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AK Party Leader Says Protesters Should Leave Gezi Park; Lebanon Warns Retaliation For Any Syrian Stirkes; Brazil Confident Construction Goals Will Be Met

Aired June 12, 2013 - 16:00   ET


ZAIN VERJEE, HOST: Tonight, tensions high in Turkey. The country's prime minister tries to restore calm, but protesters say he is talking to the wrong people.

Plus, switch off: Greece's government says it's too poor to fund its state broadcaster.

And, we hear from the French businessman who played a crucial role in freeing Nelson Mandela.

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

VERJEE: First tonight, Turkey's government considering a concession to protesters even as it orders them off the street.

Now according to a state run news agency, a ruling party chairman says protesters should leave both Taksim Square and Gezi Park. That's really significant, because the government has said it would allow continued demonstrations in Gezi Park, calling it a designated protest area.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with a group of protesters today, as he promised. Afterward, the government suggested that it could hold a referendum on a controversial plan to bulldoze Gezi Park replacing green space with new buildings.

The streets, though, of Istanbul have been pretty calm in real contrast to the fierce clashes the previous day. But the atmosphere is growing even more tense as protesters start returning to Taksim Square.

Let's get you an update from Nick Paton Walsh. He joins me now.

Nick, just describe the scene around you now. Is there a sense that we're going to see the kind of clashes and chaos that we have before?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no obvious sign that that is about to repeat itself. Where I am there is tension and a slight air of menace owing to what you described -- the deputy chairman of the ruling AK party suggesting people should leave this particular park.

It's not a explicit deadline or a threat, it's saying the people can't be here until doomsday and they should, in his opinion, think about going home.

Now we're not seeing any sign of that around this at all. In the last couple of hours, we have seen hundreds of people flooding into here, densely packed already by these tents tied into the ground, obviously. Their infrastructure has built up here. I saw a tourist office earlier on today. There's are not people about to go anywhere.

But the other thing to bear in mind is with all this talk of negotiation, with these 11 people who spent four-and-a-half hours talking to Prime Minister Recep Erdogan just earlier on today, there isn't actually a figurehead here or a concrete universally agreed set of demands apart from the one single thing of leaving Gezi Park, this green space around me, alone. That people have agreed upon that with perhaps send them home, Zain.

So there will certainly be confusion if any negotiation comes to fruit in the future. And this suggestion of the possibility of a referendum by the people of Istanbul. It's being with suspicion by one man I spoke to who warned me of potential games by the prime minister.

There is mistrust. And of course that's built upon by the clashes we saw yesterday. Police firing tear gas into what was frankly a pretty peaceful group of thousands of protesters in Taksim Square -- Zain.

VERJEE: Would a referendum, Nick, be acceptable to the majority of people that you've talked to there?

WALSH: I can't do an accurate straw poll for you, but I think there is a sense suspicion, that sort of idea here. Of course, you know, people will be concerned that will they end up being asked is a question that may not reflect the full scope of views they hold here.

There's one real demand, leave this place alone.

But we're standing surrounded by a construction site that's half finished. So something is going to have to happen in the very center of Istanbul to return it to a degree of functional normalcy.

But the key thing people here want is for these trees, this isolated green space in the very sense of where they're all camped out now for days, increasingly organized, is left entirely alone.

So with a referendum, as democratic as it may be, once again reminding people of the mandate President Erdogan, 50 percent of the people returning him to power, that may look good necessarily to the broader audience, but it may not give the people here what actually they want -- Zain

VERJEE: Nick, give us more of an idea, also, of the makeup of the protesters themselves? There was one senior Turkish official that said there were foreign elements and terrorists among protesters.

WALSH: I haven't seen foreign elements or terrorists. I mean, what we saw yesterday in the clashes was a hardcore group of protesters who were equipped with Molotov cocktails, rocks, even an elaborate device that seemed to fire fireworks at the police. We saw that happening throughout the night, throughout the day, and about 20 hours, almost, of clashes that were breaking out in that particular square.

Today, so much quieter.

But we have seen these protests mushroom more. It began as conversationist about this particular area, then it came to embody the secular minority, disenfranchised people, who felt that Erdogan wasn't representing their point of view, that his desire for increasingly Islamist conservative ideas in society were encroaching on their way of life, suggestions about how women should live their lives, how alcohol could be sold and advertised, were upsetting them.

And I think the real issue is they need a leader, they need some sort of manifesto that can be negotiated over because as it currently stands, this is an alternative utopian society in many ways. There's maths lessons being given here, there's a fashion student. There's a library just giving books away to people. It's enormously idealistic in many ways. And that isn't in itself realistic demands to negotiate on the table with someone often as bruising as Prime Minister Erdogan, Zain.

VERJEE: Some great perspective there on the ground from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. Thanks a lot, Nick.

A brief reminder for you of where these protests began and they even started.

Here's Istanbul. It's Turkey's largest city. And it straddles both Europe and Asia on either side of the Bosphorus Strait in the country's northwest.

The conflict initially started over these development plans for Gezi Park, which is the last green space in the city center. We've seen fierce battles for control of Taksim Square, back and forth between riot police and demonstrators. And about 24 hours ago, police drove the protesters out of Taksim Square. They're now dismantling the barricades set up by the protesters, many of whom are now in Gezi Park.

The location of the barricades, by the way, were provided by our teams on the ground.

The European Union is weighing in and really urging Turkey to engage not antagonize the protesters. Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton saying that this is really a chance for Turkey to renew its commitment to European values. Some EU members even say the violent police crackdown could hurt Turkey's bid for EU membership.

But Turkey's minister for EU affairs is defending his government actions. What he says is that there are definitely terrorists among the protesters. Listen.


EGEMEN BAGIS, TURKISH MINISTER FOR EU AFFAIRS: Most of the demonstrators are naive. They are sincere. They have good -- well intentions. But unfortunately, there's been a campaign to create a psychology of fear.


VERJEE: Protesters, of course, tell a really different story.

I want us to talk to one of them. Imre Azem was among the very first demonstrators in Gezi Park. He's directed an animated movie that addresses some of the protesters concerns.

Thanks so much for being with us. And I know that you actually are one of the people that pitched the very first tent. What is it that you and the Taksim Solidarity Movement actually want?

IMRE AZEM, PROTESTERS: Well, Zain, thank you.

There are actually several layers to this protest, to this resistance. The first one is the park itself. Like you mentioned just a minute ago, Gezi Park is one of the last green spaces that remains in the center of Istanbul. It's the briefing area for a lot of people that live in the center and who come here to work. So these plans to build -- the prime minister said it was a shopping mall, but it could be anything, it could be a museum as well. We do not really care what it is. We want this park to remain as a park, you know, as a green space for the people of the city.

The second layer is from this park, from this movement is the right to the city. We want the people of the city to have a say in the decisions that affect the lives of the people in the city. For example, there are many other issues, critical issues, for Istanbul. For example, the third bridge. The third airport that they want to build in the north of Istanbul. These are all forest areas. Maybe you can see on your map. These are forest areas that are critical for the sustainability of Istanbul. And these projects are being imposed on us, on the people, without any -- you know, without any negotiation with the people or even with the participation of the people.

VERJEE: I want to ask you whether or not you -- Imre, Imre, just a minute...

AZEM: And the third level is the level of democracy -- yes.

VERJEE: Yes. Will you and your group.

AZEM: I just wanted to finish the three layers, sorry.

We do not think that a referendum is the right way to go, because we think that this park should remain as a park, because it's our right. And rights should not be asked in a referendum. This is the same as housing rights, a right to health care, right to education. These are basic rights. And the right to the city, which is what we call the struggle of this park, should not be taken to a referendum.

VERJEE: Imre Azem, thank you so much for talking to us.

AZEM: Our position is that...

VERJEE: Appreciate it, we're out of time.

You're watching Connect the World.

Still to come tonight, new pictures from Aleppo in Syria as government forces reportedly prepare for a really major offensive there. We'll bring you a live report from Damascus just minutes away.

Plus, surprising allegations. Pope Francis reportedly says there's a gay lobby and corruption at the heart of the Catholic church.

And this time next year, we'll be talking about a huge sporting event in Brazil. More on that coming up.


VERJEE: We want to take you now live to New York City and a really harrowing scene high above the city streets. The city's fire department says two people are stranded on this scaffolding near the top of the Hearst Tower. Rescue crews are on the scene there helping secure that scaffolding and rescue those trapped there. The tower is located in mid-town Manhattan. It's about 46 stories high. We'll continue to monitor the situation and bring you updates as they become available.

Meanwhile, Lebanon is issuing a stark warning to Syria. It says its army will hit back against any new Syrian air raids, that's after the Syrian helicopters fired two rockets into the Lebanese town of Arsal today. For some time, Syrian army forces and rebels have launched rockets into Lebanese territory.

Meanwhile, inside Syria, new pictures from Aleppo where the Syrian government forces are reportedly preparing for a major offensive.

Fred Pleitgen is in the Syrian capital Damascus. Fred, what are you hearing about the latest fighting in Aleppo?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly that it's becoming more...

VERJEE: My apologies, we've lost Fred. We'll try and get back with him when we can.

Meanwhile, the man who leaked details of a top secret U.S. spying program says that he is not a traitor or a hero. Edward Snowden is quoted in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post. Right now, he is in hiding in Hong Kong.

In the interview, the 29 year old says he is going to fight any U.S. effort to extradite him, and that he'll ask the courts and the people of Hong Kong to decide his fate.

Snowden alleges in the interview that the U.S. has been hacking Chinese and Hong Kong computers since 2009. The paper says it viewed documents supporting that claim, but could not verify them.

Nelson Mandela is responding to treatment for a lung infection, that's the latest message from South African President Jacob Zuma in a speech to parliament.


JACOB ZUMA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: Our thoughts are with President Mandela and his family.


ZUMA: I'm happy to report that Madiba is responding better to treatment from this morning.


ZUMA: We are very happy with the progress that he is now making following a difficult few days.


VERJEE: Mandela's family visited the African icon on Wednesday and said they had been heartened by the overwhelming message of support from the public. We're going to bring you more on Mandela a little later in the show, including the untold story of his release from prison.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church has reportedly for the first time acknowledged a gay lobby exists in the Vatican. Pope Francis has said to have made the remarks during a private meeting last week. Hints of a gay lobby in the Vatican first appeared in Italian media reports earlier this year after a series of leaks about the Church.

The pope also said that there was a stream of corruption in the church's central administration. Earlier, journalist Barbie Nadeau discussed the pope's comments.


BARBIE NADEAU, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: This is the first time, of course, the pope has spoken so candidly about the problems within the Vatican, but it's very much the way we've seen Pope Francis operate. He speaks off the cuff. He's very unscripted. I'm sure his public relations people were really hoping that he wouldn't be quite so honest, because he's created quite a dilemma in terms of how you address this officially. We don't have an official statement from The Vatican, we only have what the pope said.


VERJEE: In Spain, prosecutors have launched an initial investigation into Argentine footballer Lionel Messi and his father over allegations of tax fraud. The Barcelona star is accused of filing wrong tax returns between 2006 and 2009, defrauding the Spanish government of over $5 million, but Messi has denied any wrongdoing. And he said he only learned about the investigation against him from media report.

Live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, a potent symbol of democracy -- public TV and why it's causing an uproar in Greece.

And more on the protests in Sao Paulo as Brazil counts down to one of the world's biggest sporting events.


VERJEE: Welcome back.

We want to take you back to our top story, one of them. There are new pictures from Aleppo where Syrian government forces are reportedly preparing for an offensive. Fred Pleitgen is in Damascus. He joins me now. Fred, again, what is the latest that you're hearing on the fighting in Aleppo?


Well, the latest that we're hearing is that not just the government, but also the rebels appear to be preparing for that offensive that appears to be going on. We're also hearing that masses of troops are going up there into the north. However, it's unclear when exactly that offensive is due to start. There were some people who were saying that perhaps it could be in the next couple of days. However, there also still appear to be major military operations going on in and around the Homs and Qusayr area, which is, of course, where that big battle took place last week where government forces ousted rebels for that strategically important town.

One of the things that the government -- area south of Aleppo before moving north, because we want to have that area open as it may for logistics.

VERJEE: CNN's Fred Pleitgen there reporting.

The lines are a little shaky. Sorry about that. We tried.

Exactly one year from today, one of the world's biggest sporting events kicks off in Brazil. I'm talking about, of course -- you know it, the football World Cup. But the question is, will the host country be ready?

Paula Newton is in Rio de Janeira, Shasta Darlington joins me from Sao Paulo.

Shasta, let's start with you first, because Sao Paulo is the scene of some massive protests on Tuesday. Give us an update on what's happening there today.

OK, our apologies. We're lost Shasta as well. Is Paula -- Paula Newton is also not there. The Gremlins are really getting to us.

Let's, though, go to Shasta's reporting on the latest from Sao Paulo.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll see a modern and sensational country from the moment you arrive.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Or so goes the ad inviting tourists to Brazil's upcoming sport event. The reality is more a work in progress.

One year before the World Cup kickoff, the iconic Maracana stadium boasts shiny new seats and a gleaming roof.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our arena is so beautiful like Maracana -- a little bit late in the work, but I think the most part our populations they exciting.

DARLINGTON: In Brasilia, the costly stadium refurbishment done, the pitch tested. But the fact is, the renovations were completed up to six months behind schedule and just barely in time for the Confederation's Cup, which kicks off on Saturday.

From the get go, Brazil set itself a very ambitious goal, playing the World Cup in 12 different stadiums across a country that's 25 times as big as Germany.

The price tag just for those arenas has risen to $3.5 billion, six of them completed in a construction rush for the Confed's Cup. A cloud still hangs over the remaining six.

(on camera): This is the Sao Paulo Stadium, and while it may look like there's still a lot of work left, the engineers on site explain to us that they started from scratch. Most of the work has been done. And in fact, they expect to have a green pitch right here in three month's time.

(voice-over): The plan was to build a stadium for Sao Paulo's most popular club, Corinthians. They've had to adapt to meet FIFA demands. But chief construction engineer Frederico Barbosa (ph) is optimistic.

"We're going to meet the deadline December 2013 the Corinthians stadium will be ready."

The general consensus is all 12 stadiums will meet the deadline give or take a month. And Brazil's World Cup will be one heck of a party.

The government has also tackled security with police working to clear drug gangs out of Rio's shanty towns and staging anti-terrorism drills throughout the country.

The main problem is infrastructure. Simply not enough has been done to improve the roads airports and public transportation that will enable fans to get around. And more importantly, ensure the World Cup leaves a lasting legacy for Brazil.

BRUNO REIS, RISK ANALYST, EXCLUSIVE ANALYSIS: Brazil really lost a historical opportunity to give a big (inaudible) for infrastructure promise.

DARLINGTON: Even Brazil's version of the vuvuzela fell flat. Shortly after the cashiola (ph) was introduced by pop musician Carlinas Brown (ph) it was banned by FIFA for fear it could be used as a weapon.


DARLINGTON: Now, one of the main issues here, Zain, really is security. As you were mentioning, it's not just an issue of crime. Here in Sao Paulo, we saw some pretty violent protests last night. 10,000 people took to the streets. They marched down the main avenue in Sao Paulo Avenue de Paulista. They clashed with police. Police were firing off tear gas. The protesters burned a bus. They beat up a policeman.

These pictures look like they were coming out of Turkey not out of Brazil. And it's these images being beamed around the world that are just making people a little nervous about what's going on in Brazil.

This, of course, on top of the issues with crime. We've actually had a spike in robbery followed by murder here in Sao Paulo. We've had some terrible cases of rape in Rio de Janeiro. So this issue of security really is something that Brazil is going to have to get under control. And they've got a year to do it. So we'll see what happens, Zain.

VERJEE: Shasta Darlington reporting.

Let's go now to Rio de Janeiro where the World Cup final is going to take place. Paula Newton is there. Hi, Paula.

How are the preps going? And what are some of the biggest challenges so far?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, as you say I'm here in Rio. This is Maracana stadium where the World Cup final will take place. I was in there last week. Things inside look pretty much under control. Today, officially, we had the launch of the one year countdown to that World Cup, as Shasta was saying. Still, a lot of apprehension here about some of the issues that Shasta was talking about. But not to be ignored here, Zain, this is the heart and soul of global football. And right now, the national team is doing poorly.

You know, at this event, Zain, we had Pele actually at the event saying, look -- and pleading with his countrymen to really get behind the Brazil national team. And as much as they've had these challenges with infrastructure -- not just the stadium, Zain, you're talking about traffic tie ups, you're talking about hotels, you're talking about the most basic of services that need to get through the fans, even through all that still, one of the big challenges here is to get that national team in order, as Pele said himself, Zain, seems to be an effort that's under constructions still -- Zain.

VERJEE: As is much of the country. Thank you so much. Paula Newton, appreciate it.

Join us for a road trip through Brazil as we really take a closer look at how the country is on the move in travel, culture and sport. We're going to bring you special coverage in World Business Today and Quest Means Business all of this week.

The latest world news headlines just ahead. Plus, more turmoil in Greece. Strikers go back to the streets after the government shuts down the country's public TV network. We take you live to Athens.

Plus, we're traveling the modern silk route and tonight's gateway. We're going to take you to the edge of Kazakhstan, the world's biggest landlocked country.

Then the compelling story of an unsung hero who helped free Nelson Mandela. I hadn't heard about this. It's fascinating. All ahead on Connect the World.


VERJEE: Hi, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. The top stories this hour. The Turkish government says it's going to consider holding a referendum on the controversial plans to develop Istanbul's Gezi Park. That word came after the prime minister met with a group of protestors today. Many demonstrators say that small group does not represent their anti-government movement.

The man who leaked details of a top secret US spying program has vowed to fight any attempt to extradite him from Hong Kong. That's where he's hiding. Edward Snowden is quoted in an exclusive interview with the South China "Morning Post."

South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, says Nelson Mandela is responding better to treatment. The anti-apartheid hero has been in serious but stable condition since being rushed to hospital on Saturday for a recurring lung infection.

Thousands of travelers across Europe face canceled flights on Wednesday as French air traffic controllers walked off the job for a second day. They're protesting against plans to create a single European air space, but the strike's due to end early rather than continue through Thursday as was planned.

Back to the streets in Greece. New protests break out with more planned for Thursday. This time, it's over the closing of the country's public broadcaster.




VERJEE: Unions are calling for another general strike tomorrow after Wednesday's walkout over the government's shock decision to shut down the ERT channel. The move threatens to throw Greece into a totally new crisis.

Let's just take a look at what started this latest turmoil. The moment ERT's news channel went to black on Tuesday, just watch it and see how it happened.




TEXT: No Signal.


VERJEE: Nearly 3,000 workers are going to lose their jobs. The country's under real pressure to cut public employment. After bailouts and years of recession, Greece has also been hit hard with a demotion. The index provider MSCI says it cut the country to emerging market status. Now, that's a first for a developed nation.

Let's take you live to Nathalie Savaricas in Athens. Nathalie, in spite of the strikes and protests, is there anything anyone can really do? Is there a chance the decision can be reversed, or that's it?

NATHALIE SAVARICAS, JOURNALIST: Well, that is a big question on everyone's lips behind me. Can this actually change? Now, all eyes are essentially on the coalition partners supporting the government of Antonis Samaras.

I was speaking to a member -- a senior member of the Democratic Left. That's a small party that is a part of the coalition government of Antonis Samaras. He was absolutely outraged with the decision to pull the plug off air.

He called it "nearly authoritarian" that Antonis Samaras didn't consult with his partners on this decision. And he actually even threatened elections unless Antonis Samaras reconsidered his decision and "stop all this nonsense," he said. Now, of course, Antonis Samaras on his part refused to back down.

VERJEE: What's it like for the average person in Greece today? With all the cuts happening, the day-to-day difficulties? Just give us a sense of you and your friends and your family. How do people function and survive?

SAVARICAS: Well, that is the big question on everyone's lips, how are we functioning, how are we surviving? You know, 27 percent unemployment in Greece is only the official number. Greeks receive unemployment benefits just for one year, and after that, they're off the papers.

Analysts here predict the number to be far, far higher than this, and that is really a big strain on ordinary Greeks. They look to their families to try and make ends meet.

Of course, the family values here are so strong that that's what's keeping this country together, if you like, everyone holding together, the grandparents with the sons and the grandchildren. And that's what's saving the society from really falling apart at the moment, but it's very difficult.

Youth are looking for opportunities abroad, and there is no sense of - - no light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, we're hearing all these things that the IMF is now sort of blaming itself for the austerity medicine, but it's still very much present in their lives.

Taxes are high. The wages have dropped. And just life is increasingly becoming unbearable here. And that's essentially what protesters here have been saying.

This is the cherry on the cake. Thousands of people are losing their jobs every month incessantly. There is no sign from the government that this will ever change, at least not in the immediate future, and that's what they're asking. What more?

And this is very much, if you like, just a strong sign that we can't accept any further cuts, any further painful reforms.

VERJEE: Great perspective from there. Nathalie Savaricas reporting to us from Athens. Thanks so much.

So, after 75 years on the air, Greece's public broadcaster ERT is now off the air. The government is saying that it plans to open a new, smaller broadcaster. Fanis Papathanasiou, news anchor with ERT, told my colleague Richard Quest a short while ago that he was there when the channel faded to black.


FANIS PAPATHANASIOU, ERT NEWS ANCHOR: What's strikes us the most out of this situation is the procedure, the way the government did it. Actually, they provoked us, actually. The spokesman yesterday said that we are actually the ones who were responsible for all these bad things.


PAPATHANASIOU: For all the inefficiency, all the -- overspending, all the corruption.


VERJEE: Right now, I'm joined by ERT's foreign affairs reporter, Dimitris Apokis. He joins us live from Athens via Skype. Dimitris, I'm so sorry about what's happened to ERT and to so many of your colleagues and friends. What was that moment like for you?

DIMITRIS APOKIS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER, ERT: As my colleague Fanis said to Richard Quest, it was a difficult moment for all of us that worked at ERT. We love this channel. It's an institution, as you previously said, in Greece. It's the public television of Greece that most of the people watch, and specifically, most of the people outside of Athens, the periphery of the country, in the islands.

And it was a tough moment for all of us, first of all because, as I said, we love this channel, and second of all, we lost our jobs in a period that Greece is going through rocky mountains and has austerity measures for the last three years. A very difficult time if you lose your job. And you are immediately going to a period that you feel uncertain for the future and of what is going to happen tomorrow.

VERJEE: Are people, your colleagues at ERT -- or is there still any kind of live streaming, say, online with ERT or any efforts to use social media to still continue or try continue to report what's happening in Greece?

APOKIS: Actually, our program from the day -- from the moment that it went black, that picture you saw, that you showed to your viewers a few minutes ago, the program is going on 24/7. We broadcast through social media.

And from tonight, we'll be on the European broadcaster Union of Public of Television around Europe, we managed to broadcast the program to some parts of Greece, some parts of Athens. The program is still going on by my colleagues, and it's a combined effort.

And we are still hoping that something is going to happen and that the public television of Greece will come back alive.

VERJEE: The prime minister is saying that this shutdown is just temporary and there's going to be another more efficient broadcaster eventually. Dimitris, I just want you to listen to what he said about this.


ANTONIS SAMARAS, PRIME MINISTER OF GREECE (through translator): We will create a new TV broadcaster in line with contemporary models. Those that are resisting are not supporters of state television, they're supporting the ERT of the past.

We are getting rid of an entity that lacked transparency, that was full of waste, and some people are disturbed by this because they want this to continue, this lack of transparency and waste.


VERJEE: Do you have any hope in his words, Dimitris? Do you put any trust in them that there will be in the future sometime a smaller, more efficient broadcaster?

APOKIS: I don't have any reason to don't trust the prime minister. He's a serious person, a clever person, and I'm sure that he is a strong believer in this idea of a smaller, a more efficient public television.

No one is disagreeing with that, and I think that before this sudden shutdown happened, even the absolutely majority of the people that work on ERT, the state television of Greece, we were believers of the need of restructuring and making the broadcast plans of ERT more efficient, more up-to-date to the era we live right now, to the 21st century.

But at the same time, I think the problem most of the people have, not only the workers, but the people of Greece, is the way this thing happened. It was sudden, it was a little bit tough, going black after so many years.

And many people believe that there was a way to do it differently, by sitting on a dialogue table with the workers, with the government partners, their colleagues in government, and try to find a way and do it more easily and more without blood, as we can say.


APOKIS: But at the same time, I have to say that the prime minister, I think, made this decision to do it this way because probably -- and he mentioned that in his speech tonight -- he believes that this dialogue was not going to work as it happened in the past. The only big difference this time around is that the time we are going through right now in Greece --


APOKIS: -- it changed a lot of minds.

VERJEE: ERT's former -- I'm sorry to say that -- foreign affairs reporter, Dimitris Apokis. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still ahead, bringing Nelson Mandela to freedom. We're going to show you the quiet hero who helped one of the world's most iconic leaders.

Next up, we're on the modern Silk Route traveling through two continents and thousands of years of history. The Gateway, next on CONNECT THE WORLD.


VERJEE: Tonight on the Gateway, we're looking at the modern Silk Route and a pioneering train that crosses two continents and six time zones. Becky Anderson takes us to the border of the world's largest land- locked country.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sitting at the foot of the Tian Shan mountain range, Dostyk is China's port of entry into Kazakhstan.

Our train is on time and already at the border, shimmering in the heat haze. It left Chongqing in China five days ago, and it's already covered nearly 4,000 kilometers, one third of the entire route.

DAUREN ADESHOV, DISPATCHER, DOSTYK STATION (through translator): We have confirmed that we are prepared for its arrival to our Chinese colleagues.

We make sure that the rolling stock is ready and that the train leaves the station within six hours after its arrival. We have to stick to the schedule

ANDERSON: Dostyk marks the end of the line for the Chinese drivers. From here, the Kazak crew take control of operations.

Rail tracks in Kazakhstan are wider than those in China, so the 42 containers have to be checked and transferred onto a new train. It's a job for driver Yermek Akkulov and his 76-ton reach stacker.

YERMEK AKKULOV, REACH STACKER DRIVER (through translator): It's not an easy machine to drive. There's a lot of work to do here, compared to five years ago, we need to reload and handle more and more containers. I remember my first year of driving this machine. We waited each reloading just to get the chance to drive the reach stacker.

ANDERSON: Timing is crucial. A holdup here would impact the entire journey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most challenging is changing the gauge of the railway, you know? So, specifically when you move from China to Kazakhstan. It took a lot of effort to get there, fully understanding speed up the process for the loading and the loading activities on the boarder with China.

ANDERSON: With the reach stackers moving at speed, the loading operation is over in less than two hours. And so, in its new guise, the train with its cargo of computer products is off again. New tracks, new locomotive, new drivers.


VERJEE: Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, how an unassuming French businessman helped pave the way for the end of apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela. It is a really intriguing untold story, and we're going to tell it to you in a few minutes, so stay with us, OK?


VERJEE: The chorus of support for Nelson Mandela continues. As the former South African president continues to recover in hospital, children today visited his home in Jo-burg to leave cards, and they all wished him well.

This is the fourth time since January 2011 that Mandela's been admitted to hospital for an acute lung infection. That's a condition he got during his 27 years in prison.

Mandela was released from jail back in 1990, but the images of that moment are so iconic, but lesser known is the story of the man who helped pave the way for Mandela's freedom. Becky Anderson takes a look at the documentary which tells this secret tale for the very first time.


ANDERSON (voice-over): South Africa was reaching breaking point, but no one was bending.

P.W. BOTHA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: Nobody in the world is going to stop me from keeping order.

DESMOND TUTU, ANGLICAN BISHOP, SOUTH AFRICA: Our cause is a just cause. That is why it is going to prevail.

ANDERSON: Few would envision that one man was about to make all the difference. That man was Jean-Yves Ollivier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Minister of foreign of affairs, awarded the Order of Good Hope at a ceremony in Cape Town.

ANDERSON: The new documentary "Plot for Peace" reveals how the French businessman succeeded where others had long failed.

He built trust among African leaders after offering to mediate a complex prisoner exchange among no fewer than six countries, all involved in the Cold War struggle for Angola.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country: Angola. Its government, the Marxist regime of President Eduard Dos Santos, who was supported by the Soviet Union and 32,000 Cuban boots on the ground. Their enemy: Jonas Savimbi and his rebel movement UNITA backed by South Africa and the United States.

ANDERSON: He brought the warring parties together and paved the way for a series of secret meetings in the Kalahari, in London, in Cairo, and finally, the Republic of the Congo that would bring peace to the region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The signing of the Brazzaville Protocol was an historical event.

ANDERSON: The Cubans would withdraw troops from Angola. Namibia would be granted independence. It seemed an historic logjam was collapsing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could see that it was inevitable that there would be negotiations to resolve the question of apartheid. It was inevitable.

ANDERSON: F.W. de Klerk became president of South Africa and began the process that would end Apartheid and lead to the release of Nelson Mandela.

NELSON MANDELA, FORMER POLITICAL PRISONER: A new South Africa has to eliminate the racial hatred and offer guarantees to all.


ANDERSON: Jean-Yves Ollivier was among the crowd that day. At that moment, neither Mandela nor the rest of the world had any idea of the role that he had played.

Becky Anderson, CNN, London.


VERJEE: The French businessman has since met Mandela, who then decorated him with one of South Africa's highest honors. Becky recently spoke to Ollivier and began by asking if the release of Mandela was part of his initial mission.


JEAN-YVES OLLIVIER, FRENCH BUSINESSMAN: I think Mandela was -- such a symbol, and it was very clear that it would be the achievement -- it would be the first strong sign that apartheid was going to die, that his release will automatically lead to the end of apartheid. That was the objective.

ANDERSON: Why did it take someone like you, as opposed to politicians, diplomats, or even the intelligence community at the time, to mediate between African leaders, do you think?

OLLIVIER: I think it's a combination of many things. Number one, I have been around for a long time. I had already quite a good reputation that when I make a promise or when I'm committed to someone of something, I will try my best to achieve what I have been committed.

And Africa is a world of words, and one comfort from one leader will give comfort to the other leader automatically. It starts by one and it goes to the second one and it goes to the third one, and as I never fail and never lie and never mislead the people I was dealing with, this trust was very well and easily established.

ANDERSON: You were in the stadium that day when Mandela addressed the crowds following his release. What was going through your mind at that time?

OLLIVIER: Very happy that I was totally anonymous, that nobody knew about what I had done. Very happy about it. And of course very happy to see for the first time with my own eyes the man I've tried to get out of jail so hard -- with such a determination and such a conviction.

And of course, the fact that he was not aware of what I was doing was giving me an immense feeling of pride and happiness.

ANDERSON: I've heard you allude to Martin Luther King when you talk about Mandela. Just draw the comparisons, if you will.

OLLIVIER: I suppose that Mandela is having a dream. He lives for that dream, whether he will see before he goes from planet Earth this dream to be achieved, I doubt. I think he has created a path but certainly not has seen the end of the road.

There is a long, long way to -- long walk to freedom, as his memory says. And we have not finished with South Africa, we have not gone back to what should be happening, and maybe it will come sooner than we all expect.

ANDERSON: What do you think the impact of Mandela's death will be? Do you have any concerns regarding South Africa?

OLLIVIER: Mandela was a unique situation where the whole world was backing for one idea and one man, knowing that if it will be achieved, the world will change. The world was for the first time unified in a fantastic cause.


VERJEE: An update for you now to a story that we've been following high above the New York streets. Just take a look at this shot, OK? The city's fire department says it's rescued two people who had actually been stranded on that scaffolding.

It's near the top of the Hearst Tower. That tower's located in midtown Manhattan. It's 46 stories high. But there's good news to report because both workers who had been trapped are now safe.

In tonight's Parting Shots, we have a tribute to the world's oldest living person, who's died in Japan at the age of 116. Jiroemon Kimura passed away from natural causes in the town of Kyotango. He had 7 children, 14 grandchildren, and then 25 great-grandchildren.

Let's put his age into perspective here for you, because he's lived through some pretty major world events, which many of us have only read about in history books, like the sinking of the Titanic. He was just a few days shy of his 15th birthday when the liner hit an iceberg and then sank in 1912.

He's lived through a century of conflicts large and small, two world wars, including the atomic bombs that dropped on his country at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And he's lived under four successive Japanese emperors and a grand total of 61 prime ministers.

I'm Zain Verjee, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks for watching.