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On Yemen, Saudi Talk of Necessary Measures Draws No UN Response

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 23 -- The day after the UN Security Council convened on Yemen for a rare Sunday meeting on March 22 and issued aa Presidential Statement against outside interference, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Yemen seemed to call for just this. Inner City Press on March 23 asked the UN's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: there have been two statements I wanted to ask if there's any response to.  One is by the new Foreign Minister of Yemen calling for a no-fly zone, making this request presumably to the Arab League, and also from the Foreign Minister from Saudi Arabia saying they'll take whatever necessary measures to curb Houthi advance.  So Iím just wondering, Jamal Benomar said there is no military solution and there should be talks, but is there any response by the UN to these two statements? 

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Well, in general, like I said at the start of this briefing, Mr. Benomar did urge all sides in this time of rising tensions and inflammatory rhetoric to appreciate the gravity of the situation and de-escalate by exercising maximum restraint, ceasing all hostilities and refraining from provocation and using violence to achieve political goals.  And that remains our standpoint as a whole. Regarding a request to the League of Arab States, of course, that will be for them to consider

  Call it deferring. 

  After the two-hour closed door meeting of the Security Council, during which Permanent Five members' Permanent Representatives drifted away one by one, no one came out to the UN Television stakeout to speak on the record and apparently little new was said behind closed doors.

  Hours after the UN Security Council scheduled the emergency meeting on Yemen, the US announced:

"Due to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, the U.S. Government has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen.  We have informed President Hadi of this step as part of our close coordination with the Yemeni government.  We will continue to engage the Yemeni people and the international community to strongly support Yemenís political transition.  We also continue to actively monitor terrorist threats emanating from Yemen and have capabilities postured in the area to address them.  As we have in the past, we will take action to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens.

"There is no military solution to Yemenís current crisis.  We urge the immediate cessation of all unilateral and offensive military actions.  We join all of the other members of the Security Council in underscoring that President Hadi is the legitimate authority in Yemen and re-emphasize our support for his efforts to lead Yemen through crisis.  We call upon the Houthis, former President Ali Abdallah Salih, and their allies to stop their violent incitement that threatens President Hadi, Yemeni government officials, and innocent civilians.

"We encourage all Yemeni factions to constructively engage in the UN-led political dialogue to achieve an inclusive power sharing agreement.  No unilateral assertion of authority will succeed in Yemen.  We urge a renewed commitment to a peaceful political transition consistent with the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative, the National Dialogue Conference outcomes, and relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

"We are concerned that the well-being of all Yemenis now stands threatened by increasing instability, with extremists trying to capitalize on growing volatility as witnessed in the unconscionable March 20 attacks that killed over 130 Yemeni men, women, and children.  Progress in the political transition process offers Yemen the best hope to address these grave threats.  The United States remains committed to supporting all Yemenis in this endeavor and to aiding those who continue to strive for a peaceful, prosperous, and unified Yemen."

  Five weeks after the last Yemen resolution of the UN Security Council was adopted on Sunday, February 15, now on Sunday March 22 the Council held another emergency meeting on Yemen. Much has changed, most recently airstrikes on Hadi's headquarters in Aden and more deadly bombing of largely Houthi mosques in Sana'a.

  With less than 24 hours notice on March 21 the new emergency Security Council meeting was reported by the UN Spokesperson, Inner City Press, Lithuania, Jordan which requested the meeting, and France the Council's president for March.

  It was said Hadi requested the meeting; some speculated he wants the "Houthi coup" language that was dropped from the February 15 resolution revived. But with the Houthis themselves targeted, how would this play? And if a first round of sanctions didn't stop these developments, would a second round?

Update: Sources tell Inner City Press that UN envoy Jamal Benomar abruptly left Yemen, and that Hadi's goal is to get (more) UN Security Council authorization for military action against the Houthis "and Saleh." But he could already claim to be authorized for that. A Presidential Statement doesn't mean victory on the ground, though...

Update II: a question, of course, is how all this UN Security Council action relates to its P5+1 talks with Iran on the nuclear file. Seems the draft PRST would call on "all member States to refrain from external interference which seeks to foment conflict and instability and instead to support the political transition." ALL member states? Including Saudi Arabia and Qatar? Or only Iran?

  On a cold Sunday in New York, the UN Security Council scheduled a 5 pm vote on a resolution on Yemen. Diplomats rushed in. The Gulf Cooperation Council had submitted a draft with the word "Houthi coup" in it, but the phrase did not survive.

  After the watered down resolution was adopted 15-0, Inner City Press asked Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative about the threat of new sanctions, given how little previous sanctions on Ali Saleh and two Houthi leaders accomplished - and, does he think the Houthis are working with Saleh? (Video here and embedded below.)

  He replied that both are spoilers, they could work together directly or indirectly. The Gulf Cooperation Council will be continuing to push the Security Council, for example on the house arrest of Hadi and others.

  Jordan's Permanent Representative added that come members did not want the word coup.

 Inner City Press notes that while Hadi consented to US drone strikes, a coup would leave such consent "up in the air."

 After the diplomats left, two different Arabic language channels described what had occurred in entirely different terms: one as a "strong message," the other as "weak."  And so it goes.


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