Return to Transcripts main page

CNN'S AMANPOUR

Yemen War Triggers Humanitarian Crisis; North Korean Spies Caught in Ukraine; Telling the Story of "Elian". Aired 2-2:

Aired August 24, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Tonight on the program, the death toll rises after an airstrike on a hotel in Yemen's capital killed more

than 50 people -- war, looming famine and a deadly cholera outbreak. One aid worker tells me this is a country barely surviving.

Veteran diplomat and aid expert Jan Egeland who's been there joins the program.

Also on the program, tonight an exclusive report from Ukraine. Two North Korean spies caught trying to steal missile secrets. Their intriguing

story coming up.

Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the program. I'm Michael Holmes in London.

We begin with more devastating news from Yemen. More than 50 people, many of them civilians, killed early Wednesday in an airstrike by the Saudi-led

military coalition on a hotel near Sana'a.

It's another devastating blow in a war that after 2-1/2 years has brought this country to its knees, leaving Yemen with 10,000 dead, its hospitals,

airports and factories decimated.

And a warning here, some of you may find these next images disturbing.

Rampant malnutrition is fueling the largest cholera outbreak in the world. More than half a million people infected. 500,000 children hit hardest of

all. And still the violence escalates. New strains among the rebel coalition could lead to even more fragmentation and more violence.

Meanwhile, the United States has ramped up its campaign against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula launching at least 100 bombing raids in Yemen since

Donald Trump became president.

Earlier I spoke to the UNICEF representative in Yemen about the conflict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Dr. Meritxell Relano, thanks so much for your time.

You are there on the ground. Just tell me how dire the situation is for the people of Yemen. The civilians.

DR. MERITXELL RELANO, UNICEF REPRESENTATIVE IN YEMEN: The situation after three years in conflict is terrible. As you know, the health system is

collapsing. There is severe scarcity of water and sanitation services.

Children have been killed and named by the conflict. In addition, the cholera is taking a huge toll and more than 500,000 people have been

affected. Half of them being children.

The situation is very difficult. I don't know for how long can this situation go on like this.

HOLMES: What is still functioning in Yemen. You mentioned the healthcare system collapsing. What is working there?

RELANO: I mean, the minimum system and the minimum service that exists today to the collaboration of the U.N. agencies and the NGOs, but very soon

we are going to see the school year have not started. Right now the teachers have not been paid since October of last year. So we don't know

if the primary school will start in September.

So there is a huge risk that more than 4 million children will not go to class in September.

There are 17 million people who are food insecure is the term and 7 million on the brink of famine. But for humanitarian groups like yours, I can't

imagine how frustrating that is. When mostly, it's preventable.

RELANO: It's very frustrating because the population doesn't even have the basic school to have a normal life. The system, the health system as they

said is very difficult to deliver health services while handful of the centers are close, when there is no fuel to operate hospital or water

points or water treatment centers.

It's complicated to deliver the aid to the most vulnerable areas. It's complicated to bring humanitarian workers because of the VISA restriction.

So everything is really quite difficult and expensive actually in the country.

HOLMES: You know, you mentioned the cholera numbers and they are staggering and worth repeating. Half a million people affected by cholera.

It's one of the world's largest outbreaks in decade.

How is it being spread and why? And, of course, cholera is a very treatable illness.

RELANO: Indeed cholera is totally preventable. None of us humanitarian got the cholera while living here. But the population that is living here

with no access to water or to water that is not treated or they might not be aware of how to treat the water that they receive. Of course, they are

at the terrible risk.

[14:05:00] The sanitation situation in most of the cities and rural areas is also very complicated. And then if there are no service that collects

let's say the garbage in the cities and in the country, it all complicates.

In addition, their drains might bring additional cases of cholera because of the sanitation situation, the lack of drainage of water in the roads,

etcetera.

HOLMES: You know, unfortunately, Yemen doesn't make the headlines much anymore. And so many governments you can argue are doing very little to

pressure the warring parties into helping the humanitarian situation.

What is your message to the world?

RELANO: Well, our message is very clear. We need the parties to the conflict and all of them that are supporting the parties to the conflict to

find a political solution.

If there is no peace in Yemen, this conflict is going to take the lives of many more children and women who are desperately dying right now because of

lack of food, lack of basic health care.

So we do need the parties to the conflict to agree to a political solution. We need also the (INAUDIBLE) the basic social services can work. We need

the humanitarians to have access to the most vulnerable areas and we need the parties to the conflict to stop the grave violations against children.

Too many children are dying.

HOLMES: Dr. Meritxell Relano, thank you for the work you do there on the ground. You are the UNICEF representative in Yemen. Thank you for your

time.

RELANO: Thank you. Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And I'm joined now by Jan Egeland, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council who is also been on the ground in Yemen.

And thanks for your time, Sir. You were there earlier this year, in fact. And you said afterwards, Yemen is on the brink of becoming a failed state.

You said what you had seen was shocking beyond belief. One can presume it's only gotten worse since then.

JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: It has gotten worse. And I can say per se that there are no other country on earth,

where as many million lives are now at stake.

Secondly, it is totally and fully and wholly man-made, and thereby fully preventable. So why on earth would we and the world want on top of all the

droughts and the natural disaster and the terror movements want to create the biggest catastrophe on earth by man itself.

HOLMES: You are one of the world's most experienced aid and humanitarian expert. You've seen the worst the world can throw up there and the words

you use in this case are extreme.

How does what's happening in Yemen compare with what you have seen elsewhere in your long career in this field?

EGELAND: Well, I've been actually to most of the wars and large emergencies, not natural disasters, in the recent generation. And

certainly the war in Syria has killed more people and displaced more people than within Yemen. But there is a much bigger famine looming in Yemen.

It's a much poorer place, an indication that to me is mind blowing. An eye opener really to the Security Council.

I hope of the United Nations is that when I visited Yemen in May, there were 2,000 cholera cases. Now there is 550,000 cases. 36,000 new cases

per week, and that is because there is a total collapse in Yemen.

HOLMES: The key and you've said this many times before is that this is man-made and it is preventable. Look, there is no shortage of outrage in

the aid community, the humanitarian community.

Why isn't there outraged against -- among governments, and especially those who are party to this war, either by taking part or helping those who are

taking. The United States, for example.

EGELAND: I asked myself the same question every single evening when I see the reports from Yemen. I think the answer is simply the Yemenis, millions

of them are now suffering and slowly dying alone in Yemen without any escape.

They are not in the Mediterranean or they are fleeing north to the United States and other places. They are trap there. But as part of humanity,

can we allow, you know, millions of people facing famine. A million people now soon having, having cholera.

[14:10:00] That is why we sent an open letter now to the Security Council members, all of them, United States, United Kingdom that has a big

influence on this situation.

The secretary general of the U.N. to European Union saying half a million cholera cases is enough. They need to impose a ceasefire on this senseless

war with air raids and attacks in the middle of it. They need to push the parties to the negotiating table for a political solution to this senseless

war and they need to get a fund created to pay public salaries.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Do you have any sense that will happen, Jan Egeland? I mean, you've got Iran back in one side. You have the Saudis on the other side.

You've got the Americans supporting the Saudis militarily. A lot of money is being poured into prosecuting this conflict from Western nations as

well.

What makes you think they are going to take the action that's required if they haven't yet.

EGELAND: Well, precisely of that reason. It is now increasingly clear that the placate on Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition supported by Western

powers like the United States and the United Kingdom is killing people.

They have to stop it. And I think this is dawning now on them than themselves. A letter was read aloud in the Security Council, but it should

also be very clear for Iran and others supporting this rebel government in Sana'a that they are part of this cataclysmic catastrophe as well.

I think we can expose them now and I think there will be possible change.

HOLMES: A terrible situation.

Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council. Thank you so much for your time.

EGELAND: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: After a short break, we take you to Ukraine where two North Koreans were caught red-handed trying to get a look at the country's

missile secrets. We'll have a special report. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Welcome back to the program, everyone.

The United States will keep up the pressure on Russia and continue to stand with Ukraine. That was the message from U.S. Defense Secretary James

Mattis on the 26th anniversary of Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union.

Standing alongside President Petro Poroshenko, Mattis reaffirmed that Washington does not accept Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its on

going aggressive behavior.

Once the U.S. did supply lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine, a move that the Obama administration shied away from and Mattis says is being

continuously reviewed.

Well, soon after it gained independence, Ukraine gave up the third largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world on the condition that its

sovereignty would be guaranteed.

But in a bizarre turn of events, CNN has learned of North Korea's attempts to steal nuclear missile secrets from Kiev.

Nick Paton Walsh has this exclusive report from Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Caught in a crime that could ultimately leads to nuclear war. In a Ukrainian garage,

North Korean spies are secretly filmed photographing missile designs. Part of their country's bid to hit the USA with a nuclear-tipped rocket.

North Korea recently made a hugely forward intercontinental ballistic missiles leading to panic about where most likely in the former Soviet

Union they've got these advances.

[14:15:00] But this is where those spies' journey ended. In the first access to North Korean's convicted of missile technology espionage,

Ukraine's security services have revealed how a 2011 sting operation caught one several North Korean attempts to steal their superior missile designs.

Here, X5 has a court document refer to the man considered the main spy is allowed to make cement railings. He spent months scouting out Ukrainian

missile experts. Some of whom, alerted the security services. He's reluctant to speak to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WALSH: The security services began tailing the man shown in this surveillance video. Officials say the trail ended here when fake documents

were offered to them which the North Koreans photograph. They were then arrested.

The men were given eight years, X5, who partially admitted guilt in a maximum security colony where he shares a room with eight others. His tiny

space here haunted by the uncertainly of what happens when on release late next year. He returns to North Korea a hero or a traitor.

X31, his accomplice, said to be the technical expert didn't admit guilt. He's happy to meet us perhaps just so we can film his refusal to talk.

(on-camera): Obviously, what weighs on their mind is what happens to them when they return, possibly late next year to North Korea.

Ukraine is keen to show us the sting operation and a bid to deflect claims missiles from this factory. Used mesh are being used now in North Korea's

latest launches.

The security service officer behind the sting told us North Koreans had been effectively barred from Ukraine in 2016 after multiple espionage case

were detected and insists they never got Ukrainian secrets.

"It's impossible, impossible, I'm telling you," he says. There's not a single North Korean in Ukraine or those imprisoned. We deported those

breaking the law and North Korea withdrew the rest.

WALSH (voice-over): The two prisoners have met North Korean diplomats from Moscow once, but otherwise they've never called or written home in five

years.

Isolation, loneliness and discipline at the sharp end of this deadly game.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Zhytomyr, Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: When we come back on the program, we imagine the six-year-old boy who found himself in a tug-of-war between Cuba and the United States.

An exclusive interview with Elian Gonzalez all these years later when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:20:40] HOLMES: And finally tonight, we imagine the child who became a cause.

Elian Gonzalez was just 6 when he became the subject of a custody battle between the U.S. and Cuba after his mother drowned on a boat taking him to

the U.S.

Well, his father asked for his return to Cuba, Elian's U.S. relatives fought to keep him.

His case became a cause celebre with young Elian becoming a powerful symbol when his father brought him back to Havana.

Well, now, 17 years on, our Patrick Oppmann got a rare chance to speak to Elian and his father.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN Havana=based CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now 23 years old, Elian Gonzalez walks in the street of hometown in Cardenas, Cuba.

Since coming back here, he only rarely speaks in public. But Gonzalez appears in a new CNN documentary about his famous custody battle. But

alongside his father, he agreed to talk to us about his life now it hopes for the future.

(on-camera): What do you think your life would have been like if you had stayed in the United States?

ELIAN GONZALES, RETURNED TO CUBA IN 2000: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

OPPMAN: There are a lot of people who argue against sending you back to Cuba because they said you would be brainwashed.

What do you say to those people now?

E. GONZALEZ: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

OPPMAN: You're still hopeful that there could be a reconciliation between your family here and your family in Miami?

JUAN MIGUEL GONZALES, ELIAN GONZALEZ'S FATHER: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

OPPMAN: You watched President Trump's speech about Cuba, what did you think?

E. GONZALEZ: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

OPPMAN: Next year -- February of next year President Castro says that he will step down as president.

How do you think Cuba will change?

E. GONZALEZ: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

OPPMAN: Do you think your case looking back helped heal some of the wounds that existed between Cubans and Miami, and Cubans here in Cuba.

E. GONZALEZ: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

OPPMAN: Do you feel like you have a foot in both countries?

E. GONZALEZ: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[14:25:33] HOLMES: Well, tonight, CNN airs its special documentary about Elian and how the fate of a 6-year-old became a battleground for two Cold

War powers.

Here's a sneak peak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

E. GONZALEZ: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Well, Tim Golden, the director of the film spoke to Christiane Amanpour on this program in May, and he told how Elian shaped Cuban-

American history and what he discovered in making the film.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM GOLDEN, CO-DIRECTOR, ELIAN: Well one of the remarkable things we found was that nobody had paid any attention to it. It had been an extraordinary

trauma, particularly in Miami, but also in Cuba. And then it had just gone away and not been revisited.

And over that time, it became much clearer that it had been a pivotal moment in Cuban American politics and in the relationship between Cuba and

the United States.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We all remember these incredibly, almost violent protests outside Elian's house

and in Miami, and then the protests in Havana itself in Havana itself, in Cuba.

What did it do then, and what do you think it led to, if anything, now?

GOLDEN: Well the guiding philosophy of Cuban-American politicians really since the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 had been confrontation, implacable

combat at any cost to try to overthrow the Castro government.

And the Elian story and the way that those politicians conducted themselves in trying to fight for Elian was really an expression of that kind of

sacred intransigence, as they called it.

So to a considerable degree, the defeat that they experienced in the Elian moment led them to kind of turn and question that approach to change in

Cuba for the first time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And that's it for our program tonight. Thanks everyone for watching and goodbye for now from London.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END