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ICP Asks Venezuela's Ramirez of Yemen, W. Sahara, NextSG, Haiti & Transparency

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 12 -- When the UN Security Council president for February Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela held a breakfast Q&A session on February 12, Inner City Press asked him about Yemen, Western Sahara, the next UN Secretary General, Haiti and UNSC transparency.

  On Yemen, Ramirez said there is a need for more open meeting, citing February 16 and 17 and the request for weekly meetings going forward. He said the media doesn't cover Yemen anything like Syria.

 On Western Sahara Ramirez told Inner City Press that Ban Ki-moon and his envoy Ross should be able to visit before April. When Inner City Press asked about the so-called "Group of Friends on Western Sahara" which, without any African members, drafts the UNSC's resolutions on the topic, he said, "I don't now what kind of friends are these."

 Ramirez said he was next meeting with the President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft, that the UNSC should propose more than one candidate to the GA. Inner City Press asked for his view on possible candidate Susana Malcorra; he said running is a personal decision.

  On Haiti, Ramirez said he is worried about the parliamentary coup, citing the example of Honduras; he said he would wait to see what CELAC could accomplish.

 Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access suggested that Presidents of the UNSC, starting with Ramirez, should publish online their daily schedule of meetings. Ramirez to his credit said it is a good idea. We will be following this.

 Back on February 1 Inner City Press asked then-incoming President of the Security Council Ramirez about Yemen. Video here. As transcribed by

Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, we are hoping you will do question and answer stakeouts after Security Council consultations... On Yemen – there’s a lot of talks about the Syrian peace talks. On Yemen we hear a lot less. What’s your understanding of the status of the envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, bringing the parties together? Do you think the report on possible war crimes by the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes will be taken up at any point by the Council? And do you think that the US, UK, others that are assisting that coalition – is there enough oversight of the civilian harm that’s taking place in the air campaign on Yemen?

Amb Ramirez: Thank you. Before anything else, I hope as president of the Security Council to interact with the press, because each time we come out of a meeting of the Security Council , there’s a healthy practice, we’ve always done it that way so we’ll do what’s possible without taking too much time.

On Yemen, in my capacity as president of the Security Council  I can say that all Security Council members are closely following the events which have been escalating and have been affecting the civilian population, which finds itself in an awful situation, in the bombing campaign and the action on the ground of the two parties to the conflict.

It’s our hope that Mr. Ahmed, when he gives the briefing, will give a better picture of what’s happening there. As president of the Security Council I can’t say in advance what the positions will be of the various members fo the Security Council. This will be in closed consultations.

But I can say that there is a growing concern on this question, and what you say, that the issue of Syria is being dealt with in a constant basis and the issue of Yemen not, is not the case with Yemen, this is something that we have raised. There is a lack of balance in terms of the way the Security Council deals with some issues. Sometimes some issues are pushed forward for political notice, and therefore they’re high on the agenda, they’re always discussed, and then there are others which are on the back burner, which  are reserved.

So today we proposed that in the Yemen briefing the consultations on Yemen should be in the form of a briefing, so that we can hear about the situation from the Special Envoy of the Secretary General, and that everybody can hear, and we can get a picture of the situation over there, what’s the actual situation, and Mr. O’Brien, we’re also asking that he should take part in that briefing, so on behalf of OCHA he would be able to explain what the situation is, what is the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

 We'll be there, on February 17, covering it. On January 29, the UN Spokesman threw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room then on February 1 made this threat, here.

 On January 27, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, transcript here:

Inner City Press: on Yemen, on this recommendation for a commission of inquiry into war crimes, has the, has envoy... I've been looking at his Twitter feed, but has the envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, does he have any response to this report of, you know, dozens of war crimes [inaudible]?

  Note: the reference was to Saudi airstrikes -- a/k/a inaudible, at the UN.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Whether it's the Special Envoy or the Secretary-General, I think they've all been calling for any crimes against humanity, any violation of international law to be fully investigated.

 Back on January 19, Inner City Press asked Uruguay's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Jose Luis Cancela, chairing the day's Security Council debate on Protection of Civilians, if the Council does enough to protect civilians in Yemen, including monitoring the effects of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Video here.

 Cancela diplomatically replied that he was not there to comment on specific countries -- inside the Council, there was much talk of Syria, a smattering on Burundi -- but turned the question toward not hitting schools and hospitals, both of which have happened in Yemen.

 According to IOCA's ground rules published by Inner City Press, there will be no press access, other than photographs with the Special Envoy at the start. Delegates shall not use social media. Only the Special Adviser can speak publicly, and he is supposed to be seen has neutral. There are “Ground Rules,” also put online by Inner City Press here

The ground rules include that the delegations should not speak with the media, or use social media. On December 4, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about these proposals: are they normal for the UN? Haq said he would not comment on leaks. Video here.

UN Yemen Talks Documents Leaked to Inner City Press, December 2015 by Matthew Russell Lee

 Meanwhile on November 2 the US Statement Department was referring questions to this UNresponsive UN: "We’re aware of those reports. Due to privacy considerations, I’m not going to comment on them...  I would direct your questions to the UN."

  After Inner City Press' October 26 report and October 30 noon briefing questions, on October 31 Reuters "reported" a piece citing an unnamed UN spokesperson about two "contractors," with no mention of the Houthis claim they work with US intelligence, which by now had also been reported, along with Inner City Press' October 30 Q&A with Dujarric, by Al-Akhbar.

  But it's worse. Reuters initially (mis) reported that "'Two contractors have been detained and the Deputy Secretary-General (Jan Eliasson) is looking into it,' a U.N. spokesman said without elaborating or confirming if the two were American citizens."

  Then a day after that, Reuters blamed the UN for its correction to "'Two contractors have been detained and DSS (Department of Safety and Security) is looking into it,' said a U.N. spokesman."

  It would seem the UN spokesman, left unnamed by Reuters, said "DSS" and Reuters mis-heard it as "DSG," didn't note it would be strange for the UN's second highest official to be on two contractors when lower official Herve Ladsous is the one who made a call for 13 contractors in South Sudan.

 But Reuters, including the Thomson Reuters Foundation, running its correction, says "UN corrects source of information in second paragraph." So the UN made the mistake?

 This is the same Reuters which on Friday regurgitated a UN report which Inner City Press had reported and asked the UN about fully two weeks earlier, same Reuters which refused to make public its policies, and tries to censor its anti Press complaints to the UN, here. We'll have more on this.

 We'll have more on this.

On June 25, Inner City Press asked new UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien three questions about Yemen: cholera, the destruction of ambulances in Sa'ada and about international staff. Video here.

  O'Brien replied that cholera is a risk; he had no information on WHO it was that destroyed the ambulances in Sa'ada (we can guess.) On international staff, which the UN evacuated earlier, he spoke of a rise from 17 to 70, with the goal of getting to 200. He would not say if they are anywhere in the country outside of Sana'a, citing security. But at least he spoke - the Free UN Coalition for Access thanked him.


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