scenes in initiatives to try to bring about prisoner exchange, exchanges, and other roots potentially to bring about peace. So,

this is as much about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman projecting his influence as it is about Zelenskyy having an opportunity to get his voice

heard where he wants to hear it heard.

ASHER: All right, Nic Robertson, live for us there, thank you so much. Turkey's President says his nation's democratic process is playing out

exactly as it should be. Recep Tayyip Erdogan sat down. For an exclusive interview with "Connect the World" Anchor Becky Anderson, ahead of his

country's May 28th runoff election. Their talk covered a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues. And Becky joins us live now from

Istanbul with more on what President Erdogan had to say. Only one week to go until that runoff, Becky.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. Well, it was wide-ranging, the discussion, not least about Turkey's relationship with the U.S.,with

Russia, with Ukraine and more. Look, there is there has been no love lost between successive U.S. administrations and President Biden in his more

than 20-year rule there -- rule here in Turkey and his relationship with Joe Biden is no exception.

It's important to point out that back in 2020, in the summer of 2020, then- presidential candidate Joe Biden described President Erdogan as an autocrat. He criticized President Biden's policy towards the Kurds and he

said that he would throw his support behind the Turkish opposition who were trying to unseat him. Well, fast forward three years to 2023 and the

campaign trail here. And to what is an increasingly nationalistic Turkish population, anti-Americanism goes down very well here in Turkey. And

President Erdogan knows that.

So, as he approaches this historic runoff election, this is the first time that President Erdogan has had opposition in an election. He has been using

that Biden line about him being an autocrat. He's been using that against the U.S. who he has accused of trying to topple him. And that is how we

started our conversation. Have a listen.


ANDERSON: Do you genuinely believe, as you suggested last Saturday, that Joe Biden wants to topple you?

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): How could someone who is going into a runoff election, instead of completing the

election in the first round, be a dictator? That is the reality. We have an alliance with 322 MPs in parliament. And the leader of this alliance is

going to go for the runoffs in the first position. What kind of a dictator is that?

ANDERSON: So, if re-elected, are you saying that you will work with the Biden administration? You can work with the Biden administration?

ERDOGAN: Without a doubt, I will work with Mr. Biden. And if Biden goes, then I will work with whoever replaces him as well.

ANDERSON: You've said that you don't agree with the attitude of the West towards Russia with regard to the Ukraine conflict, that the West follows a

policy based on provocation. I just want to get your sense of where you believe the West perhaps is going wrong here. Is this military and

financial aid that we see at present a provocation to your mind?

ERDOGAN: The West is not leading a very balanced approach. You need a balanced approach towards a country such as Russia, which would have been a

much more fortunate approach. For example, the Black Sea Green Corridor Initiative.

We are not only considering the interests and the needs of the Western countries, but also that of the African nations. This Green Corridor

Initiative has been extended for another two months beginning on the 18th of May. How do you think it was possible?

It was possible because of our special relationship with President Putin.


ANDERSON: Well, Zain, there is arguably no more important issue for the U.S., for the West, and indeed others around the world, than Turkey's

position when it comes to Russia and Ukraine.


Remember, Turkey has the second biggest military in NATO. And for example, it holds the keys to Sweden's accession to NATO at present and we discussed

that in the interview. And President Erdogan telling me that at present, as things stand today, he is not prepared to vote for Sweden's entry into NATO

until, as he describes it, Sweden cleans the streets of its cities of Kurdish terrorists. Now, that's something that Sweden denies of course.

But in that story, the story of Turkey's position with regard Sweden and NATO, you see just how important it is that the West keeps President

Erdogan or whoever is running Turkey on the side. Their relationship here with Russia is of huge importance, not just the incumbent president but to

the opposition leader were he to win and that is looking unlikely at this point in Sunday's runoff election.

The bilateral trade between Turkey and Russia is huge twice that of Turkey. And the U.S., they rely on Russia's energy here, they rely on Russian

tourists and trade is the reason why they didn't sign up to Western sanctions. So, what goes on in Turkey, Zain, as you and I know, but flushed

out in the wide-ranging discussion that we had, that exclusive interview with the president, which our viewers can find online. What goes on in

Turkey does not stay in Turkey, and that is why these elections are so consequential, Zain.

ASHER: Yeah, especially when it comes to foreign policy, as you point out, the Sweden issue, Sweden's ascension into NATO is hugely consequential and

President Erdogan continues to hold that up. Becky Anderson, live for us there, thank you so much.

More rain is in the forecast for northern Italy. This after downpours unleashed landslides and flooding across the region. At least 14 people

have died. Thousands of emergency workers are carrying out rescues and looking for several people who are still missing.

Northern Italy is now under a red alert, as some areas could see up to a hundred milliliters of rain. Regional officials say six months of rain fell

in just 36 hours.

Emergency crews evacuated hundreds of people in western Spain after a fast- moving wildfire ripped through the area. Officials say it appears the fire was started deliberately. Strong winds are fanning the flames. This comes

amidst a prolonged drought in many parts of the country. Let's bring in Meteorologist Alison Chinchar. What more can you tell us, Alison?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All right, so again, we've got some good news maybe in the short term to talk about in terms of winds, but

again it could not come fast enough. Here's a look at some of that video again just kind of showing how much smoke is really in this region that's

reducing the visibility, obviously making it very difficult to breathe especially for folks who have asthma or allergies, and are more inclined to

have breathing issues when that smoke gets involved.

Also, when you look at the drought, some of the areas that are dealing with the most extreme circumstances of drought are those areas of northwestern

Africa, but also along the Iberian Peninsula. So, you take that drought, those drier conditions, especially here again, looking back to April, look

at how very warm it was, but also very dry along those exact same regions and that combination of those very dry conditions, as well as the intense

heat, leading to a very prolonged term where we're dealing with very dry ground. And when you have that dry ground, if a fire does start for

whatever reason, it can explode. It can spread so easily and so quickly because that ground is so dry already.

Now, one bit of thing, we do have some rain, very, very small, but some rain in the forecast along portions of the Iberian Peninsula. Obviously,

the heaviest rain is going to be over towards Italy where they don't really need it anymore, but some, some rain is in the forecast in the short term.

At least from this circling system here you can see along the Mediterranean, we would like to see more rain, but at least it's something.

Another bit of good news is the winds. We are anticipating at least as we get into the latter half of the weekend to see those winds and begin to

drop back. Again, any little bit at this point will help so we will gladly take whatever we can get.

ASHER: Absolutely, Allison Chinchar for us there, thank you so much. New York City could be going the way of Venice suffering from that sinking

feeling. You're looking at live pictures here of Manhattan which apparently is literally sinking under its own weight? That's according to a new

geological study says the bulk of skyscrapers is actually weighing down the island. That's leading to concerns.

The city could become more vulnerable to natural disasters.


CNN's Bill Weir is joining us from the Brooklyn Waterfront. Here's a fun fact. The city's skyscrapers actually weigh a total of 1.6 trillion pounds.

So, it's gonna experience a rise in sea level, basically at four times faster the rate of average. Just walk us through that.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, that's the thing. This is the first time we've looked at just the sheer weight of the city of

New York and how it's contributing to a sinking, subsiding movement at the same time that would have been in the age of sea level rise.

And these scientists did the math. And as you say, 1.7 trillion pounds at 770 billion metric tons. But just as important is the trillion tons of

carbon and other heat treatment gases that are in the sea and sky, warming the poles, melting that ice, rising sea levels here. And so, the

predictions right now are anywhere between 200 and 600 millimeters of sea level rise. That's seven inches to two feet by 2050, depending on how fast

humanity can get off of fossil fuels.

Now, what that means for so many coastal cities, not just New York, it's happening in New Orleans, it's happening all over, is infrastructure

concerns. And so, I hope we can hold our signal. We've been losing our live signal a little bit, but as we swing around on the Brooklyn side of the

East River, this is just one revetment project here.

We got a barge full of boulders that they're stacking up to shore up this area, which was completely inundated by super storm Sandy nine years ago.

That one storm who wrote the floodplain maps in New York City. They've put another about 700 or 60, sorry, excuse me, 70,000 extra homes in that


Folks who had no idea that was a risk for them and most of those have not been rebuilt up to standards now. At the same time, the U.S. Army Corps of

Engineers is putting together a number, sort of a suite of options, building sea walls all along the most vulnerable areas, protecting lower

Manhattan, Wall Street, protecting the shipping lanes on the New Jersey side, as well.

This is happening sooner or later. And it's a matter of -- it's just another reminder that not only is it the weight of the heat trapping gases

that's causing this, Zain, it is just the very weight of our skyscrapers which seem to be getting bigger every rebuilding time as well.

ASHER: Yeah, certainly not something to panic about or fret about immediately, but it is happening as you point out. The city is literally

very, very slowly sinking. Bill Weir, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much.

The paparazzi is hitting back, bluntly rejecting Harry and Meghan's request to hand over photos. They were taken by photographers following the couple

in New York on Tuesday night. Lawyers for BACKGRID USA say the copyrighted material belongs to the photo agency and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

simply have no right to it.

All right, still to come here, will China -- while China rather has revved up Africa's economic engine with investments across the continent, many

nations are now drowning in debt. We'll talk to Zambia's Vice President ahead. Also, no let up in the cries for change in Serbia following two mass

shootings in two days. New demonstrations are set to begin this hour. Also ahead, an ancient queen has ignited a modern-day controversy. How a new

Netflix series is not sitting well with some Egyptian scholars.




ASHER: Another Republican candidate is launching a bid for the White House. The U.S. Senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott, has filed the paperwork to

run for president in the 2024 race. A formal announcement is expected on Monday. He is the only black Republican in the U.S. Senate. He joins a

growing Republican field, which includes Former President Donald Trump and several others.

And just days before Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to announce his run for the presidency, his feud with Disney is starting to cost his

state real money. Disney says it is scrapping plans for a $1 billion office complex that would have brought at least 2,000 high-paying jobs to Florida.

Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who is also expected to run for president, addressed the issue on Fox Business.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like Walt Disney, not Woke Disney, all right? And I'm not terribly surprised to see Disney

cancelling a billion-dollar contract. That's only gonna harm people in the Orlando and Florida area. And it's one more reason why, as a limited

government conservative, I've said for months now that I think both sides ought to stand down, take the victory for parents' rights in the

legislature and move on.


ASHER: DeSantis has been fighting with Disney since the company voiced objections to his anti-LGBTQ policies.

As we've been reporting, the G7 leaders are meeting in Japan, talking mostly about the war in Ukraine. But Africa's Catholic bishops hope they

talk about debt. They're asking the leaders to cancel what they call unpayable debts from the continent. The bishops say multiple crises in

recent years have hit the continent hard.

For the past two decades, China has, of course, played a crucial financial role in Africa's economic growth. Much of that investment has been in the

form of loans. Since the year 2000, loan commitments across the continent have totaled $153 billion, at least, according to Johns Hopkins and Boston

University researchers. However, loans, of course, need to be repaid. And in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and inflation

have all made it much harder for African nations to service their debt.

Zambia is trying to restructure its debt after defaulting two years ago and according to the Wall Street Journal, about a third of Zambia's external

debt is owed to Chinese lenders. China says it takes Zambia's debt issues seriously and wants to work together for a better solution. But the debt

crisis weighs heavily on average Zambian citizens. Nearly two-thirds of Zambians live on less than $2.15 a day, that's according to the World Bank.

And that's not hard enough, "The Wall Street Journal" also says the country's currency has lost nearly a third of its value since September.

And according to Bloomberg, that pushed inflation up to double digits last month. Meantime, Zambia's President hopes getting the country's financial

house in order will serve as a blueprint for other struggling nations.

Joining us live now is Zambia's Vice President Mutale Nalumango. Thank you so much for being with us, Vice President. Many African countries have

found paying back debt to China takes an increasing share of tax revenue. And that's of course money that could be used to build infrastructure,

build schools, provide all sorts of services for the average people, for the average citizen in Zambia, including electricity, et cetera. Just walk

us through how Zambia's economy is faring right now under the weight of this crushing debt.

MUTALE NALUMANGO, ZAMBIAN VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much and thank you indeed for having me this time. The impact of debt on the livelihoods of

Zambians, I think you have analyzed very well what Zambians are going through, which may be the case with other countries that are highly



There are challenges that come with the burden of this debt. It simply means that the growth of our economy gets retarded because we have so much

that we need to pay. You did mention that there was default just before the change of government. And therefore, since we came in, we are trying to use

the local resources to try to make and push our agenda of development but the debt is something that we must work on.

And like you have said, the rescue here from this burden of debt is restructuring. And we are working on that, that we ensure, there is

restructuring, which is good for both creditors and ourselves. Because if we are mad and the insistence is there that we should pay in the manner

that was agreed. The default that we saw, which we have negotiated for, so that we can start paying when the restructure is, you know, fully done. If

this is not done, Zambia really is under stress to deliver social services to the people.

The infrastructure, which is also being impacted negatively by the climate, you know, change, issues, the floods and all that and even unprecedented

cyclones affecting us. We need the Zambian debt restructured so that we can pay back. We are committed, we are a government and we know the commitment

to the lenders, to the, you know, creditors. But what we need is to restructure and when we do we will surely pay according to the conditions

that will be favorable to us and to the creditors.

So, we are looking to the debt restructuring. I don't want to know whether --

ASHER: So, Vice President --


ASHER: Let me ask you this, because China's foreign ministry did actually respond to all the sort of criticism that's been leveled at it about not

restructuring the debt so far. They said that China has always taken Zambia's debt issues seriously and will jointly work for a better solution.

What do you know about what a better solution looks like? What are the Chinese lenders saying at this point?

NALUMANGO: You -- you may have to repeat that, sorry.

ASHER: I was just reading out what China's foreign ministry said about this particular issue because it has been -- it has been causing quite a bit of

controversy for quite some time, especially since Zambia's default two years ago. China is saying that they have always taken the Zambia's debt

issues seriously and they are currently working right now towards a better solution. What more do you know about what a solution at this point would

even look like? What have the Chinese lenders actually said to your President?

NALUMANGO: Well, I hope I've heard you clearly on the question. Where we are now really is more dependent on the creditors, China included. So, I

will answer without really knowing exactly what you have put forward. China is part of the core chair. In fact, China is a core chair that is in the

negotiation among themselves, the creditors. So, we are hoping that China, together with others, they will find this common framework under which we

are supposed to pay. So, I can't tell you exactly how China is looking at it.

But China is a friend, just like many other bilateral people that you know, countries or institutions that we borrowed from. So, for us, it is optimism

that the creditors will quickly come to a conclusion and a solution for us to be able to move forward together with them.

ASHER: And so, Vice President, as you know, though, in the past, China has been very secretive about at least publicly, very secretive about how much

sort of money it's lending to each individual African nation and also the terms of the loans, as well. Not much is known publicly about that. Just in

terms of their reluctance to forgive debt, at least so far, what message is that sending to other African nations?

I mean, obviously, Zambia is in a very difficult situation right now, but there are other African nations that are also struggling under the weight

of debt from China, especially a country like Kenya, for example. What message does this send to them? Those nations are going be watching what

happens with Zambia very closely.

NALUMANGO: I do believe that China is a friend, like others as I've said.


But democracy calls for accountability and transparency. I think that I would encourage that there is greater transparency in the manner debt is

contracted. Transparency to the public, to the citizens who are the owners of the resources that we are committing in the contracting of the debt. So,

what I would say is for us to move forward and not to look to you know to and from, back and forth, it is important that when debt is being

contracted, the people know.

In Zambia, we are calling for greater transparency. What are the commitments in contracting the debt? We are looking at the law. The law in

the country provides for parliament to be participatory in the contracting of debt. So, if these things are done secretively, it becomes very

difficult for the people to appreciate that which they owe. So yes, that is a challenge if you don't know exactly what you owe.

But we are moving forward to ensure that greater transparency is given, greater accountability is given, and we don't borrow more than we

anticipate to have. I will not say we don't borrow more than what we have, because if we had, we would not borrow. But we should not borrow --

ASHER: Right. More than you anticipate to have.

NALUMANGO: Yes, beyond what you anticipate to have --

ASHER: Wise words there.

NALUMANGO: -- bringing us this far.

ASHER: Vice President, we have to leave it there. Vice President Mutale, Nalumango, thank you so much for being with us. All right, coming up here,

it took very little time for G7 leaders to announce their first action at the summit in Japan. New sanctions again targeting Russia. A live report

when we come back.




ASHER: Hello and welcome back to One World. Let's catch up on the headlines. Israeli police say two people were arrested in Jerusalem in

connection with violence towards journalists as Israel marked Jerusalem Day on Thursday. It commemorates Israel's seizure of east Jerusalem in the 1967

war. The Flag March, with thousands of participants, was mostly peaceful.

And investigators have recovered eight more bodies from a forest in eastern Kenya. In all, 235 bodies have now been found in mass graves there.

Authorities say they're believed to be members of a Christian Doomsday cult who believe they would go to heaven if they starved themselves. The group's

leader and 30 others have been arrested.

The Colombian army says it has found what it believes are footprints from those children missing after a plane crash in the Amazon jungle. The bodies

of three adults have been pulled from the plane wreckage, but officials think four children who were on the plane may still be alive.

The G7 Summit underway right now in Japan is focused in large part on Russia. G7 leaders swiftly announced a new set of sanctions designed to

choke off Russia's access to the money and equipment it needs to continue the war in Ukraine.


RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: My message to Putin is straightforward. We're not going away. Russia has conducted an illegal,

unprovoked act of aggression by invading Ukraine. And Russia needs to know that we and other countries remain steadfast in our resolve to support

Ukraine, not just in the here and now with the resources it needs to defend itself, but for the long-term, as well.


ASHER: CNN's Marc Stewart is at the summit in Japan. He joins us live now. So, Mark, will these sanctions make a difference?

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, G7 leaders certainly hope so, Zain. If you look at what goes behind a war, it involves people, it involves

machine, and then there is this money component. And that is really where the focus is right now, trying to cut off any kind of funding of this

Russian war machine. One thing that the G7 leaders have done is really implement and beef up very targeted sanctions to very specific areas.

Things such as construction, transportation, manufacturing, business services, all of which could contribute to Russian success in the sense of

garnering funding.

So, that is where the focus has been now and that's what they will certainly be keeping their focus on for the future. We also saw the United

Kingdom take action against Russian diamond imports. That's been another way to fuel funding into the Russian war machine. And then again, price

caps on oils -- on oil that will also remain in place.

As far as what more can be done from an economic standpoint, perhaps we have seen President Zelenskyy travel the world. He is talking to Middle

Eastern nations right now, so perhaps he will encourage some kind of stifling of economic support for some countries there. And then when

President Zelenskyy comes here to the G7, not only will he be talking to G7 leaders, but he will also have access to invited guests, leaders from

India, Indonesia, Brazil and many other countries, which still may have some economic interest in Russia, again, contributing to the funding of the

war. So, that is a discussion that will likely take place, as well. But again, Zain, the point of all of this is to really close the gaps, if you

will, in any kind of funding sources that Russia has been able to take advantage of. And that's where the G7 stands, at least at this point.

ASHER: Marc, thank you so much. All right, still to come here, Serbians fed up with their government and gun violence stage new protests. The live

report on tonight's demonstrations in Belgrade and elsewhere, next.



ASHER: Serbians are again packing the streets demanding change following two horrific mass shootings. Protesters in Belgrade and other cities want

government resignations and licenses revoked from TV stations they blame for broadcasting violent content. Those shootings on May 3rd and 4th left

18 people dead, including several children. CNN's Scott McLean is watching this story from London. So, Scott, protesters and authorities do seem to

agree that there does need to be some kind of gun control there. There's no sort of pro-gun lobby in Serbia like there is where I am in the United

States. Just walk us through what protesters are demanding at this point.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so it is evolved here, Zain. You know, in the wake of these two mass shootings that took place in just a 48-

hour period of time, one of them inside of a school, which really shocked the country, and then less than 48 hours, you had a 21-year-old open fire

and killing eight people in a rural area about an hour or so south of Belgrade.

And so, you had vigils and an outpouring of grief after that, and you had a lot of soul-searching, as well. You had people sort of, you know, wondering

about changes to violent media or social media. And of course, there was a discussion about guns, as well.

Serbia has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the entire world and while you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get one of those guns

legally in Serbia, there are untold numbers of illegal guns floating around the country left over from conflict in the 1990s and so, the government has

already proposed to crack down on illegal guns.

They've already proposed to crack down on even legal gun ownership, as well. The President says that he wants to almost totally disarm the

country, but protesters say that those efforts are simply too slow. Here is one opposition MP who I spoke to earlier who himself is going to be joining

the protest today. Listen.


RADOMIR LAZOVIC, SERBIAN OPPOSITION MP: What we are saying is that it is not enough and that's only a question of weapons. What about this exposure

of the children to the violence? What about the exposure of the whole society to the violence?


And so, what he's talking about there is, look. There have already been government proposals to look at curbs on social media, things like that.

But he's talking about traditional media in Serbia. And some of the outlets there and the TV stations there, they say, regularly have programming that

promotes or normalizes violence in the country. There are also -- there are also, you know, people protesting and demanding that there be reforms to

media regulation in the country, specifically, some news outlets that they say are far too pro-government, far too slanted in favor of the government.

And I think this is where this debate runs into trouble, because President Vucic very quickly enacted changes or proposals to strengthen gun laws and

other laws in the country. But these protests have been organized in part by opposition political parties. And so, from his viewpoint, he's sitting

here going, look, I expected protesters to bring solutions to try to solve some of these problems, but this has quickly become political. And so,

members of his party are already suggesting that people are nearly exploiting tragedy for political gain. But clearly, when you look at the

numbers of people who are on the streets, my colleague on the ground there has said that, look, there's at least the same number of people as last

week's protests and the previous week's protests, possibly even more.


There is, as you said, Zain, a strong feeling that something needs to be done here.

ASHER: All right, Scott McLean, live for us, thank you. All right, coming up here on One World, a new Netflix series is sparking heated debate and

hostile comments, the controversy behind Queen Cleopatra, when we come back.


ASHER: She died more than 2000 years ago, but a new TV drama about the legendary Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, is igniting fresh controversy over

race and representation.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): There was a time long ago when women ruled with unparalleled power as warriors, queens, mothers of nations. And there is

none among them more iconic than Cleopatra. I would die for Egypt.


ASHER: In Queen Cleopatra, the four-part Netflix series, the title role is played by a Black British Actress of mixed heritage, Adele James. And the

casting has caused a swirl of outrage in Egypt, igniting a fierce debate over Cleopatra's race.

Some Egyptians believe the lead role should have been given to someone of Greek heritage instead, or Egyptian heritage, as well. The Egyptian

Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities posted a disparaging tweet about the casting last month. Egyptian talk shows have slammed the series. An

Egyptian lawyer even filed a lawsuit against Netflix, demanding the streaming service be shut down in that country.

The debate is not new. Cleopatra has been portrayed by a wide variety of women, most famously by Elizabeth Taylor in that 1963 film. The question

is, does her race even matter? Time now for the exchange and more on this controversy. Joining me live now is Monica Hanna. She's an Egyptologist and

the Dean of the College of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime transport.

Dr. Hanna, thank you so much for being with us. I'll pose that question to you. Does the race of Cleopatra in this TV show even matter? What are your



MONICA HANNA, EGYPTOLOGIST: I think race is a social construct. It started in the 16th century. Antiquity did not think in terms of race or color. So,

I think what the TV series did is that it projected the current debate of identity politics in the U.S., for example, on a TV series.

Race was not a matter in ancient Egypt. Color was not a matter in antiquity. And I think trying to put this on the table hurts everyone.

ASHER: That's a very sensible answer. You know, as you point out, ancient Egyptians didn't really care about skin color, didn't really, you know,

talk about it as such. But there are people who are saying, look, she shouldn't be played by a black actress because this is cultural

appropriation and representation is important. I mean, what do we know for sure? Because nobody really knows what Cleopatra actually looked like

really, as you point out, it wasn't really documented. People could obviously make intelligent guesses and research, but what do we know for

sure about what Cleopatra's background actually was?

HANNA: Well, we know for sure that she was of Greek Macedonian descent. We know who her grandfather and father were. We do not know who her

grandmother and mother were. We do not know -- she did not leave us a lot of the archaeological record dating to her period is still missing,

possibly because we lost Egypt to the Roman Empire right afterwards. So, perhaps most of this has been completely destroyed and will never answer

this question. And I think that, I mean, if we think sensibly with an educated guess, perhaps she was fair or perhaps she was, her mother maybe

was darker, so she was a little darker. Or maybe I always like to tease my Greek and Macedonian friends who are redheads and say maybe Cleopatra was

actually a redhead. So, I think we really can't help that.

ASHER: But when you think about just how many times Queen Cleopatra has been represented in pop culture, I mean, obviously she's been played by so

many people of so many different racial backgrounds. Most famously, I think, by Elizabeth Taylor in 1963. I mean, obviously Elizabeth Taylor is a

white actress. And, you know, other representations of Queen Cleopatra just really haven't sparked this level of outrage and anger. I don't think I've

seen anything quite like this. I mean, why is there so much outrage this time, given that, you know, this representation is of her by a black woman?

HANNA: I think it comes with the Afro-centric movement claims that many Egyptians are afraid of Egyptians, unfortunately due to colonialism, have

not had access to produce knowledge about their past. They, we still, even if since 1952, the head of the Supreme Council of antiquities has been

Egyptian, the production of knowledge about the Egyptian past still remained within Western institutions. So, there is a sort of a fragile

knowledge of our past from the general population and with cultural appropriation of Cleopatra and pushing forward an Afrocentric agendas,

people who really have a fragile understanding of their past would feel threatened, especially that of course --

ASHER: So, it's not so much that, you know, it's not an accurate portrayal of what Cleopatra actually looked like. The fact that she's black is what

is really adding fuel to the fire here. You know, when it comes to arts and culture, if we live in a society where we start saying, listen, you can

only play people that look like you. You can only play people who are exactly like you. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of acting, of theater, of

drama, of the arts? The whole point of acting is that you play people who are different from you, that is how you show range.

HANNA: Yes, I perfectly agree with you. And I've seen the opera of Akhenaten being played by a black ballet dancer. And that's absolutely fine

and acceptable if it's fiction. But putting it under a historical label makes it difficult, especially also with the producer's statements that she

is clearly pushing forward an Afrocentric agenda. So, I think that this is what sparked the problem. I think art should be art and race and color

should not matter.


But then it should be art and not claim that it's actually a historical documentary.

ASHER: Okay, Monica Hanna, thank you so much for speaking to us today. We appreciate it.

HANNA: You're more than welcome.

ASHER: And finally, the world of music has lost a talented artist. Andy Rourke, bassist for the English rock band "The Smiths", has died after a

battle with pancreatic cancer. Rourke joined the Smiths in 1982 and played alongside the band until their split in 1987. The Smiths guitarist, Johnny

Marr tweeted that Andy would be remembered as a gifted musician and a kind and beautiful soul.


ASHER: Andy Rourke was 59 years old. All right, thank you so much for watching One World. I'm Zain Asher. Amanpour is up next. Have a great