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On Yemen, As Failed Envoy IOCA Leaves, UN Hoards Questions, ICP Asks Why No Disclosure

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video, 1st Person

UNITED NATIONS, February 27 – When outgoing UN envoy on Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed did his last briefing of the press on February 27, Inner City Press was ready with a question he had avoided throughout his tenure. But UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq, who doled out only four questions, gave two of them to the same channel, with another Gulf media and Voice of America "rounding out" the questions. So Inner City Press asked quite audibly, Why didn't you ever file public financial disclosure? Periscope video here. IOCA walked away, up to the third floor offices to be interviewed by the same media. This is how the UN works, or doesn't. We'll have more on this. Amid the continued killing of civilians in Yemen the UN Security Council on February 26 at 10 am was slated to extended its Yemen sanctions. But no agreement was reached, and Russia issued its own draft. When the votes happened at 3 pm, the UK version was vetoed by Russia, with Bolivia also voting no and China and Kazazhstan abstaining. Alamy photo here. Then Russia's draft, here, was approved 15-0. Earlier, Inner City Press observed the US Mission team going up to the third floor hallways where the UK has its clubhouse, then going up again with UK Deputy and charge d'affaires Jonathan Allen. Earlier, Allen took questions about his UK draft: We’ll be going in this morning to vote on the Yemen resolution, the rollover of the sanctions regime on Yemen. That’s really important and we have worked very hard to come up with a text which reflects the very serious concerns set out by the UN Panel of Experts, which found Iran to be in non-compliance of the sanctions regime set up under Resolution 2216. So our text both makes clear Iranian non-compliance and also focuses on the crucial question of ballistic missiles in the light of the outrageous attacks, attempted attacks on civilian areas by the Houthis against Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, and we will be urging all of our colleagues to vote in favour of those texts today. Q: If you get vetoed by the Russians, will you veto the Russian version of the text? What’s your objection to that? A: I will just simply say I call on all Council members to vote on our text. That will be the text that’s voted on first, and we’ll see where we are at the end of that. Q: Since the Russians are proposing one of their own, they’re likely not in favor of yours.A: So the Russian text does not address the central issues that have come from the Panel of Experts report. Now we as the United Nations have these independent experts, we rely on them to do the work of the United Nations, we rely on them for the work of the multilateral system. Russia doesn’t like the outcome of certain expert Panel reports. Just because they don’t like the messages doesn’t mean they can undermine everything they say. So we’ll be urging our colleagues for the good of the United Nations system to vote in favor of our resolution. Q: But your text doesn’t reflect everything in the Panel of Experts reports. You’re focusing on parts of what the Panel of Experts said? A: "Our text has the support of the Council and that’s what matters." Then why the delay and two 3rd floor meetings? Even after the noon briefing, UN Security was saying, "They not going into the chamber to vote." Watch this site. The Council will meet on February 27, with outgoing envoy IOCA. In advance, penholder the UK has proposed a draft which would condemn what it calls Iran's failure to stop short-range ballistic missiles. Meanwhile outgoing envoy IOCA met with the US' Tom Shannon (why?) and Griffiths waits in the wings. In the run-up, Dutch minister Sigrid Kaag, a former UN official, met with Hadi. In Dutch her tweet said Hadi has been staying in Riyadh since 2015, but this was not in her English tweet, photos here. Meanwhile Inner City Press is exclusively informed that the new UN envoy on Yemen, Martin Griffiths, had a try-out of sorts with the Saudis before UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres rubber stamped him, and that this try-out involved a trip to Saudi Arabia and a sort of interview. Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the process, whether penholder the UK (which has denied in full Inner City Press' Freedom of Information Act request about Yemen and Cameroon after 170 days, see below) nominated its national Griffiths. While Dujarric typically did not answer, the better question it seems is whether Saudi Arabia, despite some obfuscation about wanting an Arab envoy, nominated or co-nominated him. We'll have more on this. The United Kingdom's murky role in the killings in Yemen persist even in the face of a Freedom of Information Act request from Inner City Press.

More than five months ago on 15 August 2017 Inner City Press asked the UK government for records concerning Yemen. The UK sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, and has now implanted a UK citizen as UN envoy on Yemen in the person of Martin Griffiths (Inner City Press story and questions here.) After repeatedly extending the time to response, now the UK has denied access to all responsive records, letter here, saying that "the release of information relating to the UK’s discussion on UN business could harm our relations and other member states of the United Nations (UN)." And on February 16, the UN belatedly confirmed that British Martin Griffiths is the man, and UK Boris Johnson immediately applauded (while withholding all documents). Johnson said, “I welcome the appointment of Martin Griffiths to the role of UN Special Envoy for Yemen. Mr Griffiths brings a wealth of experience from several high profile UN positions in the region, and is a leading expert on international mediation and conflict resolution." At the UN noon briefing on February 16 Inner City Press asked about this record, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Yemen now that you've said that… that Mr. Griffiths is the one.  I had asked you before something about vetting about his previous position at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, where it's reported at least that there was sort of some fraud… missing money at the end of his tenure and I wanted to know two things.  One, whether this was looked at, and two, whether you can say, given that the penholder now also has… is… is the nationality of the… of the… of the envoy, and I ask this because having…  having FOIA-ed [Freedom of Information Act] the UK and been denied in full, what was the role of the penholder in… in nominating Mr. Griffiths as the… as the envoy? Spokesman:  Mr. Griffiths will serve as United Nations staff member with all the duties of independence that that will… that brings with it.  So, Mr. Griffiths is not there to serve the purposes of the United Kingdom or anyone else.  He's there to represent the Secretary-General and serve the United Nations.  The nomination proposing Mr. Griffiths to the Security Council was made by the Secretary-General.  As far as the first part of your question, I think what you raised, everybody was aware of, and as far as I know, Mr. Griffiths was never accused of any wrongdoing personally, and I know he will serve the United Nations well, with honour and with integrity." We'll see.

Here on Patreon is the full UK denial letter, from which Inner City Press is preparing an appeal, on Cameroon as well - it has 40 working days.

This is shameful - the UK is also exiting transparency.

As Inner City Press pursues these questions at the UN, it remains restricted to minders by the head of the UN Department of Public Information Alison Smale, who it is noted is British - and functionally a censor. A retaliator, too? Smale has not explained why Inner City Press' long time work space is assigned to no-show, no-question Egyptian state media Akhbar al Youm.

On Cameroon and Yemen, UK Denies Inner City Press FOIA Request After 170 Days, Preparing to Appeal, 40 Work... by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd


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