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As Yemen Talks Collapse, ICP Asks UN If Begs Kuwait For Extension, Mulls Replacing Envoy IOCA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 28 -- The UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below.

Now Ban's bungling and worse have become more public. He put Saudi Arabia on the annex to his Children and Armed Conflict report, for what it has done in Yemen. Then he reversed course - and when slammed by human rights groups and others, had first his officials, then on June 9 did himself, spin scribes about how he had been blackmailed, how he had only sold out in order to help Palestinians who would be left without aid.  ON July 28, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: heard that in the talks in Kuwait on Yemen that the Houthi and [Ali Abdullah] Saleh side have announced that they are setting up a high political council to essentially run the country and many people are interpreting this as an end to the talks in Kuwait.  Do you have any comment on it, and is there any discussion in terms of maybe seeking a new UN envoy to be dealing with these issues?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are aware that Ansar Allah, the General People's Congress (GPC), and their allies have signed an Agreement today establishing a Political Council with broad political, military, security, economic, administrative and social executive and legislative powers.  The Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said that this development contravenes the commitments provided by Ansar Allah and the GPC to support the UN-led peace process.  The announcement of unilateral governing arrangements is not in line with the peace process and endangers the substantial progress made during the Kuwait talks.  There is a clear violation of the Yemeni Constitution and the provisions of the GCC Initiative and its implementation Mechanism.  I would also like to recall that Security Council resolution 2216 explicitly demands that all Yemeni parties must refrain from further unilateral actions that could undermine the political transaction in Yemen.

ICP Question:  Follow-up question.  Do you… Kuwait had set a two-week deadlines for the talks to reach some kind of conclusion.  I've heard that Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is asking for an extension.  Is that true, and do you believe that Kuwait will grant it?  And that's why I was asking about the possible end of the talks.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I can't speak for Kuwaiti authorities.

ICP Question:  Are you asking for an extension?

Deputy Spokesman:  But regarding our side, at this point the talks are continuing.  If there is any need for us to ask for any extension, we will let you know.  But at this point the talks have been continuing.  Of course, you've heard what we have said about this latest development, however.

Ban is debased as well. After being made to wait 45 minutes to see the Saudi crown prince, on July 13 when Inner City Press showed up to cover Ban's 3:30 pm meeting with Saudi foreign minister Al-Jubeir, it was told it was delayed, then put over to the next day.

  On July 13 Inner City Press came through the UN metal detectors early, to cover the 9:15 am rescheduled Saudi meeting with Ban. After being screened again, on the 37th floor Inner City Press was told that Al-Jubeir would again be late.

Finally the press was brought into Ban's conference room. Arriving were Jeffrey Feltman, with whom Inner City Press has been informed and reported Al-Jubeir already engaged to get off the CAAC list, Chef de Cabinet Edmond Mulet, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson -- who it was said would take the meeting, since Ban had to leave on a trip including to a meeting also attended by ICC-indicted Omar al Bashir -- Leila Zerrougui, Andrew Gilmour and spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

After yet more delay, Ban emerged from his office, said to be better air-conditioned than the rest of the UN these days, and greeted al-Jubeir after he shook hands with Feltman. Tweeted photos here and here. Ban began some wooden comments then Dujarric gestured to UN Security to remove the press. Periscope video here. At the elevator, some Saudi representatives were trying to come in without any UN IDs at all. How did they get to the 38th floor? We'll have more on all this.

For now, another money issue: where did the funds for the expenses of the parties in Kuwait, particuarly for those from Sanaa, go? Members of the delegation from Sanaa speak of having to borrow money, unlike for previous rounds in Geneva.  Inner City Press has spoken with members of the UN's previous team in Geneva voicing these and other doubts about Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Meanwhile Ban's envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed has or had a larger and larger team - and is failing. Even the Riyadh delegation disagrees with the rosy picture IOCA and Ban's spokesman painted, of a mere hiatus in progress to be resumed July 15. 

On July 5 before noon with Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric present in the building but declining to hold a noon briefing in the room from which he ordered Inner City Press to leave, used as a pretext to evict it, Inner City Press asked him:

"For the Yemen talks in Kuwait, Inner City Press is informed that delagate(s) from Sa'ana did not receive daily financial support while participating in the talks; some took out personal loans to participate. What was the budget for these UN-facilitated talks that Ban visited? What was the size of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's team? Why did delegates from Sa'ana have to take out personal loans to participate?"

Three hours later, with Dujarric in a baseball cap outside the UN "focus booth" it must now use to return phone calls - some about Ban Ki-moon and corruption - there was STILL no answer or explanation. After 48 hours, on July 7 Inner City Press asked Dujarric, Video here, UN Transcript here:

Inner City Press:  the question about Yemen that I’d asked you about in writing on Tuesday, I wanted to know whether the delegation from Sana’a, a number of the delegates are saying that, in the Kuwait talks, they received substantially less funding to be participating in the talks than they had in Geneva.  In fact, some of them took personal…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  My understanding is that the Government of Kuwait provided the accommodations, provided the venue for the talks.  The UN itself is not responsible or did not provide DSA (daily subsistence allowance)… is not responsible for providing DSA for the delegations.  That’s a question you need to ask the delegations themselves.

Inner City Press:  What’s the size of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s team and… and are they all still in Kuwait?  Where are they now?

Spokesman:  I don’t know… I don’t think they’re all still in Kuwait, because the talks have been on a pause for a little bit.

In the short period of time between Ban publicly listing Saudi Arabia and then reversing course and removing them from the Annex, what happened? Inner City Press is informed that Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir repeatedly called the former (and perhaps future) U.S. State Department official who is Ban's head of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, and told him of an upcoming cabinet meeting. Feltman told Ban to drop Saudi from the list. The US, of course, supports the Saudi led coalition.

 Meanwhile, Inner City Press' sources tell it, Houthis are negotiating directly with Saudi, making the UN talks in Kuwait essentially a sideshow, now suspended.

The UN Security Council is negotiating a draft Presidential Statement shepherded by the UK - now under Boris Johnson - about Yemen. But Egypt is representing the Saudi view, Russia going another way, and the draft is stalled.

On June 27, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN Transcript here.

On June 23, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about Ban's meeting, with his deputy, chief of staff and spokesman, with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. UN transcript.

Back on June 10, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric to confirm that Bangladesh also “demarched” or pressure the UN to drop Saudi Arabia from the annex -- Dujarric said yes, the foreign minister demarched -- then asked if the country, now or in the past, threatened Ban with the withdrawal of its troops from UN peacekeeping missions. UN Transcript.

   Many in Bangladesh noticed Ban's already-weak criticism go dormant, at a time when Ban needed or wanting Bangladeshi peacekeepers in South Sudan. Inner City Press asked Dujarric, who had just described his boss Ban as transparent, to provide a list of times Ban has changed or modified position based on threats to withdraw funding or peacekeepers.

 He declined, just as he has refused to provide or even take a question about the UN Handbook for Security and Safety Personnel alleged violation of which the UN uses as justification for evicting and censoring Inner City Press. Ah, transparency.

  Earlier on June 10, the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit told Inner City Press it could not attend a Western Sahara briefing in the UN Delegates Lounge to which it had been invited. This is censorship.

  On June 9-10, Inner City Press was interviewed about Ban and his Saudi flip flop on BBC World Services Newsday, here from Min 6:18.

At a June 9 stakeout where Ban did not take Press question on peacekeepers' rapes and Team Ban's retaliation, Ban said "my decision to temporarily remove the Saudi-led Coalition countries from the report’s annex... had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would de-fund many UN programmes.  Children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and so many other places would fall further into despair." Vine here.

 This means that countries with money can, at least under Ban, buy their way off UN blacklists.

  Soon after Ban rushed off, leaving the audibly "thrown" Press question on retaliation unanswered, Saudi Arabia's Ambassador showed up. Inner City Press asked him to disclose what he had said to Ban's Deputy. He would not, while denying the threats Ban attributed to Saudi Arabia to explain his sell-out.

  Inner City Press asked Saudi Arabia's Ambassador, for the second time this week, about Saudi use of cluster bombs in Yemen. The first time, he flatly denied it, without equivocation.

 On June 9, when Inner City Press cited an admission by the Coalition's spokesperson, Saudi's Ambassador acknowledged use of cluster bombs "early" in the conflict, on  military targets. He said Saudi Arabia is free to use
cluster bombs, like the US. Video here.

Inner City Press asked him to confirm the Obama administration is halting transfers of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia; he said that's not his understanding. Vine here.

On June 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, if he couldn't deny that Saudi monetary threats led to its deletion from the annex (he did not deny that), to explain how this doesn't discredit UN human rights blacklists. Those on them just can't afford to buy their way off.

Dujarric said, without explaining, that he disagreed, then disallowed Inner City Press questions later in the briefing, finally outright refusing to take one about refugees. This is Ban's UN. 

   At 1 pm on June 6, Dujarric told the press the report was "done" and wouldn't be changed. Vine here, below from the UN transcript. Then at 4:08 pm, Dujarric's office said Ban was dropping the Saudi led coalition from the Annex. What changed?

On June 7, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, Video here,

UN transcript here.

Three hours later at 4 pm Dujarric' office announced that Ban took the Saudis off the list, ostensibly pending a review.

By contrast, despite the total collapse and exposure of the stated reasons for throwing Inner City Press into the street outside the UN on February 19, evicting its filed on April 14 and now seeking to give its office to Egyptian state media Akhbar Elyom which asks no questions, Ban has stood pat, said "That is not my decision." This while South South News, used as a vehicle for bribery after infusion by Macau based businessman Ng Lap Seng with $12 million, keeps its UN office.

  So, money talks. What does Ban's reversal on and for Saudi Arabia portend, for example, for what for now his call to return 80 some members of the MINURSO mission to Western Sahara?

   At the UN Security Council stakeout on June 6 after Ban's spokesman's statement, Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative to the UN crowed that he was sure the removal was also permanent.

   Inner City Press asked him about the evidence the Saudi-led Coalition has dropped cluster bombs on Yemen. He flatly denied it. Video here.  Then Inner City Press asked him about others on the list -- most with many fewer resources -- who would like to get off the list or get due process. He said, We're off.

Here's Ban's statement, it might be contrasted with standing beyond this decision, on this flimsy basis, here.

 On May 9, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Saudi-led Coalition air strikes on Amran, and if the UN would admit that the Houthis have controlled the base there since 2014. "Not for us to say, "was the answer from Dujarric, who as it happens blocks Inner City Press on Twitter just as the UN Envoy blocks journalists in Yemen. Video here. From the UN Transcript.

Earlier, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric to explain Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's repeated trips to Dubai, without answer. Now we've heard: IOCA has been importing luxury cars from there into his native Mauritania.

 Kicking the tires, indeed. He has STILL not released the public financial disclosure that Ban claims he urges from his senior officials. Then again, Ban and his officials like USG Cristina Gallach are embroiled in the UN bribery scandal, and respond by evicting the files of the critical Press, video and petition, and trying to hinder reporting. We'll have more on this.

 On April 27, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about complaints to his envoy about violations of the cessation of hostilities by Saudi Arabia, and if a "plenary" had been canceled. Video here, UN transcript here.

 A month before the one year anniversary of the Saudi-led Coalition's campaign of airstrikes on Yemen, Inner City Press exclusively published, not for the first time, an email leaked to it between UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeff Feltman.

  As Inner City Press subsequently reported, Feltman conducted questioning -- some called it a witch hunt -- of DPA staff to try to find out who had leaked it to Inner City Press. And then the UN moved to evict Inner City Press from the UN, video here and here.

But still, the UN is supposed to send out its Yemen news or statement beyond its own "UN News Center." On April 20, Inner City Press asked, UN transcript here.

   Over the April 23-24 weekend, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and the / his UN News Center did it again, here:

"Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, said in a press release that 'significant differences in the delegations' points of view remain but nonetheless there is consensus on the need to make peace and to work intensively towards an agreement.'"

The UN's media practices have moved from evicting independent critical media to controlling like state media their own UN "scoops."

On April 21, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here.

 On April 19, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Vine here, UN transcript here.

  On April 15, the eve of eviction, Inner City Press asked Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to respond to Ali Abdullah Saleh, to a large rally on March 26, saying he would not work with the UN on anything. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed replied he does not comment on public statements, just the presence of Saleh party members in the negotiations.

 On March 28, after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq had refused to let Inner City Press ask Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed a single question at his length press conference at the UN, Ban's top lawyer issued a threat of imminent eviction threat to Inner City Press.

  Not surprisingly, particularly given Feltman's witch hunt, some viewed the UN's escalation against Inner City Press as a response to its publication of UN leaks.

 On March 29, Feltman wrote to Inner City Press and we publish it in full:

"Dear Matthew,

On Yemen:  Your job is to publish what you consider to be news.  My job includes the protection of what is UN sensitive information.  So we are naturally going to be at odds over things such as leaked e-mails; that's just part of the respective roles we play.  I don't blame you for publishing what you had -- were I a journalist, I would likely do the same -- but you are surely sophisticated enough not to be surprised that I would try to stop leaks.  

As for your status at the UN, you are of course welcome to continue to send e-mails to me, but, as I expect you know, others, not DPA, have the appropriate responsibilities in this case.  DPA is not involved.

Jeffrey Feltman
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
United Nations, New York"

 Feltman cc-ed his spokesman, who ironically used to work at Amnesty International. Feltman's statement that the retaliation against Inner City Press is only attributable to Cristina Gallach's DPI does not wash. While not absolving Gallach, it goes to the top. We'll have more on this.


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