al jazeera america. russia says it has started ceasefire negotiations with rebel groups in five syrian provinces. ♪ i'm lauren taylor this is al jazeera live from london. also coming up. final day of campaigning in iran as people get ready to go to the polls in two elections. documents show a european telecoms giant sold surveillance equipment to a secret branch of the egyptian government. plus -- >> i'm phil lavelle in los angeles where we are days away
from the oscars, but it is who was not nominated that people are talking about this year. hello, russia says it has started ceasefire negotiations with rebel groups in syria. it follows an agreement between russia and the u.s. for cessation of hostilities that is set to begin on saturday. let's bring in james bayes at the united nations in new york. james what more do you know? >> reporter: well, this is happening at the same time as other things are happening here at the united nations. and what i think they are try doing is put all of the pieces in place to try to give this idea of a cessation of hostilities the best chance it could have. i can tell you the other very important development in the past few minutes news from the united nations, an announcement to the u.n. security council that for the first time, the u.n. has air dropped aid to
daraa, the place where they can't get aid in by land, because it is effectively besieged by isil. 21 tons of aid have been delivered to daraa. that is an important development. but also at the same meeting, we have stringing criticism of the syrian government from steven o'brien, the humanitarian chief of the united nations, who said that they put in place lots of bureaucratic complexities. he described them as staggering, which are making it very, hard to get the aid to the besieged areas by the government. and they said the humanitarian situation in syria is not as bad as it is in yemen. and he said the aid wasn't getting there because of what he described as terrorists, and then he added have you ever seen
a starving terrorist. so only interesting language on this humanitarian picture. there is, in the wings, i think, potentially another part of what is going on here at the united nations, we're getting word that perhaps there is going to be a u.n. security council resolution to endorse this idea of a cessation of hostilities. we are hearing that from the russians who are one of the cosponsors of the munich process that produced this idea of a cessation on saturday morning. and when i asked the american ambassador about the idea, she told me simply watch this space. >> all interesting developments. just stay there for a moment. we have got steven o'briens clip that we recorded earlier. >> earlier this morning, a wfp plane dropped the first cargo of
21 tons of items into daraa zore. we have received confirmation that targets have landed on the ground as planned. >> james do we know how big this operation will be, and if you wouldn't mind giving us an indication on the security council resolutions, what the timing of that could be if it does go ahead. >> reporter: if there is a u.n. security council resolution, not clear on the timings, but clearly, i think they want to put it in place before that cessation is supposed to start. the idea to give it the legal weight of the u.n. security council. not clear if we're going to get further aid deliveries in the coming hours, or further aid drops. i can tell you a meeting will take place on thursday morning, geneva time, which is the next meeting of the humanitarian task force set up by staffan de
mistura, the special envoy to syria. if the cessation of hostility holds for a bit, then i'm told he wants to try to restart those peace talks that collapsed earlier this year in geneva. i'm told he wants to start them next week, at the beginning of march. >> james bayes thank you very much indeed. staying with the issue of syria, the british government says there is disturbing evidence that syrian kurdish fighters are coordinating with the syrian government and russian air force. philip hammond says it has left him distinctly uneasy about the role of kurdish fighters known as the ypg. the group has previously been helped by the u.s., but they have taken advantage of the offensive in aleppo to push opposition out of there.
it is already viewed as a terrorist organization by turkey. paul brennan has more. >> reporter: syria's complex civil war has become even more complicated by the presence of isil, both in syria, and iraq. leaving combatants and their international backers fighting on multiple fronts. the british foreign secretary has been briefing the u.k. parliament. there was praise for the extraordinary resill lens of kurdish peshmerga fighters in iraq. but syria, he said is different. >> what we have seen is very distumenting evidence of coordination between the syrian forces, the kurdish forces and the russian air force. >> reporter: for syria kurds, read the ypg, the military wing of a syrian affiliate of the
pkk, which turkey and britain regard as a terrorist group. the united nations military support for the ypg is deeply problematic, therefore. but a former leader, says the kurdish loyalty to the west is consistent. >> they are for years fighting not just against isis, but also against al-nusra, because they besieged kobani, they besieged [ inaudible ] and many other kurdish places. rrm one analysts says cooperation between assads forces and the ypg occurs only where both sides happen to be fighting their common enemy, which is isil. though the relationship emphasizes the complex proxy war being fought in syria. >> you have multiple external actors trying to coordinate with partners on the ground who can act as effective proxy forces, but it always underlines the
fact you have multiple external actors who have very different objectives of what they are trying to achieve in syria. >> reporter: the cessation of hostilities expected this week, could scarily be more fragile. >> for more on this, let's speak to our correspondent close to the syrian border. how significant of presence are the ypg in northern syria? >> reporter: lauren their presence has become a lot more significant as we heard in paul's report since the emergence of isil there. the important role they are playing is on two fronts. on the one front it is the battle with isil, we saw that in the battle for kobani, just around -- a few months ago -- or more than that, actually, but more significant has been their coordination, as the british foreign minister put it today evidence of that coordination with the syrian government. in fact bashar al-assad's senior
advisor, a few days ago, described them as battalion of the syrian army, something which angered some of the kurdish fighters, because they wanted to insist on their independence from the syria regime, but comments like that go in line with the evidence that has been displayed by the turkish government to its allies that the ypsgshgz in cahoots at least on the ground with the syrian government, which really needs more boots on the ground, and that's why it has gone in an alliance with the ypg. >> what about the announcement that kurdish fighters are trying to change the demographic, if you would like of northern syria? >> reporter: this is probably one of the more significant accusations leveled against the ypg, and their political front, the pyd, the kurdish fighters have been looking for some sort of autonomy from syria, and they are linked with the kurdish
fighters who have been looking for autonomy from turkey as well. and what they have been accused of by amnesty international and other human rights organizations, as well as the turkish prime minister, was that they were trying to clear out the northern villages and towns from their arab occupants so when there is a resolution to this conflict, when it comes to dividend i having up, maybe, power in different place,s, then the demographics have changed. and that's why turkey says it is essentially keeping over a hundred thousand refugees on the syrian side of the border, but they don't want them to come into turkey, because they say they don't want to essentially give a freehand to the kurdish forces and the russians. >> thank you very much indeed. the cessation hoffs illties in syria has been discussed by
the russian government and his syrian counterpart, bashar al-assad. cessation is set to begin on saturday. the kremlin says assad confirmed his government is ready to assist with it. rory challands has the latest from moscow. >> reporter: it's been a very busy day of telephone diplomacy for vladimir putin. first of all, he spoke to president bashar al-assad. now remember a few days ago, assad said he wanted to carry on fighting in syria to retake the whole country. russia essentially was forced to tell him to shut up, and it does seem now like bashar al-assad at least on paper is pledging commitment to the u.s.-russian brokered ceasefire plan for syria. after that, putin spoke to the saudi arabiian king, and spoke to raw dhani of rooirn -- iran,
and to benjamin netenyahu. all of this seems to be suggesting that russia is a power broker and a force to be reckoned with. you get a sense of cautious optimism coming out of russia now. they are on the cusp of maintaining two of their goals. the first was to shore up bashar al-assad, but the second goal, was to convince the united states that russia is an equal partner and needs to be treated with due respect in the middle east. ♪ campaigning is continuing in iran where people will go to the polls on friday. there are two elections, one por the parliament, and another for the body that chooses the ne
next -- supreme leader. >> reporter: at the end of the day, people are more concerned about the economy, what has happened in the light of the nuclear deal on july 14th, which was basically described as a break through for iran because of the sanctions lift, but we haven't seen the effects of the lifting of sanctions on the streets yet. so whether or not people will sway towards the reformists and moderates isn't clear. but one thing is certain, all of the campaigners, of all colors of all persuasions are desperately trying to get people out to vote, because these are the parliamentary and the assembly of expert elections, not the presidential elections, for example in 2013 there was a 72% turnout when president rouhani was elected. and of course this is a litmus test of his popularity. still ahead, shrinking
>> our american story is written everyday. it's not always pretty, but it's real... and we show you like no-one else can. this is our american story. this is america tonight. ♪ hello again, a reminder of the top stories on al jazeera. russia says it started ceasefire negotiations with rebel groups in syria. as -- it follows a phone conversation between putin and
bashar al-assad. south africas finance minister has presented what has been described as a crisis budget. he has raised taxes and targeted what he calls wasteful and corrupt government spending. tania page has more from cape town. >> reporter: some sobering numbers coming out of the budget delivered in the parliament behind me here. economic growth expected to slow to only 0.9%. public debt rising to 51%. the government says the global commodity slump is to blame. things that south africa exports are simply not in demand. to plug the gap in revenue, the government says it is going to raise taxes on expenditures, things like alcohol, cigarettes, the fuel levy, and introduce a new sugar tax.
it also wants to cut government spending. he finance minister said there was far too much corruption, that the public sector was bloated and there is going to be a freeze on new hiring in the public sector. some good news for the students who stormed this parliament last year, demanding a cap on university fees. an extra billion dollars allocated to cover that shortfall after the president promised he had heard them that he would freeze fees, and also a million dollars for drought relief. whether he has done enough to avoid a ratings downgrade, remains to be seen. al jazeera has seen documents showing that an arm of the german telecoms giants sold surveillance equipment to a secret branch of the egyptian government. the equipment could be used to spy on the public.
lawrence lee reports. >> reporter: these documents obtained by privacy international cast a new light on the length that the egyptian governments have gone to protect themselves. they have a secret arm of the state. documents show that the german multinational has sold equipment to the trd, capable of allowing them to conduct mass surveillance, a opinion steering system to listen to the mobile phones of the public at large. >> they have the biggest budget in egypt. and they are the ones who are also looking for the next new technology, the sort of more high-tech, up to date technologies to conduct surveillance. so of course from the perspective of western companies that are trying to sell new products, the trd is the obvious
customer. >> reporter: the sales date back to before 2011 when mubarak was ousted as president, suggesting that they weren't only facilitated to help clamp down on descent after the arab spring. this audio clip lifted from a mobile phone call is between the son of the jailed former president, morsi, and close friend, in which they discuss what to do after hundreds of protesters were killed by egypt's security services in 2013. the clip was played on egyptian television. then he and his father were arrested and jailed. his brother is convinced this technology helped portray them and thousands of others as traitors. >> they tried to log on to their phones, and take personal information from there. now it becomes -- someone like for many activists now who are
in egypt and trying to work in the fields of human rights, for example, or work in the fields of trying to -- any civil society actions, they have to take extreme security precautions, because they know that the security services want to have surveillance on them. >> you have to hack your target. >> reporter: this revelation comes after an italian surveillance company called hacking team was itself hacked and thousands of documents put in the public domain. they had been selling the egyptian government malware to allow security teams to control people's electronic devices. no european companies can export this sort of surveillance equipment to egypt without the permission of their governments. a group of european politicians will now call on germany and italy to explain why they think these sales to egypt were appropriate. >> we have a responsible for our own companies here in europe. and those dpaens have accepted that they are responsible for
the united nations guarding human rights. and in this instance it is very clear to me that those guidelines are being breached and these exports are wrong. >> reporter: hacking team pointed out that the sales are legal and that western governments also sell war planes and missiles to egypt. it also claimed the surveillance equipment could help the west's fight againster is mitchell. seamans say they couldn't comment. the u.s. republican hopeful donald trump says he is growing more confident of winning his parties presidential election after an easy victory in nevada. some see the win in nevada as a seal of approval from the party's base nch >> reporter: even donald trump seemed surprised by the scale of his victory. trump won almost half of the latino vote in spite of his
comments in which he said mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists. >> we won with evangelicals, we won with young, we one with old. and you know what i really app happy about? 46% with the hispanics. 46%. [ cheers and applause ] >> number 1 with hispanics. >> reporter: early indications are that florida senator, marco rubio came second, but it's still not clear if he'll now become the anti-trump candidate, the person the party establishment will back. >> i would suspect the momentum of the last week really carried senator rubio forward. coming in a surprising second in south carolina, senator cruz coming in a disappointing third in a state which he thought he could win, heavy on evangelicals, senator cruz has put his strategy squarely on the
shoulders of the religious community, and he is coming up short. >> but ted cruz says he is still the only candidate that has what it takes to beat trump. >> the only campaign that has beaten donald trump and the only campaign that can beat donald trump is this campaign. [ cheers and applause ] >> reporter: there is no doubt trump is on a winning streak. >> we love you. >> reporter: first new hampshire, then south carolina, now nevada. the next stop is super-tuesday and increasingly people in america are asking whether donald trump is unstoppable? victoria gatenby, al jazeera. south korea's president prepares to mark a third anniversary of her inauguration on thursday, critics have held a protest in downtown seoul. they are unhappy about her stance on freedom of expression. but they had to be there without
really being there. >> reporter: in front of one of south korea's famous landmarks, a goesly gathering. this holographic protest, or rather a cultural event, was filmed against a green screen and transposed to this busy intersection. >> translator: the rights of assembly of protest have continuously retreated in south kor korea. the situation is getting worse. so we wanted to call for the guarantee of freedom of peaceful assembly and protest. >> reporter: amnesty is one of many groups that says freedom of expression has suffered in the three years since the president came to office. the reason amnesty has chosen this location, because recent large-scale protests involving
live people have been tended much further away. this location has been well and truly off limits. the bus blockades used to ensure that were tested last november. unions protesting against labor reforms and the introduction of state-authored school history books, faced off against barricades and water cannons. but critics also point to more subtle measures. here we film an artist being ordered to remove a work. the police maintain they are merely minimizing inconvenience, and ensuring safety. the government says strict security laws are needed for a country still technically at war with north korea. but internal divisions are sharp, opposition lawmakers continued a marathon filibuster
effort to talk out the government's anti-terror bill, which they say would give too much power to the intelligence service. these critics might be specker to al, but they are aimed to make pint. this year's oscar's ceremony is likely to be overshadowed by a lack of ethnic participants. >> tonight a door has been opened. >> reporter: well it was for halle berry in 2004. the first, the only african american best aboutess. but now they are all white. there are no other races here. oscars so white.
that is the claim. it is the hashtag everyone is talking about. >> we'll continue fighting until we see more representative films coming out of hollywood. >> reporter: and it is overshadowing the film industry's biggest night. look at some of the nominations, you have films like creed about a black boxer, but it's the white guy, who is up for the award. and similarly for straight out of compton, it is the white screen writers up for awards. in a year, only 28% of big roles went to non-white actors, and if you think that that doesn't sound like very many at all, then it was even worse behind the scenes. in terms of directors only 12% of directors from other ethnic groups got that job. so it is oscars so white here, or the industry in general being too white. >> ben runs a theater group downtown. he is an industry veteran. and says he knows what the route
cause of this problem is. >> race is a factor in this country. and it -- it permeates this country. look around. >> reporter: is the academy racist? >> no, i think they think there is a problem because of will smith and spike lee saying there is a problem. >> reporter: this academy member has been making films for decades. he is white and he's older like 94% of the other members at last count. >> they don't hire. they honor people. you do good work, they know. you get dominated. if you don't do good work, you don't get nominated. but they don't hire or make those movies. so to take it out on the academy is wrong. >> reporter: the promise from the boss, we're going to lead, we're not going to wait for the
industry to watch up. question is how long will that really take? a quick reminder you can always catch up with all of the stories we're covering on our website, the address is aljazeera.com, and you can watch us live by clicking on the watch-now icon. aljazeera.com. ♪ soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning. [ cheers ] >> donald trump makes it three in a row, snatching first place in the nevada caucuses. bernie sanders appeals to black voters in south carolina -- excuse me -- in hopes of slowing hillary clinton's march to such tuesday. deadly storms roll through the southeast and the threat is not over. and spreading the virus. investigat