WHO Calls Emergency Meeting On How to Deal with Zika Outbreak; Iran Expanding Oil Refineries; Can Borderless Europe Survive?; Turkey's Hot

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[11:00:11] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The Zika virus is spreading explosively, that is the latest warning from the World Health Organization.

This hour, we are live in Refice in Brazil, the heart of the epidemic, and in Geneva where the WHO is directing the response to it.

Also ahead reviving old ties, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talks business in Paris as he continues his tour of Europe.

We'll take you live to Tehran for reaction.

And Trump boycotts the Fox televised debate Thursday night. But who will be the biggest loser in that feud?

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

ANDERSON: A good evening, just after 8:00 here in the UAE.

I want to get you some breaking news out of the oil markets first this hour.

It appears there may be a deal between OPEC and non-OPEC members on cutting oil production. Let's get the very latest from our emerging markets editor John Defterios.

You'd been speaking to sources, John. What do you know?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, it's been a very busy hour in the oil markets, Becky. We have seen a spike of better than 5 percent taking North Sea brent, the international benchmark above $35 a barrel. This is all generated by the Russian energy minister, Alexander Novak who said both that OPEC and non-OPEC members are considering a cut of 5 percent on their production to be implemented in February.

Now, we see that the price now is trading just about $34.50 a barrel. In the last 15 minutes, I spoke to a senior Gulf source here in the region who suggested they are willing to work with both OPEC and non-OPEC members, including Russia, but it's too early to call this a final deal.

And in fact, a Russian ministerial source told me there's no formal date yet set for this OPEC and non-OPEC meeting or no formal invitation.

Now, for a little bit of context, this proposal for an OPEC, non-OPEC meeting came from the Venezuelans in the last two weeks and backed by the Iraqis and the Algerians. These are the countries who have been suffering most from this spike lower in oil prices. In fact, we hit a low of $27 last week while I was in Davos.

This is moving along right now. We have seen a change of stance from the Gulf producers who said they did not want to cut to make room for Iran or other players in the market and they are suggesting they would do anything to try to stabilize the market right now and even consider a 5 percent cut.

But to recap, this is a proposal being put forward by OPEC members presented to the largest producer in the world right now, which is Russia, which thinks it's a good idea. But I should add, Becky, it's getting support from the Gulf sources I'm speaking to, but it's early days.

We saw Russia do this twice over the last two years, go to Vienna for meetings and it fell flat.

But we see the market supporting it after hitting those lows of $27 last week.

ANDERSON: Yeah, certainly seeing relief in those markets. John, for the time being, thank you.

And as John pointed out, the oil price going as high as $35 earlier on in trading today.

All right, thank you, John.

To new alarm, new alarm, over the Zika virus. The World Health Organization's director-general now says it is spreading, and I quote, explosively in the Americas and the level of alarm, they say, is extremely high.

The mosquito-bourn illness is suspected in a steep increase in a debilitating and sometimes deadly birth defect. There have been more than 4,000 cases in the neurological disorder in babies in Brazil.

Now, these latest warnings come out of a WHO briefing a short time ago. Officials there set a meeting for Monday to discuss the viruses spread further.

Well, the disease has already spread to at least 23 countries and territories, but its epicenter is in Brazil.

Our Shasta Darlington joins us there now from the city of Recife.

The WHO, Shasta, making no attempt to disguise the alarm that is causing so many, and talking about as many as 3 to 4 million cases expected going forward.

And authorities where you are at the heart of this epidemic admitting a spike in cases. How many are we talking about at this point?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, what we have seen since the Zika virus first turned up here in Brazil in the first half of last year, we saw this surge in these cases of microcephaly. Now, since then, more than 4,000 babies have been born reportedly with microcephaly. They are, of course, investigating those cases and also while there's been a link between the two, they are still trying to really establish a cause and effect relationship.

Right now we're at the Ozvaldo Cruz Hospital (ph) that has treated more babies than any other hospital in Brazil with this disorder, where these numbers just frankly aren't surprising.

We have talked to the doctors and the health officials who are urging women to put off getting pregnant if they can. And of course we have talked to some of the people most are affected.

Take a look at our story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[11:05:11] DARLINGTON (voice-over): She was so excited, but the birth of her second child left this woman more alone than she could have imagined.

At three months, Louise has a big appetite like her first baby, but he was born with a small head and brain damage. Microcephaly.

"People here react like he has some contagious disease," she says. "People look at him when they're on the street."

There was no warning. Doctors only detected the disorder after he was born.

"What gives me strength is the love I feel for him," she says.

Luis will need to be cared for his entire life.

(on camera): So, she's doing this three times a week right now, taking her son to physical therapy. And yet, she goes back to work in March. It's not clear how she's going to do this. And she's the only person in her family who has a job.

(voice-over): Here we've seen the heartache and financial burden this is putting on families. More than 4,000 cases of newborn Microcephaly have been reported in Brazil since Zika was detected less than a year ago. A third of them are here, where babies and moms face endless jabs and tests.

Doctor Angela Hosha (ph), one of the first to make the link between Zika and Microcephaly.

"These babies have brain damage to differing degrees, which means inserting this generation into society is going to be very complicated," she says.

Research continues to establish a cause and effect with the Zika Virus, spread by the same mosquitoes that transmit yellow fever and dengue. There's no vaccine or no cure, which means the mosquito is public enemy number one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the effort is being put on prevention, by having the population of mosquitoes under control.

DARLINGTON: 200,000 troops now going door to door, eliminating the stagnant water that serves as the mosquitoes' breeding ground and educating families.

The health ministry admits it's been losing the war against the mosquitoes, and mothers-to-be across Brazil see their moment of hope turned into moments of unbelievable anguish.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DARLINGTON: You know, one of the big problems here, Becky, is that the Zika virus itself is often asymptomatic, up to 80 percent of the time, which means that these expectant mothers don't even know if they've had it. It also means that's really hard to calculate how widespread it is. In Brazil alone, health officials estimate that anywhere between half a million and a million and a half people have been infected by the Zika virus.

ANDERSON: Shocking statistics. Shasta, thank you.

Later this hour, we're going to talk to an official with the World Health Organization about what is being done to stop this rapidly spreading virus and whether more might have been done to contain its spread.

That is coming up later at this hour.

Well, the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is in Paris on the latest stop of his European trip.

Now, he's expected to reach several major trade deals during his visit buoyed by the recent lifting of sanctions, of course.

Well, Mr. Rouhani also met with his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, in the past couple hours, but elsewhere in Paris, there was protests over largely Tehran's human rights record.

Well, the French have been eager to reestablish trade ties with Iran. Back in September, Paris sent 100 strong business delegation to Tehran some months before those sanctions were lifted, of course.

So any deals the president inks on this trip were likely cut some time ago.

Fred Pleitgen has been monitoring things from Tehran for you.

How big of a potential market is Iran for French companies, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very big. And one of the reasons, Becky, is that French companies actually do have a lot of experience working here in Iran.

You look at one of the major deals that was signed today, the one between Iran and Peugeot, which is worth about $440 million. And Peugeot, for instance, has been building automobiles here in Iran for the past 30 years. In fact, even while the sanctions were in place, Iranian companies continued to build Peugeot models here under license from the French company.

So certainly the French do stand to gain a lot from this, but the Iranians do as well and not just from cooperation with the French but internationally they believe that a lot of their companies are going to be able to get investment, but also going to be able to export their own goods.

Earlier yesterday I was at one company that makes car radiators and they are absolutely enthusiastic there.

Let's have a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: Radiator Iran is one of the largest car suppliers in the Islamic Republic. They're proud that sanctions never stopped their production and say they believe their products can compete with any radiators in the world.

Nasser Nourazadeh has been working her for 12 years and says he's never been more optimistic.

"We're so happy about the nuke agreement and I think it will not only be good for us, it will be good for them as well."

The sanctions forced Iran Radiator to source most of its raw material, like aluminum, from inside the country.

The boss believes the company will be able to buy such goods from all over the world, making production much cheaper. More importantly, they will also be able to sell their radiators globally.

"Foreign companies are interested in us for two reasons," he says. "Quality wise we can compete with them, but our prices are also much lower. So yes, there's is lot of interest from abroad."

But in total, Iran's auto industry suffered under international sanctions. Old manufacturing machines led to quality problems that Tehran hopes foreign investment will fix.

French auto giant Peugeot has announced a $435 million contract to return production to Iran, only one of many big business deals inked during President Hassan Rouhani's visit to Europe.

Iran will also purchase more than 100 Airbus jets.

Tehran's message is clear: Iran is open for business.

HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have gathered here to say that France is once again ready to get involved in economic and developmental activities in Iran with new energy and greater motivation within the framework of the policies pursued by today's Iranian government. And we have come here to welcome all investors and business leaders to get involved in Iran.

PLEITGEN: The folks at Radiator Iran feel they are ready to compete on the international markets and are hoping that many new business deals between Iran and the west will soon also lead to more demand for their products.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And that certainly is also the mood here. When you look at people that we speak to, when you look at the press here in Iran, they believe that this trip that Hassan Rouhani conducted there both in Italy and in France was one that was very successful. Of cosre, looking towards that airplane deal, that car deal specifically.

But of course, there were many other agreements that were also signed as well that could lead to a lot of foreign investment here in Iran and that's something that they certainly are looking forward to, Becky.

ANDERSON: Interesting times. Fred, thank you. Fred Pleitgen for you in Tehran.

You're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson out of the UAE. Coming up, the race for the White House heating up. Just one of the Iowa caucuses and why are they so important? You will have heard us talking about them.

Well, our own political man Jonathan Mann joins me later in the show to explain.

Plus, we have got more on the crisis that has touched every corner of Europe. We'll take you to the Arctic Circle to meet Syrian asylum seekers later.

I want to get you, though, to Washington and to Jason Rezaian who is is speaking there at an event. Let's listen in.

(JASON REZAIAN PRESS CONFERENCE)

[11:15:51] ANDERSON: Well, a very emotional Jason Rezaian speaking for the first time at the opening of The Washington Post's new building, he of course a Washington Post reporter who was recently released from jail in Iran, thanking the many people he said who kept his story alive.

Understandably an emotional day for Jason at the opening of The Washington Post's new building.

Updating you now on one of our top stories. The World Health Organization hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the spread of the Zika virus. Despite fumigation and other efforts, the WHO's director general says the mosquito-born disease is spreading, and I quote her, explosively in the Americas.

Well, scientists are trying to determine whether there is a direct connection between the virus and birth defects seen in Brazil.

Well, let's get more. Dr. Bruce Aylward is assistant director-general of the World Health Organization. He joins us now from Geneva.

Your organization criticized for acting too slowly in the Ebola outbreak. Do you concede that you could you have done more to prevent this Zika virus?

DR. BRUCE AYLWARD, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-GENERAL WHO: No, Becky. We have been working intensively on the Zika virus issue since May of last year when it was first detected in the Americas.

Since then, we have been working with Brazil and the other countries of the region to make sure the right measures in terms of vector control, in terms of surveillance, et cetera, were put in place. So it's been a a pretty aggressive program of work even before we knew about a possible association wit microcephaly.

ANDERSON: The WHO saying that this has spread explosively, that there's a serious alarm talking 3 million to 4 million cases potentially. Where and how quickly, sir?

AYLWARD: Well, this would move pretty quickly, Becky, indeed. If you remember the virus was first detected in Brazil only in May and then by October spreading through the rest of the region and now we've got 24 countries, territories or regions of the Americas that have actually reported transmission of the Zika virus, so it's moved quite quickly.

ANDERSON: Well, WHO saying there's no current plans to urge women in areas being hit hardest by Zika to not get pregnant. You have said the latest advice to women who want to get pregnant focuses on not getting bitten by mosquitoes that carry the disease. Sir, that doesn't sound very realistic, does it?

AYLWARD: I think the key -- women will make their own decisions about when they are going to get pregnant and our goal, certainly the World Health Organization everyone working with us and the governments in this area is to make sure they have as much information as possible as to any implications about getting pregnant during this period of Zika virus transmission.

And as you said earlier in your piece, Becky, right now we know that there's an association in terms of time and place with Zika virus and the problem of microcephaly and some other problems, but we have yet to be able to prove whether or not there's causation.

So, the key here is making sure people have all the available information and that they can take whatever measures possible to prevent getting exposed during this period.

ANDERSON: How long might it take to work out whether there is causation? And there is no vaccine at present. How long might it be before we get one?

AYLWARD: Becky, it's going to take probably some months to be able to determine whether or not there's actually causation here. But what we have got to do, and there's a number of studies that are going on. There's case investigations going on, case control studies, cohort studies, et cetera.

These are going to take some months to come to fruition. It could be six months, it could be nine months. And during that time, more and more evidence will accumulate.

But it will be some months before we can say whether or not there's a definitive link.

So, in the meantime, we need to move forward with all those measures that we know will help with the control of the vector, in this case the mosquito, in terms of making sure that individuals don't get exposed and bitten to the degree possible. And then also that people who do, especially pregnant people, have got the proper counseling and support during their pregnancy.

So, there's a lot of things that we can and must do, as well as a research agenda to really push that to make sure we've got the diagnostic capacity and if necessary countermeasures like a vaccine going forward.

[11:20:43] ANDERSON: This is spreading explosively. Highly alarmed. 3 million to 4 million cases potentially quite quickly in the Americas.

Are you surprised, sir, by its speed and disappointed that more hasn't been done at this point to prevent it?

AYLWARD: Well, when you look at the spread of other diseases introduced into the Americas and look at how rapidly they've spread like the chicken gunia (ph) virus or how rapidly dengue virus spread, I think what we're seeing is not necessarily that surprising. These viruses can move quickly when they get in that vector when you have an intense susceptible population that you can see very rapid movement of a new virus in an area like this.

Now, there's been a lot of work, as I mentioned earlier, since May every single month with advisories out to all those countries that were at risk as to the measures that they should be taking and work with the governments on all of the issues that we talked about in terms of surveillance, detecting the virus when it came in, the measures to make sure that they tried to reduce to the degree possible the mosquito population.

So a lot is being done and has been done. What's key now is to do more research to figure out is this association that we have seen temporally and geographically with microcephaly and other neurologic problems, is this caused by the Zika virus, that's the key thing now so that we can then direct control measures and R&D appropriately.

ANDERSON: And it's great the work that's being done in the background. With respect, though, as I pointed out earlier 23 countries and territories now and potentially spreading further.

How much further? How many more countries? How much of the world could be hit by this?

AYLWARD: Well, remember, Becky, what you want to look at in trying to get a sense of that is where is this mosquito? This mosquito is found in a band of countries that really circles the globe.

But many of those countries have had Zika virus for some time. Remember, this virus was found back in 1947 in Africa. And then it was found in Asia in subsequent decades and then was found out in the western Pacific in 2012, '13, '14. So this virus has been on the move for some time.

So, a lot of people have been exposed to this virus already in those areas. But it will continue to move would be the expectation.

And just as we have seen the dengue virus, other related Viruses move one would expect this.

We could still see a fair amount of Zika virus disease. On the other point I want to mention, Becky, remember that these microcephaly cases in Brazil, they were only detected late last year in October, late October, beginning of November. So there's been a huge amount of work quite fast to try and sort out what's actually going on.

ANDERSON: You're not convinced yet, though, that this couldn't just be a serious pandemic, a global pandemic?

AYLWARD: Becky, I think at this point we're convening an emergency committee under the international health regulations on Monday to make sure we're making as informed a decision as possible when we look at the potential for further international spread and what measures, if any, are appropriate now to managing that and then what measures also are inappropriate, by the way, an important reason to convene an emergency committee.

When there's as much coverage of an issue like this, as much concern, as well there should be, there's also a risk of inappropriate measures with respect to travel or trade. So, we want to make sure that we have the best possible advice in answering the questions like the one you just asked.

ANDERSON: Dr. Bruce Aylward, we thank you very much indeed for joining us on what is an extremely important story.

You can learn more about the Zika virus on the website. You'll find updates on what we know, where the disease has spread and how to protect yourself and your loved ones that is cnn.com/zika.

You're watching Connect the World live from Abu Dhabi with me Becky Anderson. Coming up, we'll be in Moscow for you to hear why some Russians are angry and what they expect the government to do about it.

Next, though, we're off to Istanbul as we continue our series traveling along the Silk Road. We'll take a behind the scenes look at Turkey's booming television industry.

That's up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[11:27:02] SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Napoleon said if the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.

But no one could accuse Istanbul of being stuck in the past.

Alongside the history and culture exists a media savvy generation creating a vibrant art scene and a lucrative new business sector for Turkey.

Here in a bohemian neighborhood of Istanbul, the crew is filming the 44th episode of Turkey's smash hit television drama series Parum Parcha (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sales (inaudible) in the Turkish market is not sufficient for us to survive, that's very clear. So we have to export it.

We exactly know how you can sell it, which elements you need to involve.

There's mathematics behind it. We call it script engineering. There's love, there's intrigue, there's rich life of people. The script is flowing very well. The episodes, episodes, episodes, it's not just steady. It's a living story.

MOHSIN: Parum Parcha (ph) profits nearly half a million dollars per episode from global distribution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We're selling dramas to people of the countries who share, more or less, the same spirit as we do: Latin America, Far East, Balkans, Russia, hopefully we'll be able to sell to the U.S. too.

MOHSIN: Parum Parcha (ph) is not an exceptional case. Turkish TV drama as an industry is a world leader in distribution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This year apart from English spoken countries or English spoken products, Turkish products are number one. We exceeded the Spanish spoken scripted series even in Latin America. Turkey's series are number one now.

MOHSIN: Turkish story lines appeal to the sensibilities of eastern and western audiences and as a result growth in the sector has been as dramatic as the plot lines.

Export figures seven years ago were $100,000. In 2015, they were $280 million, making the Turkish TV industry an embodiment of the new Silk Road, spreading culture along the old trade lines, but this time broadcast into the homes of millions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(HEADLINES)

[11:33:59] ANDERSON: And Russian anger over the tumbling ruble deepens. After protesting earlier in the week, there was another demonstration in Moscow again on Thursday, this one by people whose mortgage payments now exceed their income.

Protests are unusual in Russia where President Vladimir Putin still enjoys high ratings despite economic difficulties.

Well, Matthew Chance joining us now live from Moscow.

If, indeed, there is a cut in oil production were it to be agreed by Russia, the largest producer and OPEC, that will clearly help to stabilize things somewhat. So, I'm sure those protesters will be relieved, but anger on the streets as we suggested is quite an unusual spectacle in Russia, Matthew. Can you see this getting worse?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the potential for it to get worse is certainly there. I mean, to be clear, the protests that we have seen so far have been very small in scale. They have been mainly focused, the one today, was focused on people who have taken out cheap -- what they believed to be cheap dollar mortgages some years ago when the ruble was strong and the dollar was weaker. Since the devaluation of the Russian currency, which has accompanied the fall in oil, their repayments have tripled or even quadrupled every month making them simply unpayable.

But elsewhere in the country, there have been other protests as well involving people with particular problems with the economic climate, truck drivers are protesting outside of Moscow because of a new road tax that's been introduced, which they say is going to have a big impact on their livelihoods. Pensioners in southern Russia went out onto the streets as well earlier this month to protest against their free bus passes being withdrawn.

And so, you're seeing all these small protests around Russia. They're not coordinated at all, they're not a single movement, but they are a sign that Russians' patience, if you like, with the economic climate, is beginning to wear a bit thin and that's very worrying for the Kremlin.

[11:35:58] ANDERSON: And what's the response from the authorities been, Matthew?

CHANCE: Well, it's been very muted. I mean, they are watching this very carefully, of course, to see whether they expand in scale, but because they are so small and because they are so unrelated, they have not been a major cause for concern at the moment.

I think the thing that's of most concern to the Kremlin when it comes to seeing these protesters is that, look, Vladimir Putin's popularity is still sky high, 89 percent approval ratings, according to the latest opinion polls. But the people who normally protest against him, the opposition figures, the opposition supporters in this country, they are not the ones who are necessarily involved in these protests. These are blue collar workers, people who work for a living in factories or pensioners, people who see Vladimir Putin very much as their savior. They are his constituency.

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