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Hala Gorani Tonight

Biden And Zelensky Speak Amid Fears Of Russian Invasion; Boris Johnson Under Fire After A Leaked Video Shows Staff Joking About Christmas Party Amid COVID-19 Lockdown; World Health Organization: Omicron Could Change Course Of Pandemic; European Leaders Try To Contain Spread Of Omicron Variant; Activist Yunior Garcia's Decision To Flee Cuba; Turkish President Asks For Trust As Lira Weakens Again; Sustainable Fishing In The Maldives; New Zealand To Ban Smoking For Next Generation. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 09, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. U.S. President Biden and Ukraine's

President Zelensky speak as fears continue of a Russian invasion. We'll have more on that call between the two men. Then, renewed anger at the

British Prime Minister today. His government now faces questions over three Christmas parties allegedly held during lockdown last year.

And later, a fresh warning from the W.H.O. over the spread of the Omicron variant. We'll have those details shortly in the program. After sounding

the alarm about threats to democracy worldwide, the American President Joe Biden is tackling the threat from a leader he considers a dangerous

autocrat, the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Biden is speaking right now with the Ukrainian president.

He's briefing Volodymyr Zelensky on his video conference with Mr. Putin earlier this week, and reassuring him, we're told of U.S. support. As a

Russian military build-up along Ukraine's border raises fears of a possible invasion. Mr. Biden's busy day will continue with calls to nine countries

that make up NATO's eastern flank. The U.S. President did not mention Russia or any country by name this morning when he kicked off a global

summit on protecting democracy.

He called it the defining challenge of our time, warning that authoritarian governments are on the rise everywhere. Listen to Biden.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They seek to advance their own power, export and expand their influence around the world, and justify the

repressive policies and practices as a more efficient way to address today's challenges. That's how it's sold by voices that seek to fan the

flames of social division and political polarization.


GORANI: Well, let's go now to Ukraine for more on that Biden-Zelensky phone call, our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is live in

Kiev. What more do we know about what Biden told the Ukrainian president, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know anything yet because there's not been a readout from either side on the

contents of the call. In fact, we don't know if the calls even finished yet. We know it started about half an hour ago, and we are waiting for

confirmation from Ukrainian officials, I'm not sure if the American side has made any comment yet. I don't think they have. But as far as we're

aware, the call is either still going underway or is only just come to an end.

But of course the purpose of the conversation was to brief Volodymyr Zelensky; the Ukrainian president on the content of that video conference

call that President Biden had with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a couple of days ago. One of the things -- if --some might say a concession,

that the President Biden made to President Putin, is that he said they would set up a diplomatic structure and the Russians confirmed this earlier

to discuss security in Europe, specifically eastern Europe, specifically with a view to looking at the Russian concerns about NATO expansion and


Now, you know, that's of concern to the Ukrainians. They're saying publicly that they are welcoming the fact that President Biden has backed them and

backed their sovereignty and backed their territory integrity. But behind the scenes, there's a lot of anxiety in the corridors of power here in

Ukraine, about what exactly President Biden may have promised the Russian president when it comes to the future of their country, which is --

GORANI: Yes --

CHANCE: Of course, fighting that war in the east of the country with Russia.

GORANI: And meantime, there's that troop build-up on the Ukrainian-Russian border of Russian troops. The President Zelensky went close to that part of

Ukraine, close to his border with Russia as well. There -- how worried are Ukrainians that Russia is planning an invasion, and that this is just not


CHANCE: Well, I mean, you know, it's difficult to assess -- I mean, officially. They're not that worried. They think this is saber-rattling in

order to achieve the objective of getting the United States to the negotiating table so that the Kremlin can extract some concessions, which

may well be the case. But the truth is that Russia presents a credible threat. It has already invaded Ukraine in the past. It occupies and has

annexed the Crimean Peninsula.


It backs rebels fighting the government in the east of the country. And so, you know, when Russia amasses tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's

border, that obviously has to be taken seriously. In terms of the latest Intel, and this gives us an idea of direction of travel, the latest

assessment by Ukrainian officials is that the number of Russian troops potentially poised to invade Ukraine has risen to a 120,000.

The last time they made an assessment, whether that was a week ago or two weeks ago, it was more like 95,000. So more troops as far as the Ukrainians

are concerned, are heading towards that border region, posing a threat to their territory.

GORANI: Matthew Chance live in Kiev. Let's get perspective from Washington now. Our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins me now. We

are getting reports that the president, President Biden has at least reassured the Ukrainian president that the U.S. supports the territorial

integrity of Ukraine. What are you hearing from your sources?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's something that President Biden has said publicly, it was something that the White

House said he was going to reiterate during this phone call that is literally happening right now with President Biden in the Oval Office on

the phone. Reporters did get a glimpse of that earlier, just with their phone call, you couldn't hear anything that was being said, of course.

And this is a follow-up to that two-hour, one-minute conversation that he had in the Situation Room with the Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier

this week, of course, talking about what is on the world's mind essentially, is this invasion going to happen or not? And so, when we

talked to officials on Tuesday, they still had this assessment that they did not believe the Russian leader had made up his mind about what to do.

And of course, you did hear from President Biden yesterday saying that if Russia did invade Ukraine, the U.S. Is not going to unilaterally respond

right now. That is not something that's on the table, highlighting the fact that Ukraine is not part of NATO, there is not that obligation to respond.

If Ukraine is attacked, of course, as it would be with other nations that are in NATO. And so it does bring this conversation to the forefront

because that is something that Putin doesn't want to happen.

It's something that other NATO or countries have said could be an option to happen. And so, it does put that conversation at the forefront. It does

raise questions about what's going to happen while they're waiting to see what the Russian leader ultimately decides to do. And Hala, we should note

one other thing, the last remnants of that $60 million security aid package that the president signed off on earlier this year when he was meeting with

President Zelensky is expected to arrive in Ukraine this week.

GORANI: And you may have heard Matthew Chance say that there is some trepidation on the Ukrainian side about what President Biden may have

offered to Vladimir Putin to essentially ensure that he backs off militarily from that border region. Do we know -- he said publicly that

U.S. troops sent to that area, that's off the table. But do we know what else he may have promised Putin?

COLLINS: Well, one thing that the president said he was waiting and hoping to hear and have a more formal announcement of as soon as tomorrow by

chance is a conversation between Moscow, the United States, and some of these other NATO allies. Now, what that would entail and what assurances

that could be offered to President Putin, it does raise questions I think, and it doesn't seem clear-cut exactly what they're prepared to announce,

because the White House said they were just going to go in detail over what these sanctions would look like with Russian officials, their Russian


Those conversations that don't happen at the highest level. But I do think that would be a big next question for President Biden, which is what are

you -- what are you here to offer? Because one other thing that they did note is, they said this is not like 2014. They say Biden told Putin that

directly. Of course, that was when Biden was vice president and Russia illegally annexed Crimea. And so, I think that is another aspect to look at

when you're considering what options the U.S. has here.

GORANI: All right, Kaitlan Collins, our chief White House correspondent, thanks so much. Let's talk more about all these new developments with CNN

global affairs analyst Susan Glasser; she's a former Moscow bureau chief for "The Washington Post" and co-authored the book "Kremlin Rising:

Vladimir Putin's Russia and the End of Revolution". Let's talk about the -- this call between Biden and Zelensky. It's a call to reassure the Ukrainian

president -- I imagine that the U.S. still supports certainly the territorial integrity. But will it go beyond words, do you think?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think, look, it does go beyond words. The United States has already approved something like $400

million in military assistance including lethal weapons. That's continued under the Biden administration as it did under the Trump administration.

Before that --

GORANI: Yes --

GLASSER: Ever since 2014, there have been sanctions on Russia because of that 2014 military incursion into Ukraine and the ongoing illegal takeover

of Crimea. So, there are additional measures that can be taken, but it's beyond just a rhetorical promise that the truth is, though, Hala, this is a

manufactured crisis, right? So, you know, the idea that President Biden is going to promise -- is going to promise Vladimir Putin not to do something

that he wasn't intending to do like invite Ukraine to join NATO.


It's really -- it's a measure of Vladimir Putin's success. Unfortunately, in international affairs that Putin has created this enormous vortex, you

know, by sending 175,000 troops to the border with Ukraine.

GORANI: Do you think Putin wants to invade Ukraine and annex more of its territory?

GLASSER: You know, this is, of course, a question people have been asking about Vladimir Putin ever since he came to power more than two decades ago.

I think it's important to note that Putin does believe, I think, deep down that restoration of, you know, the Soviet-era empire is something that he

believes should happen, certainly when it comes to Ukraine.

He has written including this Summer, if you look at some of his rhetoric and what he says about Ukraine, he essentially denies the independence of

Ukrainians as a separate people from the Russians, denies the idea that these should be two different countries. And so, you know, he hasn't had

the capacity or the political momentum to act more forcefully on that. But I believe that it is something that if he felt that there was the

opportunity to do so, that Vladimir Putin would absolutely want to do that.

GORANI: And this is happening against the backdrop of President Biden's democracy summit, the implicit targets here, Russia and China as well.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. It's been very interesting. Ever since he was a candidate and since he has become president, Joe Biden has been very

clear that he sees this geopolitical moment as almost a new sorting in the world between the authoritarians like Russia and China on the one side and

democracies on the other.

Now, the problem, of course, is that, you know, many democracies including the United States are essentially in a very inward-looking moment where

their own political systems are so troubled, it's hard to even imagine any kind of global confrontation, you know, with a different system like -- you

know, we here in the United States, we're still arguing with each other over just what happened in our own last election.

GORANI: Yes, I was going to say when you -- when you -- I can practically hear viewers screaming at their TVs, but what about the U.S., the voter-

suppression laws, and all of those threats to the system in the United States just as the United States hosts a democracy summit.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. Look, the Biden team was acutely aware that, that would be immediately raised as an issue --

GORANI: I hope --

GLASSER: At the beginning of --

GORANI: She's back --


GORANI: You froze for a moment there, Susan, keep going, you're back.

GLASSER: OK, all right, well, we're back. And just like our democracy, it's an inward-looking.


The truth is that it was always going to be an awkward thing to hold this democracy summit. But Biden promised this as a candidate. It was part of a

contrast he was drawing with Donald Trump who not only did not put a spotlight on democracy and human rights, but spent four years with what one

of his former advisors Fiona Hill called autocrat envy. Flattering and sucking up not just to Vladimir Putin, but to many of the world's -- you

know, worst dictators and authoritarian leaders.

And so, this was a contrast that Biden wanted to draw as a candidate with Donald Trump. But it's created an awkward situation for him in a way as


GORANI: Interestingly, the only EU country not invited to this democracy summit is Hungary, whose prime minister is very popular in the Trump camp.

Prime Minister Orban. I wonder -- I mean, there are issues with Hungary, with some of its, quote, unquote, "anti-democratic practices". But the same

can be said about Poland. Why single out Hungary as the only EU country not invited, do you think?

GLASSER: That's interesting. The Hungarian ambassador here to the United States actually put out a statement essentially, directly saying that the

Biden administration was retaliating for their close relationship with the Trump administration. I do think that, you know, the European Union has

struggled in recent years. It was envisioned as a union of democracies, and the idea that some of the countries inside Europe would turn away from

democracy I think was not envisioned in how the group was set up.

And so, you know, what's happened in Hungary and in Poland and some other countries as well has really challenged the EU. They have not handled it

particularly well or found, you know, a formula for dealing with democratic backsliding, just as the Biden administration clearly has made no one happy

with the who made the guest list and who didn't make the guest list. And it's hard to see what distinction they are drawing frankly, and they have

not articulated that or explained that to journalists why Hungary doesn't make the cut but Poland does.


GORANI: Susan Glasser, as always, thanks so much for your analysis --

GLASSER: Thank you --

GORANI: Really appreciate it. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is firmly in the firing line again today. His government is now facing

questions over not one, not two, but three Christmas parties allegedly held last year, all while the entire country was in a nationwide COVID lockdown.

And CNN understands that Mr. Johnson himself even gave an impromptu speech at one of those gatherings.

The revelations are fueling mounting public anger and calls for Johnson to resign all while the prime minister is trying to introduce tighter new

measures to tackle the Omicron variant. If there wasn't enough going on, Johnson also announced the birth of a daughter with wife Carrie this

morning. Nina dos Santos has more on the problems facing Downing Street.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this bowling alley in London, they're desperate for the good times to keep rolling for as long as

possible. This festive season is a crucial chance to make up for last year when parties like these were outlawed. But allegations the government may

have broken its own ban on Christmas get-togethers back then, allegedly hosting events at Downing Street have prompted fury.

GRAHAM COOK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ALLSTAR LANES: Industry professionals have had to make a really tough call and put lives over livelihoods. So,

really, it's a smack in the face to learn and understand what was happening in central government at that time. It loses all credibility.

DOS SANTOS: An aide has resigned in tears.

ALLEGRA STRATTON, FORMER DOWNING STREET PRESS SECRETARY: And this afternoon, I am offering my resignation to the prime minister.

DOS SANTOS: And an investigation into three events has been launched. Boris Johnson apologized before parliament on Wednesday.

BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party.

DOS SANTOS: Even the birth of Johnson's daughter on Thursday wasn't enough to knock the so-called Christmas party-gate off the news agenda.

JOHNSON: It's neither proportionate and the responsible thing to move to plan B in England --

DOS SANTOS: Compounding people's ire of fresh toughening of COVID restrictions announced this week, with most Britons told to work from home

from Monday and masks made mandatory in some indoor venues. Here, that's caused confusion with colleagues soon unable to mix in the office, but

still able to socialize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't have any sort of Christmas last year. We didn't have any events last year. But as a team, I know, I'm leaving my

team in the next few months and it''s nice to be able to get together with everyone and have a few drinks, and just have a good night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's really lovely to just see everyone that you've only seen on a screen for a while as well. It's been lovely to see

people in passing and have that connection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all test on a day at every event, yes, and we're trying to get PCR within 72 hours as well.


DOS SANTOS (on camera): And this is how government scientific advisors say you can party safely this Christmas, by making sure that you've taken one

of these free rapid antigen tests before taking part in any large social gatherings. So here it goes. Not the most pleasant. Well, thankfully, that

has come up as negative, which means I'm good to go. But the reality is that this procedure is just a recommendation. it isn't actually a rule.

For large-scale events in the U.K., PCR tests and immunity passports will soon become obligatory. At this point, though, the best Christmas gift

revelers could get is probably clarity.

COOK: The mixed messaging from government getting on just over a week ago now immediately caused huge disruptions. We are roughly about 25 percent

down on large groups at this time of year.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): As the ghosts of a Christmas past come back to haunt Johnson's government and with COVID making a comeback, this year's

holiday may not end up being the season to be quite so jolly after all.


GORANI: Well, Nina dos Santos joins me now from outside 10 Downing Street. Good on you for filming that nasal swab. I actually do that. I mean, it's

nice, it's not a 100 percent, but if you're going to go spend any time with other people outside of your household, it's always safer. How does this

affect Boris Johnson politically? How much is it -- how harmful is it, these Christmas party scandals?

DOS SANTOS: Well, remember, Boris Johnson was elected with a thumping huge majority. And a lot of people are saying, well, that should have armor-

plated him against many of the scandals that when he came to office, some people might have thought it might come their way because of course, he's a

very -- you might call it, eccentric politician and has never shied away from that. But this one really is appearing to bite because it comes at a

time when people are getting extremely concerned about a doubling in the number of cases of the Omicron variant.

And, as you could see there from that piece, people are getting extremely confused about whether or not Christmas could be canceled imminently in a

few weeks time from now.


Ironically enough, we're not talking about Christmas today We're talking still about Christmas that was last year. And we're talking about the rules

that people here behind this door behind me in Downing Street themselves were actually drafting and are now being investigated for potentially

breaching. And, to add to the nightmare here on Downing Street that Boris Johnson is having to deal with, it isn't just this scandal.

Just today, he was also -- his party was also fined $23,000, the equivalent there of in British pounds, for anomalies allegedly in how they funded a

lavish refurbishment of the Prime Minister's apartment here in Downing Street. So, these scandals continue at pace where we see more of him over

the next few days to explain these issues as his own members of his party would like to see and some people who voted him into office, among the

electorate, perhaps --

GORANI: Yes --

DOS SANTOS: Or perhaps not because, of course, he's just welcomed his seventh child and a spokesperson said he might spend more time with his

family after that happy event in the near future. Hala?

GORANI: All right, thanks very much, Nina dos Santos at 10 Downing Street. The U.K. isn't the only country dealing with controversy at the top.

Finland's prime minister is facing some backlash for dancing in a crowded night club after being exposed to COVID over the weekend.

The prime minister of Finland told reporters she didn't know she was supposed to self-isolate and that she received texts about the guidelines

on her work phone which she didn't take with her to the night club. But she is 36. At one point was the youngest prime minister in the world. She does

say she's sorry.


SANNA MARIN, PRIME MINISTER, FINLAND (through translator): I do, of course, apologize for my behavior and actions. I haven't acted the best way

possible, and for that, I apologize.


GORANI: Well, still to come tonight, the Omicron variant is already dominant in Africa, and experts think we're just weeks away from it

becoming dominant in Europe as well. Plus, U.S. lawmakers are working on a bill that would ban imports produced by forced labor in China's Xinjiang

Province. Beijing is not taking that well, we'll tell you what they're saying, next.


GORANI: China is resolute in the face of global criticism over its treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province. Human rights groups and western

governments accused China of crimes against humanity for detaining and torturing millions of people there.


The U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia have announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming games this Winter. Those countries will send their

athletes, but they won't send official representatives to Beijing in February. Beijing is slamming that move, saying they'll quote, "pay the

price for their mistaken acts", unquote.

No word on what that price might be. Meanwhile, a tribunal based in London has ruled that China committed genocide against Uyghurs and ethnic Muslim

minority groups. Ivan Watson tells us why the tribunal has come to that conclusion and what they wanted to accomplish.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The academics and international human rights lawyers on the Uyghur tribunal have been working

pro bono for more than a year investigating allegations of human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang region. And they announced on Thursday a grim


They're accusing the Chinese government of committing genocide in that region with what they say is a campaign to reduce the birth rate of Uyghurs

and other ethnic Muslim minority groups in the south of the country.

And they're accusing the highest levels of the Chinese government including President Xi Jinping of being behind this. The Uyghur tribunal goes on to

say that it has been convinced that there is rape, sexual assault and torture going on in the penal system, mass detention of hundreds of

thousands if not more than a million people, and a systematic campaign to destroy Muslim cemeteries and Mosques in Xinjiang.

Now, the Uyghur tribunal has no jurisdiction. They're basically volunteers. And the Chinese government has been blasting it since its inception. It

slapped sanctions on some of the lawyers who are organizing it and accuses the Uyghur tribunal of being funded by Uyghur exile group that Beijing

labels as a terrorist organization. The Uyghur tribunal, for its part, says it's trying to build a moral case to pressure governments to recognize the

human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region.

And there are signs that this is happening with a growing diplomatic boycott led by the U.S. of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, citing the

abuses in Xinjiang. And more recently, bills passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis condemning allegations of human

rights abuses and banning the import of goods produced in Xinjiang, allegedly using forced labor. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


GORANI: Today, the Chinese Embassy in London responded, calling the tribunal, quote, "a political tool used by a few anti-China elements to

deceive and mislead the public." They say, quote, "it is not a legal institution nor does it have any legal authority." So that is the Chinese

reaction. Earlier, we heard from Sir Geoffrey Nice; the tribunal chairperson. He told us why it would be in China's benefit to accept its



GEOFFREY NICE, CHAIR, UYGHUR TRIBUNAL: The end of the judgment specifically invites China to think of the greater influence it could have in world

affairs, if instead of behaving in the way it does. It said, well, we are frankly so big, so powerful now and to come, we don't actually need to

behave like this to get what we want. We should be out there demonstrating by submitting ourselves to international oversight of this complaint by

going willingly to court to have matters tested by opening the country to independent inspection.

My goodness, they would do a great deal more for themselves than they do, by saying the sort of things that they have said.


GORANI: Still to come tonight, as the World Health Organization head warns the world over the Omicron variant's rapid spread, we'll take a closer look

at what is happening in Europe. Also, Iran nuclear talks get back underway in Vienna. Right now, though, the prospects for a deal seem pretty dim.

We'll be right back.




GORANI: Well, the head of the World Health Organization says the Omicron variant could have a major impact on the course of the pandemic because of

all the mutations that it has and that we all need to act now.

France, for instance, is reporting more than 56,000 new cases of COVID-19 today alone. That's a pretty staggering number.

We're seeing similar figures in the United Kingdom. Official data shows that Omicron cases alone have gone up by 90 percent today, compared to

Wednesday. Jim Bittermann joins me now live from Paris.

So it's not the dominant strain yet. But I imagine there must be some real concern about where this 56,000 figure will be in a few weeks' time in

France, for instance.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly. It has been growing rapidly over the last couple of weeks, Hala.

However, today's figure, 56,000, is somewhat less than what it was yesterday. However, I think one of the problems for the governments across

Europe and what they're grappling with here is the idea of how and what figure to look at, how serious they should take any one of these figures.

In France, one of the things the government watches quite carefully is the ICU occupations.

Are the ICU beds being filled up by COVID patients?

And currently, it's about 50 percent, nearly 50 percent of the ICU beds are filled with COVID patients.

So last week, the government triggered what they call a plan blanc (ph), which allows hospitals to cancel surgical interventions and other things

that might need ICU coverage in the hospital, in order to accommodate the COVID cases that are coming in the door.

So France has not, for the moment, other than (INAUDIBLE) was announced earlier in the week of locking down the discotheques for the next four

weeks, other than that, they are not contemplating any further measures in what they have already taken.

However, President Macron said this evening that they are going to take a look at the situation early next week and try to figure out what they

should be doing.

Elsewhere in Europe, the leaders are doing similar sorts of things, kind of trying to figure out where the situation is going, whether Omicron is to be

taken seriously. There's a contradictory -- there are contradictory marks from the various scientists, who are involved.

For example, we heard from the head of the E.U. Medicines Agency today, who said that it doesn't appear that Omicron is so serious, at least in the way

it is infecting people. But of course, the numbers are serious.


BITTERMANN: So it really is a question mark for governments that are involved should they lock down or not. That's basically the issue.

GORANI: So let's talk about France, since you're there; 56,000 cases a day. They have a lower vaccination rate than they'd like. But they have COVID

passes. You have to show your QR code before you enter restaurants, cafes.

Macron was putting all of these measures in place precisely to avoid the kind of numbers we're seeing now.

So can authorities pinpoint where it went wrong, why are we seeing such a surge?

BITTERMANN: Well, we've been looking at that here in the veritbureau (ph) to find out exactly why this surge is happening when the vaccination rates

are pretty high. There are almost 90 percent of people in France have received a full vaccination.

So the question is, what's the correlation here, why are the numbers going up at the same time that people are getting vaccinated?

Is it because Omicron is somehow evading the vaccines or is it because it's a particularly virulent strain?

It's difficult to know. And the scientists aren't giving us very good answers. So for governments, if you're faced with this situation, about the

only action you could take is to try to confine people, try to make sure that the various regulations are followed. And that's not always a very

satisfying or very popular way to go -- Hala.

GORANI: Sure, and we're two years into this now and people are kind of exhausted. Thanks very much, Jim Bittermann live in Paris.

Talks to restore the Iran nuclear deal resumed today in Vienna. It has to be said, though, nobody's very optimistic about it.

The delegates hope to restore the 2015 deal that the Trump administration walked away from. As the new talks falter, the U.S. is looking to tighten

its enforcement of sanctions and says the window to renew the deal is narrowing. Frederik Pleitgen is following the talks -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Hala. There certainly doesn't appear to be very much optimism in the air, as

those talks get underway once again there in Vienna.

And, essentially, the Iranians want twofold concessions from the United States. On the one hand, they want widespread sanctions relief and that in

itself is quite difficult because as we know, the Trump administration purposely put a lot of sanctions in place, some of which don't have

anything to do with Iran's nuclear activities.

And then the Iranians also want guarantees from the Biden administration that the next administration will not once again get out of a nuclear

agreement and therefore that nuclear agreement would become null and void.

Now despite all this pessimism, all sides are saying that they do want the agreement to be put back in place, they do want the U.S. to go back into

the agreement.

However, you have heard, for instance, from the British foreign secretary, that she said that she believes this is Iran's last chance to get this

agreement back on track.

And then you have the spokesperson for the State Department, who had this to say about all this.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: It remains in our interest, above all the other alternatives, to seek a mutual return to compliance

with the JCPOA. Eventually we may conclude that either the Iranians aren't serious and won't be serious going forward or the technological clock will

have run out.


PLEITGEN: Now the Iranians obviously have a very different take on all of this. They are saying it's the United States that needs to get serious

about getting back into the Iran nuclear deal. Of course, they say Iran was complying with the deal when the Trump administration left it.

Therefore, they believe that the ball is essentially in the U.S.' court to try and get the Iran nuclear deal back on track.

It's also interesting, when you look at the dynamics of the negotiations, that there does to be sort of blocs that are forming. You have the U.S. and

its European allies. But today before the negotiations even started, there was a meeting of the Iranian delegation, the Russian delegation and the

Chinese delegation.

They all said they essentially were on the same page as to how best to move forward. So all of this makes for a very difficult mix; while, again, all

sides are saying they want to get the agreement back in place -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, Frederik Pleitgen, thanks very much.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.





GORANI: Welcome back.

The activist leader of Cuba's antigovernment protest movement now lives in exile, far from the very country he says he hopes to liberate. Yunior

Garcia sat down with CNN's Isa Soares to explain his decision to flee the island.


ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For many, Yunior Garcia, was the rising star of Cuba's protest movement, a renowned

playwright who had hoped to bring the curtain down on the world's last communist stronghold, before he and his wife suddenly fled to Madrid.

YUNIOR GARCIA, CUBAN ACTIVIST (from captions): I think if I had stayed in Cuba, I would be able to do a lot less for my people.

SOARES (voice-over): His dramatic departure in November under the cover of darkness caught many by surprise. But he tells me he did not abandon the

very cause he has been fighting for.

GARCIA (from captions): I appreciate that some maybe don't understand my decision to leave but time will show where one can be more helpful to its


SOARES (voice-over): Still, some, including supporters of his Archipelago movement, now accuse him of surrendering to pressure from the regime, even

calling him a traitor. His former supporters now raising questions about his true allegiance.

SOARES: The Cuban government says that you worked for the United States. But the way in which you left begs the question whether you could actually

be an agent for Cuba.

Are you a double agent?

GARCIA (from captions): Neither double, nor single, nor of any kind. They call me exchange agent. They don't even dare say I am a CIA agent. What

they say is that the CIA has been using me without me knowing it.

SOARES (voice-over): His departure followed months of pressure from the Cuban government. He says they blocked him from leaving his house,

threatened him with the arrest and even left a dead bird on the door of his apartment as a warning.

GARCIA (from captions): I withstood everything until a point where I couldn't take it anymore. I was losing my center. A kind of anger started

to grow inside me, you know?

Like a kind of hatred that changes you into someone else.

SOARES (voice-over): Leaving Cuba also meant leaving his eight-year- old son behind, a decision that is still eating him up.

GARCIA (from captions): We hadn't had the time to pause. My wife and I, in the middle of all this intense beating. Until the moment where we had a

break in our schedule when we had nothing to do. And I heard my wife cry in the room.


GARCIA (from captions): We found some release together. Neither of us wanted to be here.

SOARES (voice-over): Still, he decided he did not want the Cuban regime to turn him into a martyr.

GARCIA (from captions): I don't want to die trying, I want to achieve it. That Cuba becomes a good country where my son can live in.

SOARES (voice-over): He says his fight will continue, away from his homeland, at least for now.

SOARES: You are a scriptwriter. How does this story end?

GARCIA (from captions): This story cannot be written by a single person. It is a collective creation. And if I don't return, I lose myself, this is the

thing. So I know that I have to go back.

SOARES (voice-over): A tale of tragedy and sorrow, whose last act has yet to be written -- Isa Soares, CNN, Madrid, Spain.


GORANI: The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is calling for patience, asking people to trust his government's new economic model. It is a big

ask. The country's currency is in freefall pretty much. The Turkish lira has lost nearly half of its value this year. Jomana Karadsheh spoke to

ordinary Turks bearing the brunt of the changes.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this middle class Istanbul neighborhood, people say they're getting poorer by the day. With

inflation at more than 20 percent and the Turkish lira in freefall, Turks are watching their incomes dwindle as prices skyrocket.

Richard Barrett Dyer (ph) says he is barely surviving on his pension. He now can't afford to take his grandchildren out.

He can't even buy them a toy.

"A toy worth 10 lira is now 40," he says. "Children want everything they see.

"What will we do?"

But it's not just the luxuries. Many here say they can barely afford the basics.

Alsuma al-Zel (ph) No longer brings a shopping cart to the market.

"I bought two eggplants, a few zucchinis and one cauliflower," she tells us, "that's it. In the past, I used to buy kilos of everything. I used to

fill up my shopping cart. Now it's impossible."

This woman interrupts to tell us everything is very expensive. She says her husband, a tailor, hasn't worked in over a year after he got ill with

COVID. The couple live off their pension. And it's barely enough to cover their expenses.

"I get discounted bread from the municipality. We can't eat red meat, not even once a week. I have no idea how we're going to survive."

It's a question on the minds of many Turks, so at times are watching the cost of pretty much everything rise on a daily basis.

KARADSHEH: Simit, the Turkish bagel as it's known, is a popular, inexpensive street food and a breakfast staple in this country. This has

gone up by 30 percent in the past few days, shocking for a lot of people here who say, if the simit wasn't spared, what's next?

KARADSHEH (voice-over): The Turkish lira lost nearly half of its value this year, more than 30 percent of that in November alone. Most experts blame

this on the Turkish president's unorthodox economic policies to fight inflation.

Most countries raise interest rates but Turkey is doing the opposite.

President Erdogan, a staunch opponent of high interest rates that he describes as an evil that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, has

pushed the central bank to cut borrowing costs, lower interest rates. And a depreciated currency, he argues will boost production jobs, tourism and


But experts are questioning the president's plan.

CAN SELCUKI, GENERAL MANAGER, ISTANBUL ECONOMICS RESEARCH: Turkey is now raising the prices for the entire economy for the benefit of actually

around 20-25 percent of the economy. So it's not really helping the household that's trying to cope with high inflation.

The problem is there is no focus on fighting with the inflation which is the core of the problem right now in Turkey and the unpredictability that

comes along with it.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): President Erdogan's promising results within six months. But with the 2023 elections fast approaching, match rides on his

ability to deliver.

SELCUKI: At the core of President Erdogan's success for the better half of the past two decades was his ability to deliver for middle and low income

households. And now it seems to have completely turned around where you know middle income and low income households are really suffering.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): The suffering may cost Erdogan at the polls but for now, it's ordinary Turks who are bearing the brunt of this political gamble




KARADSHEH (voice-over): Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


GORANI: If you think this is bad, the economic crisis is even more dire in Lebanon, where cash-strapped parents are reportedly telling their kids that

Santa is sick and won't be coming this Christmas. Those are stories we're hearing.

The central bank today said a new withdrawal rate between the pound and the dollar more than twice the old rate and it is restricting withdrawals to

pounds only. Lebanon's currency has dropped 90 percent in two years, devastating the economy.

We'll be right back with more. Stay with us.




GORANI: The Environmental Defense Fund says overfishing is the number one threat to marine life. But a centuries-old fishing method in the Maldives

is proving that sustainable fishing isn't only possible, it's also practical. Anna Stewart has our report.



ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mohamed Adil (ph) is the executive sous chef at this Maldivian resort.


STEWART (voice-over): His menus often include traditional recipes, which rely on the local environment.

ADIL (PH): Almost everything is made with tuna. We don't have chicken, we don't have beef. What we have is tuna. So I think, without them, it will

not be Maldivian cuisine.

STEWART (voice-over): The quest for this quintessential ingredient starts around 2:00 am on fishing vessels that then travel three hours out to sea.

This is pole and line fishing. It's one of the most sustainable ways to fish because just one fish is caught at a time; as opposed to the

commercial use of nets, which causes significant by-catch.

Despite spending a decade cooking with tuna, Chef Adil (ph) has never seen pole and line fishing first-hand, which may be surprising, because it's a

Maldivian tradition.


STEWART (voice-over): Hamid's (ph) role for the day is to scatter live bait fish. This, combined with water sprayed from the back of the boat, creates

the illusion of a school of fish swimming along the surface, teasing the tuna to bite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

STEWART (voice-over): In the Maldives, pole and line fishing dates back centuries; some even believe it originated here. Hamid (ph) has been

fishing with this group, which includes his father and grandfather, for 10 years. But Mohamed (ph) has never given pole and line fishing a try.

MOHAMED (PH), POLE FISHING NOVICE: At first it was quite scary for me because there were too many people. So I got scared that if I might hit

somebody. Now I know how much effort it goes. And I just caught two. And I can only imagine how much -- what they must be doing and it is not easy.

STEWART (voice-over): This group will usually come out to sea for a week at a time. Today they hauled in about two tons. And after descaling (sic)

their catch, they sell it to nearby resorts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).




GORANI: All right. Let's end the show with this. New Zealand is making sure its next generation is never able to buy a pack of cigarettes, no matter

their age.


AYESHA VERRAL, NEW ZEALAND ASSOCIATE HEALTH MINISTER: We want to make sure young people never start smoking. So we are legislating for a smoke-free



GORANI: So the new measures mean that anyone born after 2008 will not be able to legally buy any tobacco products in the country, no matter how old

they are. In 2048, they won't be able to.

The crackdown also includes new laws to lower the level of nicotine in cigarettes available to older New Zealanders. So I believe this is the

first country to try this method out. Thanks for watching tonight. I'm Hala Gorani. stay with CNN. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is coming up next.