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On Yemen, OHCHR Ups Body Count, Cites Airstrike on IOM, Arms Sales Continue

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 7 -- The UN Secretariat's bungling of Yemen mediation has become ever more clear, according to multiple sources and documents exclusively seen by Inner City Press, see below.

 On July 7 the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights upped its estimate of civilians killed since March 27 to 1,528, adding that one million people have been displaced since the beginning of this round of the conflict. To the Saudi airstrike on UNDP in Khormaksar, Aden, OHCHR added that "IOMís Migrant Response Centre in Basateen, also in Aden, was struck by a mortar and an airstrike damaged IOMís office in Harad."

   IOM, as Inner City Press reported, had earlier paused its evacuation by air of those seeking to flee Yemen due to some party, which it left unnamed, demanding information about those fleeing BEFORE the flights could leave. Inner City Press has asked others in the UN about this and has been told IOM should have done the screening after the people were able to flee. IOM refused a direct question about caused it to violate this best practice, then stopped sending the Press any information.

   There are countries, normally vocal about civilian deaths, which are selling military equipment to Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. Ban Ki-moon, now in Oslo, is relying entirely on Saudi-selected replacement envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who was unable to even get the parties in the same room in Geneva, much less reach an agreement. There remain, for now, OHCHR's body counts.

  On June 24, Inner City Press asked the UN's replacement envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed about the request by the Houthis and others to meet not with him but with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who did not meet with them in Geneva. Transcribed here.

  On June 25 Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq to confirm receipt of the letter and if Ban will meet them. Haq said Cheikh Ahmed is the envoy, and Ban's headed to San Francisco. The UN Security Council issued a Press Statement, here.

 Also on June 25, Inner City Press asked new UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien three questions about Yemen: cholera, the destruction of ambulances in Sa'ada and about international staff. Video here.

  O'Brien replied that cholera is a risk; he had no information on WHO it was that destroyed the ambulances in Sa'ada (we can guess.) On international staff, which the UN evacuated earlier, he spoke of a rise from 17 to 70, with the goal of getting to 200. He would not say if they are anywhere in the country outside of Sana'a, citing security. But at least he spoke - the Free UN Coalition for Access thanked him.

Here's from the June 24 stakeout, as fast transcribed by Inner City Press:

Inner City Press: On the parties in Sanaa requesting to meet the Secretary General Ė whatís your response?

Cheikh Ahmed: "This question was raised during our discussion with the Houthis, the GPC and their allies. The Secretary General had delayed twice his travel in order to be there for the parties. We have sent twice a plane from Sanaa which the delegation from Sana'a could not take..  Therefore the Secretary General had a major engagement, which was the election of the new president of the General Assembly which takes place only once a year , and he had to attend it. But the Secretary General will continue being engaged on this."

  The ceremonial elevation of the President of the GA who will take over in September was not an election at all - no vote was taken. At the top, Cheikh Ahmed said (again, as fast transcribed by Inner City Press)

"I just briefed the Security Council on the latest developments in Yemen, with a particular focus on the Geneva Consultation. I informed the Council that the Geneva intra-Yemeni Consultations are a milestone... Despite the raging battles and ongoing violence, and the dramatic humanitarian situation, Yemenis accepted the Secretary Generalís invitation and participated in the consultations.

"The personal presence of the Secretary General was an indication of the primary importance attached by the United Nations and the international community, and in particular the Secretary General himself on the Yemeni situation. I deeply regret the deep division between the parties and the lack of compromise that prevented an agreement that was within reach. The holding of the Geneva consultation was itself a great achievement in light of the extreme violence unleashed in Yemen.

"While the government came to Geneva to seek the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2216, the government acted in a positive and constructive spirit. Both sides showed signs of constructive engagement. There is an emerging common ground upon which we can build to achieve a ceasefire coupled with a withdrawal.

"While we pursue a long term cessation of violence, I call on all relevant parties to agree without delay to the humanitarian truce, especially during Ramadan. We should not forget that Yemenis are living under dire conditions and it pains me to witness this ongoing suffering. I call on all stakeholders to spare no effort to help us achieve a temporary respite for the Yemeni people.

"I am aware that reviving the political process will not be easy. The Secretary General and I have been clear from the outset that this consultation was only a stepping stone towards the long inclusive political process. All the parties affirmed their commitment to remain engaged with the UN in search of a peaceful solution of the conflict. I have no doubt that it is possible to build upon this positive spirit in the forthcoming consultation.

"I strongly believe that the UN facilitated intra-Yemeni consultations offer the best chance for moving towards a de-escalation of the crisis and a return to the political process. I personally believe there is no military answer to this conflict. I therefore remain committed and will spare no effort to achieve a cease fire and the swift return to a peaceful, inclusive political process."

 Before the meeting, UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft stopped and told the press of the danger of famine in the country, and of his hope for a Yemen Press Statement from the UNSC, in which the UK is the "penholder" on Yemen.  Periscope video here, replay including on desktop for 24 hours.

 Inner City Press was digging into the letter from political parties IN Yemen, asking for a meeting with Ban Ki-moon, NOT with replacement envoy Cheikh Ahmed. These parties, including but not limited to the Houthis, were delayed in getting to Geneva so that they could not meet with Ban (who while there DID meet with a US-listed Al Qaeda terrorist).

  While some are sure to argue that Ban now meeting with the parties would undercut Cheikh Ahmed, others point out the the underlying resolution speaks of the Secretary General's Good Offices INCLUDING his Envoy. The envoy is not the only game in town - nor, given his lack of disclosure, raised by Inner City Press, should he be. We'll have more on this.


 

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