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Ban Confirms Postponing May 28 Talks, Saudis Want Riyadh Declaration As Basis

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- The UN's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below. Some of the UN's bungling is entirely public. Two days after Inner City Press and others reported that the May 28 talks were postponed or canceled, only on the afternoon of May 26 did Ban confirm the postponement. Here is his announcement:

"The Secretary-General has asked his Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to postpone the consultations in Geneva planned for 28 May following a request from the Government of Yemen and other key stakeholders for more time to prepare. The Secretary-General is actively working to convene the talks at the earliest possible time.

The Secretary-General is disappointed that it has not been possible to commence such an important initiative at the soonest possible date and reiterates his call for all parties to engage in United Nations-facilitated consultations in good faith and without pre-conditions. He also reiterates that the only durable resolution to the crisis in Yemen is an inclusive, negotiated political settlement.  

The Secretary-General has instructed his Special Envoy to redouble his efforts to consult with the Yemeni Government, Yemen’s political groupings and countries in the region with the aim of producing a comprehensive ceasefire and the resumption of peaceful dialogue and an orderly political transition.

Noting that the conflict has escalated once again following a much-needed five-day humanitarian pause, the Secretary-General urges all parties to be mindful of the suffering of Yemeni civilians, and to support the efforts of the Special Envoy. He is acutely aware that a postponement or delay in a return to the political process will exacerbate a steadily deepening humanitarian crisis.

The Geneva initiative, aimed at bringing together a broad range of Yemeni governmental and other actors, follows extensive consultations by the Special Envoy as well as strong expressions of support by various Security Council resolutions, including 2216 (2015), for a peaceful and Yemeni-led political transition process based on the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism and the outcomes of the comprehensive National Dialogue Conference. "

 On May 24 Inner City Press was informed that the UN already informed the Houthis and other participants that May 28 was off.

  But what were and are the Saudis' demands? Inner City Press is exclusively informed by well placed sources that the Saudis demand that the basis -- and constraints -- of the Geneva meeting be the "Riyadh Declaration," reached without any involvement by the Houthis.

  The UN already let the Saudis name individuals who would attend under the heading "women, youth and civil society." The GCC and the G14 were to attend -- the deck was already stacked for the Saudis. But they wanted the Riyadh Declaration as the basis (just as they excluded the September 2014 Peace and Partnership Agreement).

 Or, as one well place source put it, the Saudis don't WANT a UN process, "they want to keep bombing, either to eliminate the Houthis" - a la Sri Lanka and the LTTE -- or to "make them capitulate and agree to a final meeting in Riyadh."

   The Houthis agreeing to that, ever, seems unlikely. It is the UN of Ban Ki-moon that has capitulated. Watch this site.

  First the UN allowed US Secretary of State John Kerry to tell it not to dare hold Yemen talks in Geneva on May 11 as the UN had planned, as Inner City Press exclusively reported on May 6.

  Now the May 28 talks in Geneva, conveniently after the Houthi-less talks in Riyadh, will be stacked in ways both pro-Saudi and laughable, sources tell Inner City Press.

 New Saudi-picked "UN" envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who appeared on the podium in Riyadh, has dropped from the list of documents on which the May 28 talks are based the Peace and Partnership Agreement that all Yemeni political parties agreed to on September 21, 2014.

  The reason? Saudi Arabia doesn't like what was agreed to at that time: it created obligations not only for the Houthis but also for Hadi. So it is gone.

Update: and now, at least for now, so is Hadi. Despite the May 28 talks being Saudi dominated, Hadi says he won't go unless Security Council resolution 2216 is "fully implemented." And about about the Peace and Partnership Agreement that he signed but didn't implement? We'll have more on this.

   Slated for attendance on May 28 are the Saudi-led Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Gulf Cooperation Council currently headed by Bahrain and GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani - but notably not Iran. The number of seats for the Houthis will be limited.

  Who else is slated to go? Causing laughter in diplomatic circle and in Yemen where it is sorely needed, Cheikh Ahmed is angling to fly in the so-called Children's Parliament organized by an NGO in Yemen, as well as their parents and guardians. "Who is paying for this?" one source demanded of Inner City Press.

  Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric at the UN noon briefing on May 26.

  This last step is blamed by the sources on Cheikh Ahmed having little political background. Inner City Press has already reported on his failure while previously in Yemen to protect UN staff -- failure to pick up the armored vehicles from the airport or have the recommended security detail with staff going to the airport, leading to the long kidnapping of a UNICEF staffer.

 But even at UNICEF, Cheikh Ahmed was in human resources, not substantive policy. And the Press questions about his fishing business and its funders remain UNanswered. We'll have more on this.

  For now, this: Inner City Press is informed that after Cheikh Ahmed's quick visit to Iran, he was summoned back to Riyadh and, highly irregular for the UN, went without his policy "team," not even a note-taker. What might have been discussed?

  The UN, we note, routinely refuses to answer Press questions.

  Back on April 29, Inner City Press asked the UN's deputy spokesperson to confirm that the UN was considering Geneva as a venue to continue Yemen talks, after its previous envoy Jamal Benomar resigned in protest of Saudi airstrikes and was replaced by a more amenable envoy, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed.


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