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CONNECT THE WORLD

Syrian President Agrees To Russian Plan; Interview with Rabal al- Assad; Prince William Leaves Royal Airforce

Aired September 12, 2013 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: And the diplomatic tango begins as we go to air. The U.S. and Russia are attempting to hammer out a deal to ward off military action in Syria. Tonight, Bashar al-Assad's exiled cousin warns whatever the outcome in Geneva, his country faces a bleak future.

Also this hour, Pope Francis shocks again. This time, reaching out to atheists. Just how far will he go in shepherding his flock?

And Prince William says goodbye to military service. So what's next for the royal father?

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

ANDERSON: Well, we begin this hour with the commitment much of the world wanted to hear directly from the Syrian leader himself. Bashar al- Assad confirmed today that Syria will give up its chemical weapons and join what is an international convention that bans them. But he also wants something in return.

Not long ago, Mr. al-Assad spoke to Russian 24 television. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA (through translator): I want to clearly express to everyone that these mechanisms will not be carried out unilaterally. This does not mean that Syria will sign these documents, carry out the conditions and that's it. This bilateral process is based, first of all, on the United States stopping its policy of threatening Syria; also, to the degree that the Russian proposal is accepted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, that Russian proposal is the focus of high stakes talks now underway in Geneva. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his U.S. counterpart John Kerry spoke briefly to reporters before meeting behind closed doors.

Lavrov says Syria's commitment makes any military action unnecessary. But Kerry says words alone are not enough, insisting there must be consequences if Syria doesn't follow through.

And Russia's president earlier today warning the U.S. against military intervention.

Vladimir Putin wrote an opinion piece for the New York times, making what was an unusual direct appeal to the American people. He said any strike would, and I quote, unleash a new wave of terrorism.

Mr. Putin also said it is, and I quote, "alarming" that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries have become commonplace for the U.S. Is it in America's long-term interests, he asks?

I doubt it, he said. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy, but as relying solely on brute force.

Well, the United Nations says Syria has already taken the first step towards joining the international treaty that bans chemical weapons. And the Syrian ambassador to the UN addressing reporters as we speak. He says the country is now officially part of the chemical weapons convention.

This is pretty historic stuff this hour.

Let's get details from senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh who is live at the UN as the Syrian ambassador speaks.

Your assessment of what we are hearing -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is, to be honest, a pretty big deal. I asked Dr. Bashar al-Jaffary (ph) who just given that press conference there.

If this accession (sic) to the chemical weapons convention was without any preconditions, you heard Bashar al-Assad saying that, you know, they wanted to be sure there wasn't the threat of force before they signed on to this. But the UN ambassador, Syrian UN ambassador quite clear this is without preconditions. They are now part of the convention.

I did also say to him, look, can you just clarify for us, does Syria have chemical weapons. Because only seven of the 189 countries that sign on to this convention -- 190 now, if this is what's happening today -- actually had chemical weapons stockpiles to clean up. And obviously we get in a situation where Syria said we didn't actually have any weapons to hand over.

He was clear, yes, they have those weapons. And never denied having those weapons and their existence was meant as a deterrent to Israel's nuclear arsenal.

And you can pass this raising any way you wish, but that was the thrust of what he said to me.

So a key clear move here by the Syrians. But it's not pleased everybody at all, because we've heard from certainly the UK mission to the United Nations. They still want to see a resolution put forward. They say, look, really Syria can't be considered to be acting in good faith, because it just used chemical weapons, in their opinion, on their own people.

So they want to see a resolution that speeds up the timetable here under the convention that Syria says it's just joined. And the UN spokesman has confirmed receiving that letter. So we look like we're in real territory here.

Under that convention they have 30 days ahead of them until inspections can start. And 60 days until they have to declare the full extent of their chemical weapons arsenal.

The French, Americans and British want to be sure a resolution comes through that would make them declare everything within 15 days -- sorry, Becky. Back to you.

ANDERSON: Nick -- OK, all right. So as we hear in the past few moments as you describe a key, clear moves by Syria. I want to just bring in for our viewers something that we've learned here at CNN -- or at least we heard on CNN in the last hour or so. Chief of staff of the Free Syria Army accusing the Assad regime of moving its chemical materials to neighboring countries. This is what he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour just an hour or so ago. Have a listen to this, Nick. I want your assessment and reaction to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENERAL SALIM IDRISS, SYRIAN REBEL COMMANDER: Today we have information that the regime began to move chemical materials and chemical weapons to Lebanon and to Iraq. And that is very dangerous. They are behaving -- I mean, the regime is behaving like Saddam Hussein. He is transferring the chemical weapons and materials to Iraq and Lebanon. And we are afraid of using these weapons against us after the mission of the United Nations in Syria, or the international community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: The chief of staff of the Free Syria Army. Just a short while ago the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's adviser denied those claims, saying -- and I quote, we were the victims of chemical weapons under Saddam's regime. And we will never allow any country to transfer chemical materials to our lands at all.

You can see more of that interview on Christiane's show after this one.

Nick, let me bring you back in at this point, because as we -- as we hear these words from the Syrian ambassador at the UN. We've seen the letter today from the Syrian president confirming that he's prepared to hand over these weapons. We hear talk at least from the opposition these chemical weapons are being moved out of the country.

What do you make of what we're learning here at CNN? Or at least what we've heard in the past hour or so?

WALSH: Well, there's three things really to say about General Idriss's comments.

The first is that under this convention technically those weapons being transferred to another state also means that Syria has to continue declaring them and destroying them. It doesn't necessarily move them from the legal thing that Syria signed up. And that's if you believe Syria is going to be a good faith actor here.

Secondly, bear in mind why necessarily today would they begin moving those weapons? You have to know this has been a conversation that's been going on for months, weeks certainly with the U.S. involved laying on their pressure. So if it started today necessarily, well, the timing would be perhaps a coincidence of quite some sort.

Thirdly, bear in mind the Israelis here. They have been watching this whole area, particularly the Lebanese-Syrian border like hawks for the past few months, carrying out three at least of their own unilateral airstrikes on suspicious targets, many thinking their weapons, anti-aircraft missiles or perhaps other kind of weaponry being moved around that particular area.

So if you -- there was right now, particularly given the heightened pressure on the chemical weapons program, large convoys of stuff being moved around. And bear in mind, you know, these are big things to move. It's tons and liters worth of toxic agents. You may have seen, perhaps, some action by the Israelis.

Now to say, General Idriss doesn't have well founded suspicions there. But I don't see at this point one necessarily today would be the day that would happen, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah, fascinating.

All right. Well, things are moving apace. We will continue to monitor what's going on at UN headquarters with Nick. We will also continue to monitor what's going on for you, of course, in Geneva. Big talks tonight between the foreign ministers of the U.S. and Russia.

Well, a little earlier I spoke to a member of the al-Assad family. Before we go to that interview, let me just explain where Ribal al-Assad fits in. He's the estranged cousin of the Syrian leader and has been living in exile since 1984.

Now his father, former military general Rifat al-Assad (ph) fled the country after a power struggle with his brother, then President Hafez al- Assad. But Rifat (ph) also is in exile and claims he spearheaded what was a bloody crackdown of the Syrian city of Hamaa in 1982, allegations he's always dismissed, I've got to say, as a smear campaign by the Syrian government.

When I last spoke to his son Ribal in June, he reiterated those denials and was campaigning British and American leaders to include his father in negotiations to solve the Syrian crisis.

He continues to pull for regime change. But today he did acknowledge that his cousin does appear to be making concessions.

Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIBAL AL-ASSAD, BASHAR AL-ASSAD'S COUSIN: I welcome the proposition made by the Russians about the Syria giving up their chemical weapons. And I would welcome all countries, actually, the whole Middle East and other countries should be free of chemical or biological or nuclear weapons. And I think this is a good sign for -- you know, to do that and have Syria free of those arms, because we don't know in whose hands they could fall.

ANDERSON: Do you truly believe that your cousin Bashar al-Assad is prepared to give up his cache -- and many people say it's one of the biggest in the world -- of chemical weapons at this stage?

AL-ASSAD: I think that he should. And he -- today...

ANDERSON: I'm not asking whether he should. I'm asking you...

AL-ASSAD: No, he should and that he would. And of course he would, because he feels under pressure, not only from the international community or, you know, what he -- they call as their adversaries, but also from his friends, from Russia who came out with this plan, you know, and who came up with this proposition.

So I think that he would do it. I think he would do it, as I told you, because there's increasing pressure on him. There are, you know, U.S. ships in the Mediterranean. And this could lead to a war that neither him or anyone would be able to proceed.

ANDERSON: There are those who say that if the U.S. had gone in, hit them hard, that would have been a moment in time. The momentum now to a certain extent has been lost and critics of Obama who might have wanted to see military activity in Syria say that Bashar al-Assad is to a certain extent gaining ground here. What do you think?

AL-ASSAD: It would have been a disaster, the greatest disaster I think in modern history if the United States would have attacked Syria. We have to also know that in -- from my own perspective, I don't think the Syrian regime did it. Why? For the following reasons is the Syrian regime was gaining ground.

ANDERSON: This is a chemical weapons attack on August 21st.

AL-ASSAD: Exactly. On August 21st. The Syrian regime was gaining ground, you know. He had allowed the United Nations investigation team to arrive. And they had just arrived on Sunday. The attack took place on Wednesday. It just doesn't make sense.

You know, also we have to know that both sides have the capabilities to doing such -- to carrying such attacks. The United Nations report a few months ago said very clearly that the rebels could have used, you know, chemical weapons in for example (inaudible) in Aleppo and other places. 12 members of al Nusra were arrested in southern Turkey, in Mircea in possession of 2 kilograms of sarin gas.

ANDERSON: With respect, you failed to help build a credible opposition that perhaps the west could back in Syria.

AL-ASSAD: Becky, first, let's not say that I failed. We were not given the chance.

ANDERSON: There is no coalition that the west can back. That's the problem.

AL-ASSAD: It's true, because when you come -- when you do first conference in Turkey and invite only the Muslim Brotherhood and, you know, don't take into account there are many other democratic groups who would like to -- or who should participate.

When you do another one, it took Mrs. Clinton 18 months to say and to announce that the SNC, they Syrian National Council did not represent the Syrian people. 18 months there was -- you know thousands and thousands of deaths.

And then they went to Qatar, to another undemocratic countries and have another conference. And they brought only the people that they wanted.

ANDERSON: Is your dad up for getting involved in Syrian politics again? Just yes or no?

AL-ASSAD: I mean, I'm not -- I cannot speak for my father. I can speak for myself. I would like personally to see a certain role where my father and I said many other people, you know, who have supporters on the ground, they should play a transitional role, you know, because they should appease and make at ease all people who do not -- who, of course, want to change that regime, but don't want to have Islamist.

ANDERSON: But regime change isn't what everybody is going for at this point, is it?

AL-ASSAD: it doesn't...

ANDERSON: Do you think we're looking at a political solution going forward down the road?

AL-ASSAD: It has to be peaceful transitional change. It cannot be any other way. It has to be political, peaceful solution.

ANDERSON: You and I spoke about six months ago. Are you more or less optimistic today about the future for Syria?

AL-ASSAD: Of course I'm not optimistic, because we're not seeing anything on any proofs or anything that could make you feel, you know, optimistic. I'm very pessimistic.

ANDERSON: Concessions from your cousin, the fact that he'll give up his chemical weapons?

AL-ASSAD: Yes, but still, still...

ANDERSON: ...talking to the international community.

AL-ASSAD: He has -- he said he's going to give them up, but at the same time we hear also that the opposition, the rebels are -- have just received, you know, weapons from, you know, western countries and the United States.

So it doesn't look like one side or both sides are willing to give up backing one side or another militarily.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, still to come tonight, the op-ed piece from the Russian president causing an international stir. We talked to a panel of journalists from around the world about the global reaction to that.

And changing careers. Prince William is leaving his role as a search and rescue pilot. Find out what his new job will be.

And columns of steam on a satellite image raising concerns. So just what is going on at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility. We're going to take a look at that after this. 90 seconds away. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're with CNN. This is Connect the World. 17 minutes past 9:00 in London. Welcome back.

Now in the Philippines, a standoff between government troops and Muslim rebels is in its fourth day. As many as 180 people are being held hostage by the rebels on a southern island where the leader of the Morrow National Liberation Front recently renewed a call for independence.

Egypt has extended the country's state of emergency for another two months due to continued security concerns. The country being gripped, as you know, by unrest since the ouster of the former president Mohamed Morsy in July.

Flash floods in the U.S. state of Colorado have claimed the lives of at least three people. Torrential downpours caused dams to overflow and buildings to collapse in the area around the city of boulder and forced hundreds of people to evacuate to higher ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE PELLE, BOULDER COUNTY SHERIFF: We've lost roads. We've lost bridges. We've lost homes, cars. And we are just now beginning to try to assess the scope of the damage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Salvage workers in Italy will attempt to remove the shipwrecked cruiseliner Costa Concordia on Monday. It's been lying sideways off the coast of Tuscany. For more than a year now, the vessel ran aground near the island of Giglio in January 2012 killing 32 people.

And Colombian police say a Canadian woman who was pretending to be pregnant has been arrested at Bogota airport accused of attempting to smuggle cocaine. Officials say she was trying to smuggle 2 kilograms of the drug in her fake latex bump.

Airport security noticed that her stomach was unusually cold and hard.

Well, satellite images of North Korea are raising concerns that it's restarting a dormant nuclear reactor. CNN's Sara Sidner reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two columns of white steam rise from a nondescript building in these new satellite photos from North Korea.

JOHN DELURY, ASIA SOCIETY CENTER ON U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS: With North Korea where there's steam there's usually fire.

SIDNER: A new report from Johns Hopkins University says the photos may be visual proof North Korea has restated a nuclear reactor capable of producing weapons grade plutonium. Up to 6 kilograms, or more than 13 pounds a year that could be used for a nuclear weapon.

GLYN DAVIES, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVES FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: If it turns out that these reports are true that North Korea has restarted the five megawatt plutonium or reactor, this would be a very serious matter.

SIDNER: The reactor at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex has been in and out of operation for years.

In 2008, the north destroyed the cooling tower at Yongbyon as part of the multinational aid for disarmament talks. But in April, North Korea said it would restart the reactor.

Neither China nor South Korea could confirm Yongbyon was active again, but both are keeping a watchful eye.

CHO TAI-YOUNG, SOUTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): Let me clearly say that the government is closely monitoring the related movements of North Korea.

HONG LEI, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): We have noted the repot. China has always dedicated itself to maintain a peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and to enacting its denuclearization.

SIDNER: This is just the latest in a series of mixed signals from North Korean and leader Kim Jong un on the regimes nuclear program. But analysts say while the international seeks confirmation on the Yongbyon reactor, North Korea may be adding to its suspected nuclear arsenal.

DELURY: In terms of steam coming out of this site, the issue is how much more fissile more and how many more bombs are they going to accumulate? But of course they already have by most estimates at least a half dozen, if not a dozen. So they already have the capabilities, it's a question of how much more.

SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: ...headlining wrap this evening. Live from London, this is Connect the World.

Coming up, no longer in the military, Prince William quits from the Royal Airforce. Stay with us to find out what he is up to next.

And the diplomatic frenzy over Syria and chemical weapons continues, we gauge reaction from around the world about what are the very latest developments.

You are 90 seconds away. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, flight lieutenant Wales and no longer Britain's prince, William is handing back his wings as a search and rescue helicopter pilot to focus on his royal duties. He has performed more than seven-and- a-half years of military service. His last shift took place Tuesday. And he and his crew had what was described as an uneventful 24 hour shift.

You're watching Connect the world live from London. 23 minutes past 9:00 here. I'm Becky Anderson.

Well, no longer in the military, Prince William is set to focus on his charity work.

Let's bring in our royal correspondent Max Foster. He joins us live from the Royal Society in London where tonight, Max, William and his wife are attending their first formal public engagement since the birth of their son.

Have we seen them? How do they look? And what are they up to?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, glittering is definitely the word, Becky, I have to say. I mean, everyone waiting to see the duchess of Cambridge out on her first big, official out -- you know, public event since she had Prince George. And this is what we saw. And people were pretty wowed by that dress she wore.

Jenny Packham, a designer. I assure you know more about them than me, Becky. And the -- because of the photographers. There were so many photographers. It was absolutely blinding as she came in. But, yes, she looked amazing. And obviously lots of people talk about how well she looks after having Prince George I think within (inaudible).

But a really sort of big night for William as well, because this is this cause that's so close to his heart -- Africa conservation.

ANDERSON: Yeah. What do we know about that? I mean, we're looking, as you speak -- or we've just come off them, but pictures -- she does look absolutely fantastic in that Jenny Packham dress, it's got to be said. What do we know about what he's going to do going forward? Because he spent what, since 2006 -- 6-and-a-half years in the British military. He's really earned his spurs. He's done a superb job. I mean, anybody would tell you that.

What happens next?

FOSTER: Well, yeah. And we were told today that in all the rescues that he's been involved with, 149 people have been saved. And his commanding officer was saying -- was singing his praises really today. And he really enjoyed being in the military, because it allowed him to be himself, because he's always treated as just one of the guys.

But his tour of duty ended. And his apartment is getting ready in Kensington Palace. I don't think in truth, Becky, it's really decided what he wants to do, because they're saying he's not going to become a full time royal, but offer the next year he is going to be doing a lot more charity work and working with the royal family.

And then next year, he may decide to take some other sot of job in the public sector as we understand it.

But over the weekend you'll be able to see the documentary that we've been working on. And that's all about this African conservation cause. He's going to be going a lot more of that, he said today. But here's a taste of what you can expect to see.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE WILLIAM: For me, it's the sense of freedom, being out in the middle of nowhere in Africa, just seeing the beauty of nature and the natural world is just phenomenal. It's fantastic.

FOSTER: When the young prince arrived in Africa for the first time, the splendor of an African sunset, the deep quiet of the bush, and the majesty of the animals captured his heart.

PRINCE WILLIAM: I had no real idea that I would feel that way, that I'd never realized how much emotionally and sentimentally. It was absolutely magical.

You want to stand up for what is very vulnerable and what needs protecting.

FOSTER: And those same feelings have become more intense for William since the birth of his son, Prince George.

PRINCE WILLIAM: The last few weeks for me have been just a very different emotional experience, something I never thought I would feel myself. And I find -- again it's only been a short period, but a lot of things affect me differently now.

(END VIDEOTAPE

FOSTER: And he's just been speaking, actually Becky, inside. And he was talking about how this was the first time they've really left George. And reveal that they've got a nanny. So all that -- you know, the first period of having the baby, they didn't have a nanny. But they've relented, Becky, I'm pleased to say. Because I'd love to have a nanny.

LU STOUT: I don't think I'm too surprised about that.

And they been with the in-laws and they're moving back home. So one assumes they need a little bit of help. And why not.

Max, thank you for that.

Max's documentary, of course, on this weekend. You can see more of that in our special presentation Prince Williams Passion: New Father, New Hope. Monday 8:00 pm in London, 9:00 pm in Berlin.

The latest world news headlines are just ahead here on CNN.

Plus, (inaudible) on the road is a major issue for cyclists, we all know that. But one designer has come up with a solution that might just make their life, or our lives if those of us watching, and me included, actually use bikes, easier. Details after this.

But surprising again, Pope Francis has extended his hand to atheists. That after this.

And Russian President Putin's op-ed piece in the New York Times making what has been a huge impact that stretches beyond the pages of the newspaper. We talk to journalists around the wold about what has been a global reaction.

All that and your headlines coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: At half past 9:00 in London, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. The top stories for you this hour on CNN.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad confirms his government will hand over its chemical weapons, but he wants something in return. He told Russian TV that the United States must now drop its threat of military action. And just minutes ago, Syria's UN ambassador announced his country has submitted the paperwork to become a, quote, "full member" of the convention to ban chemical weapons.

US secretary of state John Kerry says words alone are not enough, insisting there must be a verifiable process for Syria to disarm. He's discussing a Russian proposal right now with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov of Russia. Their meeting in Geneva could stretch into the weekend, we are told.

Well, a flash flood in the US state of Colorado claimed the lives of at least three people. Torrential downpours caused dams to overflow and buildings to collapse and forced hundreds of people to flee.

Satellite images of North Korea are raising concerns that it's restarting a dormant nuclear reactor. It's US researchers saying this photo shows two columns of steam rising from a building believed to house the reactor's turbines and electric generators.

Well, US politicians, the US public, and the rest of us, indeed, woke up this morning to this op-ed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in "The New York Times." It sparked an awful lot of strong comments.

"The Washington Post" focuses on what it calls "hypocrisy," denouncing violence whilst supplying the Assad regime with heavy weaponry to use against its how people, they say.

Here in the UK, a "Daily Telegraph" comment says politicians across the Atlantic shouldn't react strongly to Mr. Putin's op-ed since their inaction on Syria has allowed the Russians to, and I quote, "run the show."

And over in France, "Le Monde" carrying this op-ed, which says that Russia has succeeded in using the media to appear as a mediator and guarantor of international law. Interesting.

Well, let's get a global perspective on this with a panel of commentators from around the world. Fyodor Lukyanov is the editor-in-chief of "Russia in Global Affairs" magazine and joins me live from Moscow. Semih Idiz is a contributing writer for "Al-Monitor" in Turkey for you tonight from Ankara. And Miriam Elder is the foreign editor at Buzzfeed. She's in our New York bureau this evening.

It's been, well -- to all of you, firstly, let's start with you, Miriam: your reaction to what you woke up to this morning.

MIRIAM ELDER, FOREIGN EDITOR, BUZZFEED: It's pretty extraordinary. It's been a very long time since Vladimir Putin appealed directly to the American people, and the reaction has been just kind of extraordinary.

It's been kind of split. Among US officials, I think there's been a lot of shock and they've taken a lot of umbrage at what he's written, particularly calling out US exceptionalism. But at the same time, the article's resonated with a lot of people who are really weary of US military strikes on Syria.

ANDERSON: Fyodor, here's what the chairwoman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Diane Feinstein -- and she's no wallflower -- this is what she had to say about Putin's op-ed today. "I think the important thing right now is to concentrate on the negotiations. It's precedent- setting, it's very important, so anything said by a leader that offends the other side is really not very helpful."

Feinstein suggesting in no uncertain terms that what Putin wrote in "The New York Times" this morning was out of order.

FYODOR LUKYANOV, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "RUSSIA IN GLOBAL AFFAIRS": The main question with reaction to his op-ed is what do we want to achieve? Do we want to achieve a solution on the Syrian crisis? First of all, the chemical weapons, and then maybe to expand the hypothetical successes to more successful work on mediation inside Syria?

Or we will try to save face and to demonstrate that free speech is not harm. So, I think it's more wise to concentrate on the first stuff.

ANDERSON: Semih Idiz out of Turkey, what was the reaction in your part of the world to this "New York Times" op-ed?

SEMIH IDIZ, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "AL-MONITOR": Well, it did feature in the major papers in Turkey, and it was presented as a significant diplomatic coup for President Putin.

And there was a lot of speculation as to how this changes the whole equation in Syria, now that Russia has not only stolen the limelight, but has also appeared to come up with a proactive suggestion that seems to have moved the diplomatic side of the equation rather than the military side further. So, yes, it is very much in the papers and being debated here in Turkey also.

ANDERSON: Miriam, a US senator from Oklahoma astounded over President Putin's open letter today. This is what Republican James Inhofe told CNN earlier today. Probably doesn't surprise you, but let's just let our viewers hear what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Putin was lecturing to the United States. I can hear Reagan turning over in his grave as this is going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: "I can hear Reagan turning over in his grave." Tell me -- or correct me if I'm wrong, but I can see the headlines tomorrow, I can see this whole Cold War moment opening up once again, can you?

ELDER: Probably, but it's been a long time coming, and I don't think it's just the op-ed. Russian and the US are dealing with one of the most difficult crises of their relationship in -- for over a decade.

And it's, I think, at the same time, we have to understand that inside the US, there are very few people who actually want to deal with Syria. We got to a point where the president didn't really want to deal with Syria, he didn't want to take it to Congress. He took it Congress, he didn't want to see a vote where he would lose.

ANDERSON: Sure.

ELDER: You have a Congress that didn't really want to give an unpopular vote. And so, I think that also, in a sense, there is a degree of happiness at passing the problem off to the Russians. So, maybe it's a lot of hubbub over this op-ed, but we have to wait and see what the results will be.

ANDERSON: Fyodor, give us a sense of how the US and, indeed, the West is perceived over the past -- what? -- 48, 72 hours on this whole Syria crisis. We are yet to see what happens with John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov, but just give me a sense of the perception in your part of the world of the West at this point.

LUKYANOV: Unlike US, Europe, and other countries, I wouldn't say that Putin's op-ed just changed everything. And the response was, of course, very positive because basically the Russian view of the broad public is supporting the government's line on Syria since the beginning.

And especially now since it is presented as an attempt to stop American intervention, which is highly unpopular, the idea of American intervention.

So, I think the propaganda, of course, is trying to present it as a big success, big diplomatic success of Russia. Some people are more moderate, saying that there's a very good beginning, but we will see what will happen next, whether other countries will be ready to take the ball.

ANDERSON: Semih, I want to get a sense from you and, indeed, from our other two guests, about not just how journalists are writing about what we perceive to be going on, but how public opinion is really being swayed, if at all, by what we are seeing.

I know how the Turkish government feels about what's going on. We know that the Turkish government is a lot more hawkish about military action in Turkey (sic) than perhaps even the Americans are at this stage. How do the Turkish public feel about this whole Syria story at this point?

IDIZ: Well, there is a dilemma. There is a lot of recrimination about Western inaction and how another Bosnia is taking place as the world watches.

But on the other hand, as a recent German Marshall Fund survey showed, up to 72 percent of the Turkish public is very much against any Turkish involvement in any operation against Syria and, in fact, the majority of those are also against any operation in Syria. I think traditionally, the Turkish public has been against Western-led operations --

ANDERSON: Sure.

IDIZ: -- against Islamic countries in the region. And this is a pattern that is repeating itself again now.

ANDERSON: Miriam, the same story, to a certain extent, reflected in the States with public opinion as well. It seems to me, across this story, which all of us as journalists have been covering for some time now, that the view of the public has, to a certain extent, being left aside.

The authorities, it seems to me, aren't reflecting the view of the general public, and that's a story in the States as well, isn't it?

ELDER: Absolutely. I think Obama addressed this in his speech to the nation the other day, and they've been bringing it up throughout, saying that inside the States, you have a war-weary public, you have people who are -- who elected Obama in part to take US troops out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan and not to start new entanglements.

But part of the problem also is that the messaging of the Obama administration has been quite bungled on this from the beginning. They haven't really presented a clear plan, a clear strategy to the US people. We've seen a lot of gaffes. So, to the degree where leaders shape public opinion, I think they've also failed on that front. It's kind of a two-way street that way.

ANDERSON: Fyodor, I want to close this discussion out with you with just this moment in time. This was the final moment of the John Kerry, Sergey Lavrov presser. Have a listen to this, because many of our viewers would almost -- I don't know -- believe that we would sort of -- knocking on towards a sort of Cold War moment.

Just look at these two guys who are negotiating tonight. This was the end of the press conference, and this was the body language. Have a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, US SECRETARY OF STATE: Can you give me the last part of the translation, please?

(LAUGHTER)

KERRY: Hello?

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: It was OK, the translation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, hello?

(LAUGHTER)

KERRY: You want me to take your word for it?

(LAUGHTER)

KERRY: It's a little early for that.

LAVROV: OK. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Fyodor, these guys look like best buddies. Does it bother you?

LUKYANOV: I wouldn't say we should return to the Cold War. To me, it's the anti-Cold War moment, because Cold War was about world dominance, two countries fought for who will be the boss. In this particular piece, Syria is important and this is a tragedy, but it's not about this and not about Russian supremacy.

I think the Russian position is, in fact, quite simple. Russia for the first time since the beginning of the crisis discovered a very good moment to really capitalize the position which we took from the beginning to use the opportunity to avert, to avoid American intervention.

And in fact, that was the real goal of the whole Syrian line of Russian foreign minister saying at the beginning. So, I think Lavrov and Kerry, they understand each other quite well.

ANDERSON: And with that, we leave it there. We thank you all very much, indeed, for joining us this evening. It's been fascinating.

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, an innovation that should make a bike safer to ride. The latest edition of what is CNN's Blueprint series up next.

And later, a man of many firsts, Pope Francis has once again shocked the Catholic Church. Stay with us for more on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, a young British designer has invented a device that could greatly improve road safety for all of us cyclists, you and me out there. In the latest edition of our Blueprint series, see how a laser light can help you on a bike ride in the night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EMILY BROOKE, FOUNDER, BLAZE: My name's Emily Brooke, I'm a physicist and product designer and cyclist, and when I graduated from Brighton in 2011, I took up cycling and got the bug very badly, and I've been on a bike pretty much every day since.

Personal safety is by far the biggest barrier to urban cyclists, 79 percent of cyclists hit traveling straight ahead, and the vehicles turn into them. That was the one statistic that I really focused on when I was designing Blaze.

I knew the problem I wanted to tackle, and it was literally a case of cycling around town and thinking that bus can't see me. I want to project myself five yards ahead. And that's when I kind of -- the moment of ah! I could project myself with light. That's where the idea came from.

Blaze is a bike light with a high-quality front light first and foremost. But it also has a laser that projects an image of a bike just in front of you on the road. This has never been done before, there's nobody projecting ahead of a bike for safety. It alerts drivers ahead of you that you're there and prevent them turning across your path. It increases your footprint on the road.

This is a bike light. It's a front white light that you have to have by law, and there's also a laser, as you can see there. There are so many bike lights on the market, up to over $1,000. This is what I think beating those on many levels.

The waterproofing, it being completely sealed, is an amazing bonus. The bracket, that it can be really easy to remove with one hand is pretty unique. USB charge. And I think it's beautiful.

So, after graduating from university, I started my company. We've got an office in Shoreditch in East London based in Tech City. And then, we put the project on Kickstarter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKE: Hi, Kickstarter. I'm Emily, and I dreamed up Blaze.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKE: You get the money to get the project off the ground from many people. So, we raised 55,000 pounds, so it's verification that the idea is actually good and people will actually pay for this concept.

And since then, we've been scaling the company, scaling the product, and we're going into mass production right now, and then we're going to be selling this autumn and be in stores by Christmas.

I'm super excited to meet Dick Powell. He's an absolute legend in the design world. He designed the likes of the cordless kettle.

DICK POWELL, CO-FOUNDER, SEYMOUR POWELL: Very nice to meet you.

BROOKE: Very good to meet you.

So, this is Blaze, the laser light. This is our new, latest prototype.

POWELL: Turn it on, let's have a look.

BROOKE: So, we have the light.

POWELL: Yes.

BROOKE: Brighter.

POWELL: Yes.

BROOKE: Flashing. And you've got the laser as well.

POWELL: I love this, though. Where did this idea come from.

BROOKE: Cyclists can be quite snobby about what they leave on the bike. It's got to look very beautiful and important. Like jewelry, is the word we focused on.

POWELL: Yes.

BROOKE: And we want it to be super simple to remove the light, so the one hand removes it.

POWELL: Works brilliantly, doesn't it? And what about actually getting this to market? Because you know what most innovators fail on is they have a brilliant idea, but they don't think about how they're going to get it into the hands of people.

BROOKE: So, we're going to be selling on our own website --

POWELL: Right.

BROOKE: -- which is blaze.cc.

POWELL: Yes.

BROOKE: And we're also partnering with Evans Cycles, because they're the biggest bike retailer in the UK.

POWELL: Yes, OK.

BROOKE: Ultimately, we want to sell on our website.

POWELL: You haven't left me much to say.

(LAUGHTER)

POWELL: Because I was super impressed when I saw it on Kickstarter. I thought this is a brilliant idea. But the fact that you've got this far on your own, I think it's fabulous.

BROOKE: I want to build a globally-known urban cycling brand.

POWELL: Yes.

BROOKE: Everything from tracking devices so you can keep track of your bike if it's stolen to better backpacks to better D locks. Bike security is a huge problem that I'd love to tackle next.

POWELL: Creative people on the whole respond to lots and lots of things they see around them, and nothing kicks off your creative thoughts more than seeing an issue or a problem. I think Blaze is a brilliant idea.

It's an idea that we would call an unexpected but relevant solution. Unexpected because people look at it and go wow, why didn't someone think of that. Relevant because it meets their needs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, Pope Francis has made what has been another unusual address to the faithful. The details on that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, it seems Pope Francis continues to shake up the Vatican establishment, today reaching out to the non-religious. The pontiff says that God's mercy has, and I quote, "no limits" and that God forgives atheists and agnostics who obey their own conscience.

Well, Francis made the statement in a lengthy letter published by the Italian newspaper "La Republica." This is the latest progressive comment that the pope has made since his election six months ago.

He's both delighted observers and created, well, some controversy, hasn't he, as he settled into his role? But he's also injected what seems to be new life into his church, setting a new tone with his own way of approaching things.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): Becoming pope was only one of many significant firsts for the new pontiff.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: He is the first pope from Latin America, the first pope from outside Europe in 1300 years. And of course, he is the first pope to utter the word "gay."

ANDERSON: While service to the poor is one of the tenets of the Catholic Church, critics came to see the often lavish image of the papacy as a sign the church was out of touch with ordinary followers.

Some church observers say Pope Francis's dress-down style from the beginning may be creating some unease, even among the cardinals who elected him.

RITA FERRONE, WRITER, "COMMONWEALTH" MAGAZINE: I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are wondering what did we bargain for? Did we know what we were getting? So, if I'm living in a palatial residence and I am amassing wonderfully ornate vestments, and then here comes Pope Francis and he's living in a guest house and is wearing simple clothes, well, I have to look at how I'm putting forward my image in my own diocese.

ANDERSON: Christopher Bellitto puts it more bluntly.

CHRISTOPHER BELLITTO, KEAN UNIVERSITY: But in the last 15 or 20 years, we've had this focus on what we call cuff-link or Cadillac Catholicism. And I think the era of cuff-link and Cadillac Catholicism is gone.

In fact, one of the interesting things I read was a whole series of interviews with men who were ordained priests in April, May, June, right after the election of Francis in March, and what were they talking about? Oh, how much they always admired Francis of Assisi anyway. So, I think that soup kitchens are going to be the new Cadillacs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: A peek there at what is a new CNN special presented by me. It examines the impact Pope Francis has already had only six months in as head of the Roman Catholic Church. That's Pope Francis: A Man of Many Firsts.

And the premier is Friday, 4:00 PM in London, 5:00 in Berlin, 7:00 in Abu Dhabi, 11:00 in Hong Kong, and wherever else you are watching, I'm sure you can work the times out. Do join us for that.

Let's bring in Father Edward Beck at this point, CNN religion commentator who spent a lot of time with me down in Rome as we welcomed in or ushered in the new Pope Francis's moment in time.

This is extraordinary. I thought we'd had enough of his sort of new moments, and then we get this reaching out to atheists and agnostics. Talk about shepherding his flock. He is really reaching out at this point, isn't he?

EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Isn't that true, Becky? Who could have anticipated when we sat on that platform in Rome what would really be occurring? We knew he was going to be different just when he picked the name Francis, everybody said, well, that's a first.

But look at how many firsts have occurred since then. Indeed, reaching out to atheists and saying, you know what, if that's according to your conscience, then God has mercy on you, because that's all we can do --

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: What does that mean, Father Beck?

BECK: -- is go according to our conscience.

ANDERSON: Yes. How does he expect those sort of words to be received? Is he looking to encourage people to join the Catholic Church, or is he -- what's he saying here? I don't get it, quite.

BECK: Well, Becky, it's always been the teaching since Vatican II that one's informed conscience is the highest moral barometer for making any kind of decision, moral or otherwise. So, that if a good Catholic, a Catholic in good standing, in his informed or her informed conscience -- that means praying about it, taking into account church teaching --

ANDERSON: All right.

BECK: -- doing the reading necessary -- came to an opposite opinion from what the church teaches, they have a moral obligation to go with that informed conscience decision, not the church teaching.

So, really, Francis is just following suit and saying for an atheist, you know what, if that's your informed conscience and you really believe it, then that's what you have to go with.

ANDERSON: So, how significant is what we have heard today?

BECK: I think it's significant in that it's so rare for someone of the pope's stature in the church to make that -- extend that kind of an olive branch and say, you know what? We're all in this together. He's widening the circle with everything that he does, and each thing he says seems to kind of confuse people and say, gee, that's the Catholic Church? I never thought they were that inclusive.

ANDERSON: Tell me, on a scale of 1 to 10, rate him after six months, as a man of the cloth who I know would appreciate a decent CEO these days, have you got one? Rate him.

BECK: Well, I have to give him a 10. I'm a little biased, being in the organization, but I wouldn't give a 10 to necessarily the ones who preceded him, but I would give him a 10 thus far. He's willing to have the conversation.

Look at even celibacy. That came up as an issue, now, with the secretary of state, who said, well, you know what? That could change. Well guess what. Archbishop Bergoglio, when he was in Argentina, said the same thing. "It could change." So, he's opening the dialogue. That's all people want. They want to be able to talk about it.

ANDERSON: Listen, this is just six months. We will continue to watch, listen, and assess, I think. Father Beck with Becky Anderson this evening, a relationship we are developing together. Thank you, sir.

In tonight's Parting Shots, we take you to one of the hottest and poorest parts of Kenya, the drought-plagued region of Turkana. Using technology developed for discovering oil, scientists have discovered a vast underground water reservoir.

The basin there holds around -- get this -- 250 billion cubic meters of water, which could supply the country's water needs for close to 70 years, and it could bring hope and a more prosperous future to the people of the region.

On that optimistic note, we wish you a very good evening. That is CONNECT THE WORLD for you this Thursday. Thank you for watching. From the team here in London and in Atlanta at CNN Center, it's a very good evening. CNN continues after this.

END