Return to Transcripts main page


Cyprus Parliament Searches For Acceptable Bailout Terms; President Obama Visits Jordan; Kevin-Prince Boateng Talks About Racism in Football

Aired March 22, 2013 - 17:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Anger on the streets of Cyprus as bankruptcy looms. With just two days left to avoid financial failure, lawmakers are desperately trying to come up with another bailout plan.

Here they are right now in parliament. Tonight, we break down what a EuroZone exit could mean for Cyprus.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.

FOSTER: Also ahead on this show: as tributes pour in for one of Africa's best known authors, Chinua Achebe, an award winning writer tells me how he inspired her.



KEVIN-PRINCE BOATENG, AC MILAN MIDFIELDER: I would do it even in the Champion's League final. If I feel that this is a racial abuse, I will even do it in the Champion's League final.


FOSTER: vowing to walk off the pitch again. Kevin-Prince Boateng on the rules he wants in place to stamp out racism in football.

The Cypriot parliament is debating bills to avoid a financial collapse. The government says these hours could determine the country's fate as they try to earn an EU bailout.

Lawmakers have just approved laws creating a solidarity fund to pull state assets for bonds and allowing the government to put capital controls on banks. They're part of a package intended to overhaul the battered banking system by the EU's Monday deadline. A controversial deposit tax that scuttled the first proposal is said to be back on the table. And Reuters reports that EuroZone finance ministers will meet on Sunday to discuss the crisis.

Outside Parliament in Nicosia, this has been the scene all day. Angry Cypriots demanding their leaders plot a way out of the financial hole their country is stuck in. Meanwhile, others are stuck in long lines at cash machines. The banks won't reopen until Tuesday. Cash is running out for a lot of families. How are they feeding their children?

With me, I'm joined by Nick Paton Walsh. He's in Nicosia.

First of all, Nick, obviously the politics is moving along quite quickly. And the people are surviving as they watch that unfold.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Behind me, as you say, this emergency session. I think the gut feeling here is that legislation will pass, that's why they bothered putting it to a vote at this late stage. The national solidarity fund that you mentioned part of it, also there's extensive capital controls that aim to prevent a rush on the banks.

The reason they need that is because they are restructuring one of the key banks here in Cyprus, Laiki Bank making a good bank for the good assets and a bad bank they can fold for the bad assets. But surprisingly out of nowhere potentially a quarter of deposits over 100,000 euros. And a big bank called the Bank of Cyprus here will be taken as part of a levy.

But that Laiki Bank, such a vital institution for many here. The people protesting down the end of this street earlier on today, many of them work there and have their savings, and have their mortgages there. And we caught up for what the disruption for those people may mean to them.


PATON WALSH: Cyprus's mess is so complex, so complete it drives even these bank clerks to the edge. Laiki Bank is where they work and keep savings and have mortgages. The cold chill of Cyprus's debt crisis may close it.

(on camera): Friday afternoon, not only is this bitter wind from Africa coming in and blowing dust, but trickling out is terrible news about the future of the bank many of them have given their life to work at.

(voice-over): Beyond parliament's windows, politicians haggle over the fate of Laiki employees like Nifrita Frangescu (ph) and her husband. And they've just heard rumors they may lose their pentions.

(on camera): What just happened?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...600 million.

PATON WALSH: And that's your pension.




PATON WALSH: 600 million?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And they lost it.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Laiki Bank is not just their jobs, it's their life savings too.

(on camera): Why is it happening to you, though?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm only 30 years old. And I'm worrying about the good of this country. What about them, about their grandchildren?

PATON WALSH: It's been building for months. And Nifrita (ph) takes us to the home she's now fighting for.

UNIDENTIIFED FEMALE: Everything is closed, or everybody, or everything (inaudible) for rent. So -- but this is it doesn't star now. It started months ago. And it keeps going. So imagine what is going to happen after a few days, a few months.

PATON WALSH: For a family with two infants, this is what's at stake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe tomorrow I'm going to lose this house.

PATON WALSH: How would you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I feel upset and I feel angry, and I'm sorry about that. But there are -- all I care about the most is what I'm going to tell my child. Why cannot take you to your school? Because mom or dad is -- do not have money anymore? I don't care about me. I'm OK. I'm going to find my feet, you know, but what about my children?

PATON WALSH: What are their names?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marilia (ph) and Andrea. They are girls.

PATON WALSH: Then, she shows us a remarkable sign of how bad this could get.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what I have here is that we are storing food. It's meals for the children, it's their cream, it's their biscuits, it's rice with -- two months ago they're going to (inaudible) this is what is going to have sustain us I will tell someone that you're crazy.


PATON WALSH: I think you really saw in those food stocks the reaction people are having to the almost pell-mell nature of how the Cypriot government is trying to fix this crisis. Legislation that appears to in a matter of hours suddenly this idea of a quarter of some large deposits being taken as a levy.

Now they will try and prevent a run on banks through these capital controls, but at the end of the day confidence here in Cypriots not only their economy, but also their government's ability to fix it has been shattered -- Max.

FOSTER: Nick, thank you very much indeed.

Well, it's worth asking the hard question what if Cyprus goes bankrupt and exits the EuroZone, what would that mean for the whole region and the ordinary Cypriots? Well, CNN's Nina Dos Santos went in search of some answers for us.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We talked about the prospect of a Grexit for the EuroZone and now everybody is talking about a Cypriout. But behind these unfortunate portmanteaus, there's of course a serious issue at hand. Why is one of the smallest countries in the EuroZone threatening the stability of the single currency in the entire bloc? And could it indeed leave the EuroZone? What would be the cost?

And we take a look at the economics behind the situation. As you can see, Cyprus only accounts for 0.2 percent of total EuroZone GDP. So you'd think that the cost of a bailout would be small. But the problem is it undermines confidence in the single currency as you can see from this four month chart of the dollar and euro trade, we see the euro falling against the U.S. dollar quite significantly since the month of February.

There's also concerns that the banking crisis in Cyprus could cause a run on deposits in weak bigger EuroZone countries like Spain and Italy.

But the impact would primarily be felt on the Cypriots themselves who would be hit the hardest. Cyprus would have to go back to its original currency, the Cypriot Pound. And some say that that could mean savers could lose around about 30 to 40 percent of the current value of their deposits. We could see personal bankruptcies, we could even see the country being bankrupt. And that raises the specter of poverty on the streets as we're seeing in nearby Greece.

The other thing I need to remind you of is that obviously while some people say that going back to the Cypriot Pound would make Cyprus's exports cheaper, let's remember that of course this nation is an island and it has to import all sorts of things from food stuffs to energy. This, of course, would make Cyprus's imports quite a bit more expensive just at a time when, of course, it has very little cash to spare.

Nina Dos Santos, CNN, London.


FOSTER: Even Russia, which is keen on Cyprus's natural gas reserves is taking a wait and see approach about stepping in. It may be a small island, but the Cyprus crisis could have far reaching effects. Warwick Business School Professor Hari Tsoukas. He's with me tonight live from Nicosia.

Thank you so much for joining us.

First of all, in terms of what we're learning tonight, first of all these capital controls that the government will have on the system from next week as we understand it. That's designed, doesn't it, to prevent a bank run?

HARI TSOUKAS, WARWICK BUSINESS SCHOOL: That's right. Exactly. Yes. It's a very predictable outcome, you see. It's as a result as has happened in the last week. I think people are worried and naturally what everybody thinks is to get their money as soon as possible. Of course, this cannot be allowed to happen. The banks will collapse and that's what these measures are supposed to prevent.

FOSTER: And what sort of controls are we talking about here? How would it work?

TSOUKAS: Well, nobody knows yet exactly, because this is what the members of parliament are doing right now. But I think the central bank is given authority over any transaction overseas. So they're going to check their limits as to the amount of money people can get out of the banks.

You see, this is very important here. The banking sector has been -- it's huge, has brought prosperity to the island. And members of parliament find it difficult, actually, to take the necessary measures to prevent the collapse of the banking sector. However, I think this is the stark choice they're facing. Either they shrink the banking sector, or the country is going bankrupt on Monday.

FOSTER: But...

TSOUKAS: ...enviable position to be in.

FOSTER: Of course not. And they also need some emergency money. They've got to raise some bonds, haven't they? They need to sell some bonds. They need some assets to back that up with.

They've branded the fund they've come up with, a solidarity fund, which will mean pooling state assets. As I understand it, any state asset, including church assets as well, to form some sort of collateral. Is that right?

TSOUKAS: Yes, but -- yes, exactly. I find it difficult, though, to see how this can be easily and quickly converted to money, to cash. Cyprus needs to get 5.8 billion by Monday.

Now, I think they're going to issue bonds linked to natural gas. And I think this is more realistic. But again I don't place a lot of hope in a solidarity fund. I think this is going to take some time.

I think more realistic, I think there's going to be some -- I think they're saving -- the government is saving some money because of the lower recapitalization of the Laiki Bank, which is almost -- is under restructuring. And also because of the haircut, which they're debating.

And I think this is the most controversial bit, which they will be debating tomorrow, I believe.

FOSTER: Yeah, they're calling a -- it's effectively a sovereign wealth fund, isn't it, they're trying to create. But it's a small island and some interesting assets going into it.

Finally, just on this idea of a deposit levy. Apparently that's back on the table, that's the sort of reporting that we're understanding on very big deposits. That was meant to have gone away, wasn't it? That's a bit of a turn around?

TSOUKAS: Well, you see, I mean it was always on the table. I never thought that this -- I always thought this was the only viable option, I think. This is where the money is. It's as simple as that.

I think the EuroZone wanted this right from the beginning. I think, however, they designed their own kind of system because initially they included small depositors. That angered people enormously. They thought it was almost like a legalized bank robbery. But nonetheless I think light depositors cannot just avoid to have to pay a levy on their deposits.

Remember, that banks in Cyprus have always -- or have at least in the last few years, have been giving large interest rates. So people having money on this. And I think right from -- it seems to be fair that light depositors will share some of the burden.

FOSTER: OK. Professor Tsoukas, thank you very much indeed. And it will be interesting to see how those bill approvals go through the day. Some interesting stuff will be coming out overnight, I'm sure, here.

Live from London, you're watching Connect the World. Just ahead, the beast broke down. A sand storm hit. President Obama made it to Jordan in the end, an update on his trip coming up.

Also ahead, power to the footballer Kevin-Prince Boateng on what he thinks needs to happen to stamp out racism. All that and much more when Connect the World continues.


FOSTER: U.S. President Barack Obama is now in Jordan after his visit to Israel. He and King Abdullah held a press conference earlier on highlighting the issue of Syrian refugees in Jordan in particular.

Let's get more now from John King in Amman. You've had a tough job keeping up with him, haven't you, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been an interesting trip, Max, as we made our way from Israel to the Palestinian territories back to Israel. Now the president is here in Jordan. Middle East peace the big topic, the nuclear confrontation with Iran a big topic. But here in Jordan, as you noted, this country is approaching a half million refugees coming in from Syria. They're coming in thousands a day and people expect it to get worse as the civil strife goes on. And this is a country that had a very difficult economy to begin with. And King Abdullah saying he needs more help. He needs more materials. He needs more money from the international community. And the president of the United States today promising that he would ask the U.S. Congress for another $200 million to help and also to help try to rally some support around the world in the international community.

Now the United States, the president noted is already the number one donor to the Syrian refugee relief effort, but he promised to try to do more at a time that is taxing not only the economy, but the infrastructure of Jordan.

In addition to that, not just talking about the refugee crisis, the president and King Abdullah also tried to get -- and share notes, if you will, on the assessment of the political situation and the battlefield inside Syria. The president has been saying for months now, he believes it is a question of when, not if Assad will fall. But as he and other leads say that and the Syrian leader stays on in power, you sense the frustration. We've sensed it at every stop and the unpredictability of this situation at every stop of the president's trip.

But here with a key U.S. ally, obviously a neighbor of Syria, the president trying to get the best take of King Abdullah on how long he thinks Assad has left and what Jordanian intelligence sources are picking up about the battlefield and especially about the whereabouts of those chemical weapons -- Max.

FOSTER: Yeah, delicate and important trip. John King thank you very much indeed. We'll have more on President Obama's trip plus a look at the impact Syria's refugee crisis is having on Jordan. That's coming up in around 15 minutes from now.

Well, let's to go Lebanon now where the Prime Minister has announced the resignation of his government. Mohammed Jamjoom is in Beirut for us.

Not a complete surprise to you Mohammed.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not, Max. This resignation comes at a time of increased sectarian tension here in Lebanon due to the conflict in neighboring Syria. Essentially this happened, this announcement by Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati happened today as a result of the cabinet being deadlocked over two very important issues.

Number one is the fact that despite months of wrangling by parliament, nobody has yet been able to come up with an election law, or a supervisory committee for the parliamentary elections that are supposed to take place in June, that's about three months away. There's a lot of concern that if those elections don't happen on time, or if they are postponed again that that could cause destabilization here in Lebanon. That's one factor.

The other factor that led to the resignation of Najib Mikati and his government was the fact that the term for the top intelligence and security official here in the country, Ashraf Rifi has not been extended. There's been discord about this. This is a major Sunni player here in the internal security forces, Ashraf Rifi. He is set to retire next month. Many people in the cabinet thought that it was necessary for him to have his term extended. There was no agreement about that.

Now let's take a listen to Najib Mikati talking about why it was important to extend his term. Here's more of what he had to say.


NAJIM MIKATI, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Within a few days, a major security institution will be in a vacuum by the dismissal of this director-general. I have found that it is necessary at this critical stage for him to continue in his duties, because the national duty imposes the need to protect this institution, which is considered a safe haven for all of the Lebanese people.

And I also felt today that there is a trend in the council of ministers not to agree with on this matter.


JAMJOOM: Now Mikati added in his press conference just a few hours ago that he was hoping that his resignation would lead to some sort of a national dialogue, that political blocs could come together to, in his words, lead Lebanon out of this tunnel.

He is concerned about the future of the country, the security of the country. We should add, though, that his resignation does not take effect until President Michel Suleiman accepts it. And we have not yet heard from President Suleiman as to whether he will accept this resignation -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Mohammed, thank you for that.

Just before President Obama left Israel for Jordan, he helped to broker a diplomatic breakthrough. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned his Turkish counterpart with a long awaited apology. He expressed regret for a 2010 Israeli commando attack on a Gaza bound flotilla that left nine Turkish nationals dead. He also offered compensation for families of the victims.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the apology. U.S. officials call it an important step in normalizing Israeli-Turkish relations.

Italy could be a step closer to breaking its post election political deadlock. Leftist leader Pier Luigi Bersani says he'll begin negotiations immediately to try to form a new government. President Giorgio Napolitano gave him the go ahead today, calling for a spirit of national cohesion.

Bersani's center-left coalition narrowly won elections last month, but fell short of a governing majority.

Authorities are trying to solve an environmental mystery. This beach in southern Chile, it turned red this week. But take a closer look at what appears like a red carpet is actually millions of tiny dying prawns. So far, it's not known what caused the tiny sea creatures to wash ashore. Authorities are collecting samples to try to figure out what killed the crustaceans. Some local fishermen blame too nearby power plants, others blame changing ocean currents. For now, the cause remains unknown.

You're watching Connect the World. Coming up next. CNN's Interview with footballer Kevin-Prince Boateng. He says he want secret observers in the stands. More on his fight to stamp out racism right after this short break.


FOSTER: In January, Kevin-Prince Boateng walked off the football pitch in the face of racist abuse from the crowd. It was a pivotal moment and forced the game's bosses to reassess how they're tackling the problem.

Today, the Milan and Ghana midfielder met FIFA President Sepp Blatter after joining the governing body's new anti-racism task force. Blatter says more must be done to stop discrimination.


SEPP BLATTER, FIFA PRESIDENT: You have to deduct points or -- you have to do something. And here we need -- we need the sports political authorities of FIFA, it's not enough to speak, we have to do something.

I'm so happy that we have such a great personality in football who has marked, marked -- I would say it was -- it was like a garamoto (ph), it was like an earthquake when he run away -- or walked away, not run away, walked away in the stadia.


FOSTER: Well, Blatter and Boateng met 24 hours after the player spoke at a United Nations event marking an international day for the elimination of racial discrimination. Then he sat down with our own Amanda Davies.


BOATENG: To be honest, I thought I just did what I felt. But at the end, after even like not even 10 minutes, I had already phone calls. I had like 86 phone calls on my phone. And I thought something happened. But it was just an unbelievable impact. It went all around the world within the first hour. And people calling me, my agent calling me, family members, and I was like what did I do? I just -- because for me it was a situation, I felt to do that. I was angry and a bit disappointed, so -- but it was just unbelievable how it spread to the world.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Would you have done it, do you think if it had been a competitive game, if it had been a Champion's League match?

BOATENG: I think we should not accept and tolerate it anywhere, like in any game -- if it's a friendly game, if it's a World Cup final, if it's a Champion's League final. For me, honestly, I would do it even in the Champion's League final. If I feel that this is a racial abuse, I will even do it in the Champion's League final. Then it's -- of course its' a different situation. There's a lot of money involved and even if my whole teammates would maybe follow me, I don't know, because it's a totally different situation, but for my part, I would do that same.

DAVIES: Had you ever thought about doing it before?

BOATENG: When I was younger even -- I was like ignoring it sometimes. I was like, no, I didn't see it, I didn't hear it. But now I've got a little bit older and within the age now I have a little son, so I'm taking care of these things that I -- because I want my son to grow up in a nice place and not in a place where you have to be confronted with racism.

DAVIES: So what do you think about how racism and racist incidents have been dealt with by the authorities in the past?

BOATENG: I have to be honest, I even thought that, yeah, maybe it's never going to change, maybe they will not ever do enough to fight against it. But now the youngest example where we saw it like I think they are doing it much, much better, that players get banned for ever for playing for a club or the teams playing without the supporters, I think that is the right direction. We have to move forward like that. And then I think the people will understand.

DAVIES: What are you hoping that will come out of the task force that FIFA are putting together?

BOATENG: I hope they're going to wake up tomorrow morning and say today even more and the next day wake up, today we fight even more against it. Because when you speak about something it is easy to just speak about it. In this moment now, we're speaking about it. But to wake up tomorrow morning and to do something that's a different thing.

DAVIES: If you were in charge of the task force and could put in some rules and regulations and sanctions, what would you like to see put in place?

BOATENG: I would give the power -- all the power to the referees. And I would even go so far to say whatever if you hear a little bit and you hear it again, stopped again. Because that's the only way I think you can make these voices silent, that's the only way.

I think I would put more power in the -- and maybe even maybe put people in the stadium, maybe sit some people in the crowd that they can hear and see maybe that it's racial or that it's very aggressive even sometimes. I think maybe just put them around and let them hear and them let them say and tell what they heard.

DAVIES: Would you be able to share a dressing room with somebody who you knew had made racist comments?

BOATENG: Not possible. Impossible. And I think this would not happen. Like if I know this -- no, I wouldn't do that.

DAVIES: I'm going to end on a positive note, how confident are you that with the momentum behind this movement as it is now, things can change for the better?

BOATENG: They will change. I'm very positive about that. We can see the change already. And I would tell to you and to everybody is going to be more harder. There are going to be more sanctions more harder. And I think this is the right way. And that's why I'm very positive. And I'm looking forward to that.


FOSTER: Well, the latest world news headlines are just ahead on Connect the World. Plus, has Barack Obama's Middle East trip been a success? We'll get an expert for you right after the break.

Also, one of the most influential African voices falls silent. We'll look back at the life and the legacy for Chinua Achebe.

Plus, 'tis the season for spring walks not snow shovels. Unseasonable snow storms hit the UK.


FOSTER: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, the top stories this hour. Lebanon's prime minister announced the resignation of his government. Najib Mikati said parliament shouldn't or couldn't reach agreements on an election supervisory body or extending the security chief's term in office. He called for the formation of a national unity government.

US president Barack Obama is in Jordan, where he attended a state dinner in his honor with King Abdullah. The two leaders spoke to the media a short time ago, and Jordan's king highlighted the growing Syrian refugee crisis. He says Jordan can't turn away women and children, but pleaded for help from the international community to deal with the burden.

You're looking at live pictures coming out of the Cypriot parliament. Lawmakers are debating and voting on proposals aimed at preventing the country's economic collapse. They've so far approved laws creating a solidarity fund to pool state assets for bonds and allowing the government to put capital controls in banks. It's all part of an effort to satisfy conditions of an EU bailout.

Let's get more now on Barack Obama's visit to the Middle East and his first presidential trip to Israel. Before he departed for Jordan today, Mr. Obama paid homage to some of the most symbols of Israel. He laid wreathes on the graves of Theodore Herzel and Yitzak Rabin on Mount Herzel in Jerusalem, and he toured the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem before heading to Jordan.

Joining me now is Michelle Dunne, a former diplomat who's also served in the White House in a variety of roles. Thank you so much for joining us. So much pressure on such a delicate trip, but how do you think Barack Obama has been this time around?

MICHELLE DUNNE, DIRECTOR OF MIDDLE EAST PROGRAMS, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, Max, I think that the trip was certainly a success in its main purpose, which was to establish a new relationship for President Obama with Israel, and I do mean the nation of Israel, not just Prime Minister Netanyahu.

President Obama spoke to Israelis in a way that really got across to them about his regard for Israel, his understanding of the Jewish people and their history. He used a charm and a little bit of humor, and I think he's now established a new way of communicating with them and getting his points across, and an ability to exert some more influence inside of Israel.

FOSTER: He's using different language, isn't he? And we want to illustrate that. If we listen to the different type of language Obama used in his speech four years ago in Cairo compared to this speech yesterday in Jerusalem, have a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.


OBAMA: This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.



OBAMA: Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace --


OBAMA: -- and that an independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be drawn.


FOSTER: He was much clearer a few years ago, wasn't he? But is he just being more sensitive now with a greater understanding of the situation, more sophistication diplomatically?

DUNNE: President Obama in his first term tried to put pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction, and it completely failed. And ultimately, President Obama backed off.

So, we see him now taking a much softer approach to the settlements issue and saying that while it's a problem, it's not constructive, it shouldn't hold up peace talks and so forth going forward.

Also, there was a big difference in how President Obama dealt with Israel, the creation of Israel. In the Cairo speech, he spoke of Israel as springing out of the Holocaust, a narrative that Israelis really didn't like and found offensive.

This time, on this trip, he was at pains to acknowledge the history of the Jewish people and their connection to Israel going back well before the Holocaust.

FOSTER: And also working very closely with Netanyahu. The rumor is they don't get on very well at all, but he really wanted to show that he could work together with whoever was running Israel.

DUNNE: And there was a concrete demonstration of that, Max, right at the end of the visit, where Prime Minister Netanyahu made this call to the Turkish prime minister and apologized for this incident a couple of years ago with the Turkish flotilla.

So, that concretely demonstrated that Obama was able to persuade Netanyahu to take a step that the United States has wanted him to take.

FOSTER: And what did the Palestinians get out of this trip?

DUNNE: President Obama's visit was much less successful with the public, I think, in Palestine, in the West Bank, and Gaza, and in Jordan. There, there's a lot of disillusionment and not much faith that the things that President Obama said about the peace process will be followed up on.

I think he said a lot of the right things, including in his speech to Israelis, about the need to make peace with Palestinians and establish a viable Palestinian state. But the question is, what will happen after the trip?

We do know that Senator Kerry -- Secretary Kerry, that is, rather -- is going back to Israel tomorrow to follow up promptly on the visit, but the question back in Washington is will President Obama be willing to back Secretary Kerry and invest domestic capital in Middle East peacemaking?

FOSTER: Absolutely. Michelle Dunne, thank you very much, indeed, for your insight there.

Well, President Obama thanked King Abdullah for the generosity his country has shown to Syrians seeking refugee there -- refuge there, and that was during the latter part of his trip. He also acknowledged the toll it's taking on the economy and pledged an extra $200 million in aid to help Jordan care for Syrian refugees. Take a listen.


OBAMA: The Jordanian people have displayed extraordinary generosity, but the strains of so many refugees inevitably is showing. This is a heavy burden, and the international community needs to step up to make sure that they are helping to shoulder this burden.


FOSTER: Well, overall, more than a million Syrians have fled the civil war, creating a refugee crisis across the region. As you just heard, Jordan in particular is struggling, according to the UNHCR. Now, if we look at the latest figures here -- where are we going? If someone could click that for us.

Jordan has currently more than 360,000 refugees, but the government says the figure is as high as 460,000. Turkey has taken in more than 260,000 people, and also Lebanon a fraction of that -- a fraction of the size, rather, but is sheltering over 375,000 Syrians, so the figures are extraordinary, particularly for the smaller country. Iraq has taken in more than 117,000 as well.

Now, these refugees risked their lives to cross the border, often arriving with nothing, just the clothes on their back. Once they get there, it doesn't always get much better, either. CNN's Ivan Watson has more now from Mafraq in the north of Jordan.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are so many Syrian refugees in this neighborhood in Jordan that locals have basically started calling it Syria Town. In Syria Town, refugees are turning shops into homes.

WATSON (on camera): This is what Syrians have had to resort to, it's something I've never seen before in the Middle East. They -- refugees are renting shops, storefronts. There's a family of eight living here in what used to be a business, sleeping here.

Take a look at this single room. There is no bathroom here, no kitchen. This is not a place where people are supposed to live.

WATSON (voice-over): Some of these makeshift apartments don't even have doors. This is where we meet Um Khaled, a widow from the Syrian city of Homs.

UM KHALED, SYRIAN REFUGEE (through translator): The regime soldiers and militia took my husband and son from our house. They also took my brother and his son. They lined them up on the street and shot them.

WATSON: Um Khaled spent her last savings renting this unheated cell. Her two youngest surviving boys used to go to school, but now they have to help pay the rent. "I tried to find a job," says 12-year-old Abdul Rakhman (ph), "but I still can't find one."

The trouble is, even before this flood of Syrian refugees came to Jordan, there weren't enough jobs to go around. Especially in Mafraq, a scruffy Jordanian border town.

"The economic situation here was already tough," says this Jordanian mechanic named Khaled. "But it's gotten even harder since the Syrians came."

This small kingdom of 6.5 million has been flooded by more than 450,000 registered Syrian refugees, many of whom choose not to live in government-run camps.

Jordanians complain the cost of living has skyrocketed as Jordanians are forced to compete with Syrians for jobs, real estate, and even water.

For some Syrians, more help is on the way. A group of wealthy Syrian businessmen, along with various charities, are bringing aid to Syrian refugees, in part to help ease the burden on Jordan.

KHALED AL HAMAMEED, SYRIAN BUSINESS COUNCIL FOR RELIEF AND DEVELOPMENT: We know well about the Jordanian economic situation, so we need really to help them and to help us. What they have, they help, but we cannot ask more.

WATSON: A Syrian girl smiles when she gets a new coat.


WATSON: But it will take more than clothes to stop little Zarine's (ph) tears. A bomb broke this two-year-old girl's legs two months ago, another victim of the brutal conflict in Syria. Until that stops, the future looks bleak for residents of this growing refugee community called Syria Town.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Mafraq, Jordan.


FOSTER: And if you want to find out how you can make a difference to the lives of Syrian refugees, do head to our website, Impact Your World. You can find it at

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still to come, the world is mourning the death of a man known as the father of modern African literature.


FOSTER: Nelson Mandela once said he brought Africa to the rest of the world. Acclaimed Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe has died at the age of 81. He's considered one of the most influential African voices of the modern era, depicting the damaging effects of colonialism and challenging Western definitions of the continent. Errol Barnett looks at his legacy.


ERROL BARNETT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Nigerian author Chinua Achebe was in his 20s, he wrote a powerful novel, titled "Things Fall Apart." It would forever change his life. It eloquently depicts the plight of Nigerians leading up to Colonial rule.

Published in 1958, the story is told in English, which allowed a wider audience to connect with an African perspective. Eventually, the novel would sell more than 10 million copies and be translated into 50 languages.

This launched Achebe's career and propelled him onto the international stage. He would eventually pen more than 20 books and enjoy top university posts in Nigeria and in the US. But he never tired of his literary passion, viewing it as a service to his readers.

CHINUA ACHEBE, AUTHOR: It feels good to be acknowledged at any time. I say this, I hope it applies to other writers, because as far as I'm concerned, I write to be read. To be -- to be acknowledged. In other words, it means what I've written has made some impact somewhere.

BARNETT: He was married and had four children. The so-called father of modern African literature, Chinua Achebe, was 82.

Errol Barnett, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.


FOSTER: Achebe inspired a generation of Africans, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a prominent Nigerian author in her own right. She spoke shortly before the show, and she said that encountering Achebe's work was a shock of discovery.


CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE, NIGERIAN WRITER: Before I met Chinua Achebe, I felt that although I was very much involved in my life in a small town in southeastern Nigeria, I felt that books had to be about foreign realities.

After reading Chinua Achebe, for me, was that I suddenly started to realize that actually, my life in a small, southeastern Nigerian town, was worth writing about, was worth creating a literary reality of.

And so really, I just started very slowly to stop writing those imitated stories of people who lived in England and ate apples, and I started to write stories about people who were like me and who ate mangoes.

FOSTER: Nelson Mandela said he's the person who brought Africa to the rest of the world, a huge thing to say from a huge man. But are you able to explain why that is? What did he bring to the rest of the world?

ADICHIE: I think it is a huge thing to say, but it's also a true thing to say. Chinua Achebe's novel, "Things Fall Apart," which was published in 1958 -- and until it was published, for people in the world, an African novel really meant accounts of African life, what was known as "native life in Africa," and written by people who were not African.

And then, Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" came. As a reader, it was -- it opened up this entirely new space, and it made the world realize that Africans could, in fact, tell African stories, and could tell them very well.

So, it's not so much that "Things Fall Apart" was the first. Before Chinua Achebe wrote, some people had written African novels in English, but I think that Chinua Achebe's was remarkable in how well-done it was, how wonderfully complex, how -- how he was able to create characters who were indelible, how he created this sense of a rich and complex existence of the people.

So, really, he wrote well. And he told wonderful stories, and I think that it opened the eyes of the world to -- to African stories told by Africans.

FOSTER: You knew his books well before you met him. Was he a surprise when you met him?

ADICHIE: No, not really. I should also say that I actually -- in a rather strange coincidence, I lived in the -- I grew up in the house in which he had lived. And so, in some ways, I've always felt that I had the spirit of Chinua Achebe hanging over me.

And when I met him, I thought he was such a gentile, kind humane man, and I wasn't surprised to sense that in meeting him. Because in reading his work, you can just -- you realize what -- just that he had this wonderful humanity about him that you sense that he cared about his characters and that he cared about the world.

And you just sensed a man who wanted things to be better, who hoped and who believed. And so, when I met him, I wasn't surprised that he came across as just a wonderfully humane and human.


FOSTER: There have been a flood of online tributes for Chinua Achebe from fans of his work around the world. In his home country of Nigeria, Hakeem says, "Things have truly fallen apart. Rest in peace, Chinua Achebe, one of the great fathers of African literature.

In Uganda, Angelo Izama says, "Of course Chinua Achebe's not dead. He would never die. He earned the immortal life decades ago. Africa is grateful for his life." Nova in New Delhi.

This tweet from Himanshi Sharma: "Your contribution to post-colonial literature would never be forgotten."

Over in the US in New York, Damon Kornhauser writes, "A deepest and most noble bow to Chinua Achebe. May your words echo evermore."

Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, driven to distraction by spring snow, the UK is wondering what happened to its famous daffodil season.


FOSTER: Breaking news on our top story tonight, the crisis in Cyprus. Reuters reporting that lawmakers have voted and adopted a law to allow good bank/bad bank splits in failing lenders. That means the good deposits will be in a good bank, and it basically splits up all of the risk.

But before they did that, they approved measures creating a solidarity fund or a sovereign wealth fund, really, to pool state assets to back up a bond sale, to get the -- allow them to get more money in and allowing the government to put capital controls on banks as well to prevent a bank run.

They are all part of a package intended to overhaul the battered banking system. And the EU's Monday deadline is looming, of course. A controversial deposit tax that scuttled the first proposal is said to be back on the table. We'll get more updates on that hopefully in the coming hours.

Moving on now, and spring officially kicked off this week, but you wouldn't know it. Today, North Wales looked like a winter wonderland. There's nothing wonderful about the driving, though. The British government is warning the public to expect a disruption in transportation and power services.

The bad weather even prompted officials to shut down a nuclear plant so people could get home, Jenny. It really is bad in parts of the country.

JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is, it's terrible. It's very widespread, as well, Max. Not so bad, of course, in London. We've got this slightly milder air in place, there, so all the moisture that's been coming in from the southwest, coming in courtesy of this area of low pressure, has been coming down mostly as rain.

Then we had that nasty mix -- and we still have as well, that sleet and that snow, you can see it here -- in the last 12 hours. But look at the snow, it's just been relentless. Still coming down. It will still come down, too, as we head off into Saturday.

And look at some of these stats coming out, first of all, of Northern Ireland: 27 centimeters of snow has actually come down in Belfast. That's an incredible amount, particularly for this time of year. Five centimeters in Nottingham, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it's enough to cause those problems.

And then, the winds as well have really just made the whole situation so much worse. We've had some wind gusts of around 90 kilometers an hour in Shannon, Ireland there. And as I say, the snow is very widespread.

Here is Buxton up in northern regions of England. And you can see, obviously, this time of year, the birds are beginning to expect to find the food quite easily themselves, but not that easy.

So, what is different on this day as it was a year ago? Well, have a look at the temperatures first of all. It's quite staggering. So, as you can see, this Friday, a lot of 2 degree Celsius out there: Belfast, Liverpool, Edinburgh as well.

And then when you look at what it was exactly this day back in 2012, 15, 15, 12 -- in all cases, by the way, these temperatures -- 17 in London, it was in 2012 this day in March. The average is 12, and that is the case in most of these towns and cities. You can see that the average, we were actually well above that.

This is what we were experiencing back in March 2012, high pressure across central Europe. So that means the winds coming from the southwest, it was dry, it was mild.

Not this time around. Instead, that high is well to the north, and so we're getting all of these very, very cold, eastly winds across the northwest in northern areas of Europe. And with that system just anchored off the southwest coast, all the moisture that comes up is just being turned to sleet and to snow in that very cold air.

So, that is more of what we will see, certainly, as you head through Saturday. Eventually by Sunday, it begins to taper off. It's very wet snow, it's very heavy snow, but look at this, there's still plenty more to come down. Could see another 16 centimeters in Birmingham, maybe another 20 across in Belfast. So, not over yet.

The winds making things a lot more difficult as well, gale-force winds. And over the next 48 hours, we can easily expect to see some sustained winds at around 60 kilometers an hour.

It isn't the case, of course, in other parts of the world. This is Tokyo, as we know, here it's been so very, very mild. And for the blossoms, all of the beautiful cherry blossoms have come out a good two weeks early, matches the last record back in 2002.

And just to give you an idea, the highest temperature, 25 Celsius, the average is 13, and you can see the number days that have been well above average. So, it's not bad everywhere, Max, just not good across much of northern and northwest Europe.

FOSTER: It's all right for Tokyo, isn't it? Jenny, thank you very much, indeed. We do love the blossoms.

And in tonight's Parting Shots, it's one of the hottest tickets in town. It's probably one of the few hot places in town, in fact. And the doors haven't even opened yet. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has sold a record 40,000 advance tickets to its David Bowie retrospective that opens this weekend.

We've previewed it. It was far more successful than anyone expected. Here, you can see a taste of what's inside. Baby photos, you've got his instruments. The museum said that it's had an unprecedented access to Bowie's archive, his music, his memorabilia, and his costumes, as you can see.

Head to and you can do what I'm doing, clicking through the exhibition. Well worth seeing if you're passing through London as well, if you can get tickets.

I'm Max Foster, that was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you for watching.