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On Yemen, UNSC Calls for Aid Access, Day After ICP Asked of WFP Ship, Alyemany's Claim

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 18 -- On February 16, Inner City Press asked the President of the UN Security Council for February, Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela, about what UN Relief Chief Stephen O'Brien said in the Council, that the Saudi-led coalition diverted a UN World Food Program ship, the MV Mainport Cedar, from Hodeidah to the Saudi port of Jizan.

  Ramirez said this had been discussed and that the UN's Stephen O'Brien was trying to clarify it. On February 17, Yemen's Ambassador made claims about the ship, which some but not all in the UN system took issue with.

  At the Security Council level, at 5:30 pm on February 18 the following Press Statement was unanimously agreed to and issued:

"On 16th February 2016 the Security Council was briefed by the Under Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs, Stephen O’Brien on the situation in Yemen. Members of the Council received a further briefing on the situation in Yemen from the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on 17th February. The members of the Security Council were also briefed on 17th February by H.E. Mr. Motohide Yoshikawa, chair of the UN Sanctions Committee on Yemen.

The members of the Security Council recalled Security Council resolutions 2014 (2011), 2051 (2012), 2140 (2014), 2201 (2015) and 2216 (2215), emphasising the need for a peaceful, orderly, inclusive and Yemeni-led transition process. The members of the Security Council reiterated their demand for the full implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, and reiterated their call from resolution 2216 (2015) on all Yemeni parties to resume and accelerate United Nations-brokered inclusive political consultations.
The members of the Security Council expressed serious concern at the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which in terms of numbers of people in need is the largest in the world. The members of the Security Council underlined their full support to humanitarian workers delivering aid in very difficult conditions across Yemen. The members of the Security Council expressed concern at all reports of obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Yemen. The members of the Security Council welcomed the establishment of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) and called upon all States to adhere to its provisions.
The members of the Security Council urged all parties to fulfil their commitments to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including measures to further ensure rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access. The members of the Security Council further underlined the importance of the delivery of commercial goods and fuel for civilian purposes to all parts of Yemen.  The members of the Security Council called upon all sides to comply with international humanitarian law, including to take all feasible precautions to minimise harm to civilians and civilian objects, to end the recruitment and use of children in violation of applicable international law, and to work urgently with the United Nations and humanitarian aid organisations to bring assistance to those in need throughout the country.
The members of the Security Council urged all parties to the conflict in Yemen to take urgent steps towards resuming a ceasefire. The members of the Security Council emphasized that cessation of hostilities and compliance with related Security Council resolutions should lead to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. The members of the Security Council further emphasized the importance of establishing fully the "De-escalation and Coordination Committee".

The members of the Security Council urged the Yemeni parties to fulfil their commitments made during the last round of talks between 15-20 December 2015 and further urged the parties to participate in a new round of talks, building on the progress that has been achieved so far on ending the conflict.

The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the increasing presence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIL or Da’esh in Yemen.

The members of the Security Council called on all Yemeni parties to engage in political talks without preconditions and in good faith, including by resolving their differences through dialogue and consultations in accordance with the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism, the outcomes of the comprehensive National Dialogue Conference and relevant Security Council resolutions. The members of the Security Council underlined their strong support for the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in facilitating these talks.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen. "

  On February 17, before the Security Council heard from UN enovy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Inner City Press asked Yemen's stated Permanent Representative to the UN Khaled Alyemany about the WFP ship.

  Alyemany said that that ship had been found to have Iranian military equipment. Video here. Inner City Press immediately asked OCHA and then three spokespeople for WFP for comment; three hours later, no comment.

 But Inner City Press was able to asked UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, about the WFP ship and about where his staff are and what they are doing. Video here, embedded below. has transcribed his responses to Inner City Press' questions:

"In regard to the first question, I would like to say that this ship of WFP did not contain any material apart from the UN material. This equipment of telecommunication, and I was a humanitarian coordinator in Yemen andin Syria, and I have worked in different places like DRC when I was in UNICEF. In any place, we need communication, to be able to maintain communication with our international staff, and national staff too. So it’s very important, you have to realize we never, UN agency never. So the whole equipment, containing this ship of WFP, was UN controlled equipment totally, total conformity with what UN imports, any UN agency. So I want to make it very clear.

"In regard to the specifics about my staff, I would like to reiterate today that nobody is working from home. That’s to make it very clear that there has been official,  in that regard I cannot. But what we are doing is, obviously we are trying to keep our staff as close as possible to the real crisis... The place of work is New York, but you spend the least time, because it has to be Sana'a, it has to be in Riyadh for conversation with the parties, it has to be Muscat when we meet the parties, we have been also in Jordan, where we have been meeting a number of political parties, so I can assure you it is very small, in comparison to a UN mission, when you take a comparison of the UN mission we are meeting, and the staff are very high caliber and they are trying their best, and they are very, very difficult circumstances. And in fact they are very motivated. Nobody is depressed. I can assure you of that."

We'll have more on this. For now, another video:

 In the Security Council, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed among other things said, "Deep divisions persist that prevent me from calling for the next round of talks. The parties are divided over whether a new round of talks should be convened with or without a new cessation of hostilities. I have not, unfortunately, received sufficient assurances that a new cessation of hostilities, should I call for one, would be respected."

  It had been said the talks would resume in March.

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