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On Yemen, ICP Asks UN of Saudi Double-Tap Airstrikes, Bias Charges Against UN Envoy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 15 – Days after Saudi Arabia received yet more praise from the UN for its role in Yemen comes reports to Inner City Press of a double-tap airstrike by Saudi jets in Sana'a: "two airstrikes targeting a gathering funeral for women in Arhab district / Sanaa, then targeted first responders with another airstrike... People there are still trying to take out dead bodies from the location."

 On February 13, Inner City Press asked the UN's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about it. Video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Yemen.  There are reports in Yemen of what's… what's being described as a double-tap airstrike by Saudi jets in the Arhab district of Sana'a, in which one airstrike was dropped and then another one on top of first responders.  One, I wanted to know, what is the ability of the UN system in the country to verify or not this attack?  And also, an you say a little bit more about what the Secretary-General said when he was in Saudi Arabia?  I read what was e-mailed out, and it seemed to be mostly praising Saudi Arabia's role in the region.  Did he express some concern about these continued airstrikes?

Deputy Spokesman:  He has conveyed his concerns about the violence in Yemen, and he has been discussing this broadly throughout his trip to the region with a variety of interlocutors.

Question:  Right, but if this just happened after his trip to Oman and after he said he's fully supporting the envoy despite this letter from the people that are in control of Sana’a, do you have any response? Were any commitments made to him to not do double-tap airstrikes on the capital of Yemen?

Deputy Spokesman:  I wouldn't characterize any commitments made during the talks that we've had.  We certainly have made our concerns known, and along those lines, what we are trying to do is focus, with the parties in the region and outside of it, to make sure that there can be a return to a cessation of hostilities and a return to talks among the Yemeni parties.  This is what Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is continuing to work on with the support of the Secretary-General, and we hope that the talks that he's had in recent days can help further that cause.

  Back on February 10 Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman about the letter, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: there's a letter from those in control in Sana'a and in the north to António Guterres saying that Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed should not be extended and should be relieved of his duties.  And I wanted to know, this issue and the issues that are being raised of a sense of bias and of kind of Saudi control over the mediation, is it something he's going to bring up on his trip to Saudi Arabia, and is he going to meet with those actually in control on the ground in Yemen or not?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, we… as I mentioned, he will meet with the King, the Crown Prince, and Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia on Sunday.  Regarding the criticisms, we're, of course, aware of… the different envoys at different peace processes from time to time get criticized.  And one of the most common bits of criticism is the one side or another accusing them of being biased towards the other side.  We stress the impartiality of the work of all of our envoys, and the Secretary-General does support the work of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Inner City Press: Has he gotten this letter?  I mean, are you aware of this letter?

Deputy Spokesman:  We're aware of the letter.

 The letter among other things says envoy IOCA "ignored the illegality of the decision of the outgoing central bank to transfer from Sanaa to Aden and change the board. What is the reason for the interruption salaries of about 1,000,300 thousand employees for more than six months and no salary, interruption continues even now."

  (On February 9, Inner City Press asked the International Monetary Fund about the issue and got this response.)

  Has Guterres read the letter? Will he, before his visit to Saudi Arabia? Watch this site.

  After another Saudi-led Coalition bombing of a school in Yemen, Inner City Press on January 12 asked Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK, the penholder on Yemen in the UN Security Council, what the Council intends to do. Video here; transcript below.

  On February 8 Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre about the removal of the Saudi-led coalition from the UN's Yemen Children and Armed Conflict annex, for money. Video here.

Delattre said to ask Leila Zerrougui - but she is leaving the CAAC mandate by March 31, as Inner City Press first reported. So where does the issue stand.

  At least Delattre answered. On February 7, Inner City Press asked the UK about the case against it for its Saudi Arms sales, video here. We will keep following that case, and the UN's wayward envoy.

 With UN holding an event about CAAC on February 8 in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, Inner City Press was banned from staking it out by the ongoing censorship order of the UN's Cristina Gallach, unable to simply walk down the hallway like others. Gallach's "UN News Center" published a long story about CAAC without once mentioning Saudi. This is today's UN: corruption and censorship.

  After the Security Council met about Yemen for the first time in three months on January 26, Inner City Press asked Council President Skoog if in the closed door consultation human rights violations in the Saudi-led Coalition's bombing had been discussed. Not really, it seems. How is that possible? Tweeted video here.

  Here's the top of the bland "Elements to the Press" which Skoog read out for the Security Council before Inner City Press asked about the bombing:

"Members of the Council were updated on the critical humanitarian situation in Yemen, including widespread and acute malnutrition on the verge of famine.

The members called on all parties to allow safe, rapid, and unhindered access for humanitarian supplies, and to facilitate access for essential imports of food, fuel, and medical supplies into the country and throughout. Members also called for allowing access for journalists to report on the situation.

Members expressed serious concern at the devastating humanitarian impact of the conflict on the Yemeni people and the risk that it will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a peace agreement."

  Or in the face of continued airstrikes? In the Council's open meeting, Hadi's representative Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany said again and again that Hadi must be returned to power in Sana'a. At what cost? And for what purpose?

  At the January 26 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric what Ban had done, after he took the Saudi-led Coalition off the UN's Children and Armed Conflict annex for Yemen. UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: on Yemen, a freedom of information request has found that the UK Ministry of Defense is tracking over 250 allegations of humanitarian law violations by the Saudi-led coalition.  Since Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, when he took them off the list, said that this process would continue in communications with the Saudis, number one, has this process involved getting information from other Member States that are themselves, because they sell arms to Saudi Arabia, tracking them?  And, two, what… what did the Secretary-General do between when he said that he was going to continue to look at this and the day that he left?  Was…

Spokesman:  I think when… I said as soon as I have more to add on this process, I will do so.

Inner City Press:  But does the process involve specifically asking the UK for this…?

Spokesman:  I can't answer to the details of that.

 From the January 12 UK transcript:

Inner City Press: On Yemen, the president just said that they are looking for a date, and you know this school was bombed, what’s the plan of the Council this month as pen holder to actually have a meeting or have the envoy come. What’s happening?

Amb Rycroft: Well, we are very keen to hear back from Ismail Ould Ahmed. He has our full support. As you know, there is a draft Security Council Resolution, which we have drafted which is sort of out there hovering over the process and we are very much in Ismail’s hands in terms of whether and when it would be useful to progress that further here.

Because essentially what that does is to get the whole of the Security Council behind his roadmap and to push the parties into a meaningful, political process.

We haven’t got that at the moment. There’s a lot of diplomacy going on behind the scenes, but what we don’t have is a really positive political process leading towards a political settlement. And I think all of us around the Security Council table, whatever our views on the ins and outs of the conflict, we are at least united on that issue that there must be a political settlement.

   Meanwhile it seems the UN envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, trying to stay in the job, may brief the Security Council on January 25.

New UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has taken over from Ban Ki-moon, who left amid indictment of his brother and nephew for UN-related corruption, and failures in Yemen including selling out to the Saudis.

 Inner City Press asked Guterres about Yemen at his first stakeout; he said he'd be an honest broker. Will he be, more than in the UN press corps today?

 Ali Saleh has written to Guterres, see here, citing previous meeting and asking to stop the war and the killing. We'll have more on this.

On December 20 Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft about Saudi Arabia's use of UK cluster bombs. Tweeted video here and hindered production note.

  Inner City Press first published the UK draft resolution, as credited by Associated Press, via Salon, Daily Mail (UK), Fox News


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