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On Yemen, ICP's Told Envoy in Asia, Staff Paid At Home, Saudi Rocket in UNFPA

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series

UNITED NATIONS, February 5 -- 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.

 But things have gotten worse. While when Inner City Press asked this week the UN Office of the Spokesperson said UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was working on this file from the United Arab Emirates, Inner City Press is exclusively informed he's been as far afield as South Korea and Japan, as one source told Inner City Press, "just collecting DSA," referring to the UN's Daily Sustenance Allowance.

  Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed has the UN paying top dollar to people who are hardly working, chilling in London and in one case Mecca, an associate of Hadi. This is UN money, thus public money. What is being accomplished?

 And now this - Inner City Press is informed that the Saudi-led Coalition hit with a missile the UN's own UNFPA compound. The UN should have complained and gone public, but didn't. Why not? Because the UN envoy IOCA has been told to stay away while Saudi Arabia bombs. How's that working out?

 On February 1 Inner City Press asked incoming President of the Security Council Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela about Yemen. Video here. As transcribed by

Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, we are hoping you will do question and answer stakeouts after Security Council consultations... On Yemen – there’s a lot of talks about the Syrian peace talks. On Yemen we hear a lot less. What’s your understanding of the status of the envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, bringing the parties together? Do you think the report on possible war crimes by the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes will be taken up at any point by the Council? And do you think that the US, UK, others that are assisting that coalition – is there enough oversight of the civilian harm that’s taking place in the air campaign on Yemen?

Amb Ramirez: Thank you. Before anything else, I hope as president of the Security Council to interact with the press, because each time we come out of a meeting of the Security Council , there’s a healthy practice, we’ve always done it that way so we’ll do what’s possible without taking too much time.

On Yemen, in my capacity as president of the Security Council  I can say that all Security Council members are closely following the events which have been escalating and have been affecting the civilian population, which finds itself in an awful situation, in the bombing campaign and the action on the ground of the two parties to the conflict.

It’s our hope that Mr. Ahmed, when he gives the briefing, will give a better picture of what’s happening there. As president of the Security Council I can’t say in advance what the positions will be of the various members fo the Security Council. This will be in closed consultations.

But I can say that there is a growing concern on this question, and what you say, that the issue of Syria is being dealt with in a constant basis and the issue of Yemen not, is not the case with Yemen, this is something that we have raised. There is a lack of balance in terms of the way the Security Council deals with some issues. Sometimes some issues are pushed forward for political notice, and therefore they’re high on the agenda, they’re always discussed, and then there are others which are on the back burner, which  are reserved.

So today we proposed that in the Yemen briefing the consultations on Yemen should be in the form of a briefing, so that we can hear about the situation from the Special Envoy of the Secretary General, and that everybody can hear, and we can get a picture of the situation over there, what’s the actual situation, and Mr. O’Brien, we’re also asking that he should take part in that briefing, so on behalf of OCHA he would be able to explain what the situation is, what is the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

 We'll be there, on February 17, covering it. On January 29, the UN Spokesman threw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room then on February 1 made this threat, here.

 On January 27, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, transcript here.

 Back on January 19, Inner City Press asked Uruguay's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Jose Luis Cancela, chairing the day's Security Council debate on Protection of Civilians, if the Council does enough to protect civilians in Yemen, including monitoring the effects of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Video here.

 Cancela diplomatically replied that he was not there to comment on specific countries -- inside the Council, there was much talk of Syria, a smattering on Burundi -- but turned the question toward not hitting schools and hospitals, both of which have happened in Yemen.

  On January 18, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: I wanted to on Yemen ask you, there's been this pretty extensively reported airstrike by the coalition in Sana’a on a police station that's apparently killed 25 people.  And also IRIN, previously a UN affiliate, has said that one of its journalists was killed in an airstrike.  And I wanted to know, does the UN… can they confirm particularly the death of the journalist Almigdad Mojalli and do they have any comment on it?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  We don't have the confirmation that we can provide, but certainly we would be concerned about the killing of any journalist.  We're aware of the media reports in this case.

  So, nothing on the airstrike on the police station, and non-acceptance, it seems, of even the statement by Voice of America, which has also written to the UN against the Press. What's wrong with the UN?

Now that the Houthis and the GPC have both said they won't participate in any more talks facilitated by the UN's Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed -- who insists on retweeting praise about himself after skipping any public Q&A at the UN -- Inner City Press on December 28 asked the UN's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric: "On Yemen, what is Ban Ki-moon's or Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's response to Saleh saying GPC will only negotiate directly with Saudi Arabia, and seeming rejection of the UN-faciliated talks?"

 Dujarric replied at 2 pm on December 28 to another question, partial (on Burundi) then added: "On the other issues, if we have an update to share with you, we will."

 So on Yemen, as usual, there is no UN response.

In the talks in Switzerland, despite the happy-talk Note to Correspondents issued on December 20, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was repeatedly accused of merely operating “for the Saudis,” while the Saudi-led coalition took more military action.

 Inner City Press intended to put the question directly to Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, after UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq at the December 22 noon briefing said he would be speaking at the Security Council stakeout after briefing the Security Council.

  But after the Council meeting, in which High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid al Hussein said that of harm to schools and hospitals, "a disproportionate amount appeared to be the result of airstrikes carried out by Coalition Forces" -- Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed did not as promised appear at the stakeout.

 Last time he was at UN Headquarters, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed took only three questions at the stakeout, then went upstairs to the clubhouse of UNCA, now the UN Corruption Association after selling seats with Ban Ki-moon for $6000 and did an interview with the same pro-Saudi / GCC media.

 So where did Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed go this time? Watch this site.

  Inner City Press on December 20 reported that the UN-facilitated talks have been such a failure that there is already a clamor to replace Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Sources exclusively tell Inner City Press that among the names being mulled is Germany's Bettina Muscheidt, the European Union's Ambassador to Yemen.
  UN insiders point to Germany having lost a UN post when Kim Won-soo replaced Angela Kane as Under Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs. Achim Steiner was passed over for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees post, in favor of Italy's Grandi.  Germany already "got" Libya with Martin Kobler - why not Yemen too?

Previously: Inner City Press obtained UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's documents for the delayed talks in Switzerland, and exclusively put them online here.

 Envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed proposed that each side have six delegates and six advisers; on December 7 the UN announced eight "negotiators" and four advisers on each side. Hadi announced a seven day ceasefire, December 15 to December 21, or at least that he'd "informed the leadership of the Coalition of our intention to cease-fire." That would be Saudi Arabia, where now Syria armed rebel groups are meeting. Hadi as teacher's pet.

 The UN on December 7 said, "The UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will convene Yemeni stakeholders in Switzerland on December 15 for a series of face to face consultations."

 According to IOCA's ground rules published by Inner City Press, there will be no press access, other than photographs with the Special Envoy at the start. Delegates shall not use social media. Only the Special Adviser can speak publicly, and he is supposed to be seen has neutral. There are “Ground Rules,” also put online by Inner City Press here

The ground rules include that the delegations should not speak with the media, or use social media. On December 4, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about these proposals: are they normal for the UN? Haq said he would not comment on leaks. Video here.

UN Yemen Talks Documents Leaked to Inner City Press, December 2015 by Matthew Russell Lee

Back on November 10, while Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was on the next to last day of his trip to Saudi Arabia to discussed among other things Yemen, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric to confirm that envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is not even IN Saudi Arabia with Ban.

 Dujarric confirmed that he is not there, but would not confirm that he is in his native Mauritania, to which Inner City Press is informed he flew on the UN's dime, for a vacation, signed off on by the top of the Department of Political Affairs.

Inner City Press has reported from sources dates on which the UN's envoy went to Dubai, purpose UNknown. Given his follow UN enovy Bernardino Leon's deal with the UAE, this must now be explained and acted on by the UN.

Inner City Press previously reported on and published the Houthis' letter denouncing UN envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed as little more than a Saudi tool. Now it's gotten worse: even Kenny Gluck who works for the envoy and went to Muscat trying to meet the Houthis was unable. He waited then returned to Riyadh.

    The envoy, meanwhile, is said by those who know him to not only be “laughably” cheap -- putting in for reimbursement for an eight dollar taxi ride from the UN to a Mission on 67th Street, for example -- but also still involved in the same business for which Inner City Press previously dubbed him “the Fisherman” or the “Fishy Envoy.” 

  He has traveled on the UN's funds to Dubai, claiming he would meet the Houthis there. Not only will the Houthis not meet with him -- even if they would, they would not be found in Dubai, given that the UAE is part of the coalition. In any event, Abu Dhabi is the capital, not Dubai. There is something... fishy.

  Now we can report what UN sources say are dates of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's travel to Dubai: May 11; June 3 and June 5; August 1 and August 4; September 12-15; October 9-11; October 26; November 4; and prospectively November 10 and November 12. 

 What are Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's trips to Dubai for? Given the UAE's offer to UN Envoy Bernarndino Leon, while he was UN Envoy to Libya, this question must be answered.

  So on November 4, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarric, video here, transcript here.

  On October 26 Inner City Press reported that its sources exclusively told it of a new low, that the UN brought into Sana'a what the Houthis call two members of US intelligence, with the cover identification that they work for the company running the former hotel now occupied by the UN. But, the sources say, security in Sana'a recognized the two and they are now detained.

  On October 30, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, video here, transcript here and below. Dujarric acknowledged he knew about two "contractors."

 On November 2, amid wire reports derivative and worse, Inner City Press followed up, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I understand you're making this distinction that the people flown, you know, worked for a contractor that maintains the building.  Obviously, you're… I mean, the allegation by those detaining them is they were previously with US intelligence.  So, I'm wondering, is it… given that the building used to be occupied by the US Embassy, what is the company?  What is the name of the company that maintains the building?

Spokesman:  It's called DTF… no.  You know what?  I don't have the name of the… I don't have the name of the company.

Inner City Press:  Seems like you probably… can you…?

Spokesman:  No, I don't know about it.

Inner City Press:  You're flying them.

Spokesman:  I'm not flying them.  I'll see what I can do.

Inner City Press:  I read somewhere that… that the UN is trying to get… seeking the release through the DSG [Deputy Secretary-General].  Is that the case?

Spokesman:  You know, the… whichever channels we use are UN channels.  I'm not going to go into any of the details.

Inner City Press:  Right, but there have been… okay.  Here's a more sort of generic one on this day of protection of journalists.  There was this Manama conference in… to which the envoy apparently attended, because he did some speaking there.  And it turns out that the acting Foreign Minister of Yemen, Mr. Yassin, had two, “respected Yemeni analysts” asked to leave, calling them Houthis, which they, in fact, aren't.  It seems, to many people who follow Yemen, this is kind of an embarrassment that people were ejected from a conference, and it showed a lack… and I wanted to know, did the envoy… maybe he didn't say anything that I'm aware of.  But, can you check with the envoy whether he had any view of whether it is positive for the process to have people ejected from this conference?

Spokesman:  "I don't have any facts about this conference.  If I have facts, I will share them with you."

 Meanwhile on November 2 the US Statement Department was referring questions to this UNresponsive UN: "We’re aware of those reports. Due to privacy considerations, I’m not going to comment on them...  I would direct your questions to the UN."

  After Inner City Press' October 26 report and October 30 noon briefing questions, on October 31 Reuters "reported" a piece citing an unnamed UN spokesperson about two "contractors," with no mention of the Houthis claim they work with US intelligence, which by now had also been reported, along with Inner City Press' October 30 Q&A with Dujarric, by Al-Akhbar.

  But it's worse. Reuters initially (mis) reported that "'Two contractors have been detained and the Deputy Secretary-General (Jan Eliasson) is looking into it,' a U.N. spokesman said without elaborating or confirming if the two were American citizens."

  Then a day after that, Reuters blamed the UN for its correction to "'Two contractors have been detained and DSS (Department of Safety and Security) is looking into it,' said a U.N. spokesman."

  It would seem the UN spokesman, left unnamed by Reuters, said "DSS" and Reuters mis-heard it as "DSG," didn't note it would be strange for the UN's second highest official to be on two contractors when lower official Herve Ladsous is the one who made a call for 13 contractors in South Sudan.

 But Reuters, including the Thomson Reuters Foundation, running its correction, says "UN corrects source of information in second paragraph." So the UN made the mistake?

 This is the same Reuters which on Friday regurgitated a UN report which Inner City Press had reported and asked the UN about fully two weeks earlier, same Reuters which refused to make public its policies, and tries to censor its anti Press complaints to the UN, here. We'll have more on this.

 We'll have more on this.

  Meanwhile the Houthis are denouncing UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad and his (mis) representation to the Security Council regarding what they agreed to. This has happened before and the goal seems to be delay to allow for more air strikes. There's work of mercenaries, in essence, including from Colombia in Aden, joining the troops from ICC-indicted Sudan.

 A new level of dysfunction was hit with the deployment in Aden of hundreds of troops from Sudan, putting ICC-indicted Omar al-Bashir on the same side as the US and UK. (Inner City Press is exclusively informed that "UN" envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is working on a similar Saudi deal with his native Mauritania, see below.)

Now Inner City Press is reliably and exclusively informed of a letter, drafted by Saudi Arabia and conveyed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, which has Ban thanking Hadi and stating that the Houthis have agreed without reservation to implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2216.  They have not - this is just another misleading move by the envoy, not a third strike but a fourth.

  But more fundamentally, why would Ban Ki-moon even consider signing a letter that was drafted by Saudi Arabia? Ban's Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, arguably undermining the envoy, recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and then Iran.

  Inner City Press is reliably and exclusively informed that the Saudis snubbed Eliasson, denying several of his meeting requests and finally providing him only with the Foreign Minister, just before he left. In Iran, complaints against envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed were lodged, that he does not have the trust of the Houthis. What kind of envoy is this? What kind of UN?

  After the UN Security Council's praise of talks ostensibly committed to UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was not updated after Hadi canceled participation in the talks, then the Saudi led coalition bombed Oman's Ambassador's house in Sana'a.

  The Saudi Mission to the UN, doling out information selectively as always, tweeted a photo of a meeting between its Ambassador and the deputy ambassadors of Security Council members the UK and US, of the EU - and UN humanitarian deputy Kyung-hwa Kang. What did Kyung-hwa Kang, if not the Ambassadors, say about the airstrikes?

  The UN's envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, after complaining about his leaked email showing his marginalization from Yemen talks, that Hadi had committed to come to talks. The Security Council praised him in a Press statement.

  Then Hadi canceled. It is similar to the UN's ceasefire-that-wasn't, and the failed "talks" in Geneva in which the UN never gave the Houthis passes to get into the UN building, after allowing them to be delayed along the way so that Ban never met them (while meeting with an individual on the US Al Qaeda sanctions list.)

  In many contexts it's "three strikes and you're out," in this case faux ceasefire and two talks that never happened. But the Security Council has not updated its Press Statement of praise; some members apparently simply work around the UN envoy. We'll have more on this.

  On September 5 as airstrikes on Sana'a picked up force, there was no comment from the UN or its envoy Ismail Ould Cheihk Ahmed. Nor on September 6. On September 7, the UN finally spoke -- not about the airstrikes but about a leak.

  On September 8, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujrarric if he was denying the veracity of the UN email Inner City Press published, below. Dujarric did not deny it. Video here. Inner City Press on September 9 asked Dujarric's deputy, below, on September 9 about Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

  Inner City Press exclusively reported the following: on August 27-28 in Muscat, the US and UK, the EU Ambassador to the UN and Saudi intelligence, met with the Houthis -- without the UN and its envoy present, or even sources say aware of the meeting. These sources say that the UN's Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was on vacation in his native Mauritania, and was entirely out of the loop.

  On September 10, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft if the UK had met with the Houthis and GPC in Muscat, without the UN Envoy present. Video here.

  Meanwhile Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed says the same parties will now meet with him. Replay?

  On September 9, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, video here, transcript here.

  The September 10 briefing by this envoy to the UNSC was requested by the UK - which, it seems, met with the Houthis without Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

  Sources also note to Inner City Press that the Saudi have "dissed" Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, relegating him only to meeting with Saudi intelligence, not diplomats as was previously the case with the UN. This too is embarrassing to the UN.

  On August 7 Inner City Press was informed that as Houthis and Saleh's GPC headed to Oman for consultations on August 8 and 9, the UN's replacement envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was not even initially invited. He had to beg to get included, which after sweating has been allowed, in the run-up to his briefing on August 12 to the Security Council.

 On August 12, Inner City Press asked Yemen Permanent Representative, outside the Council meeting, questions ranging from the destruction of schools and health care facilities in Sa'ada by Saudi airstrikes to when, according to him, the Houthis might be "driven" out of Sa'ana. Video here. He said in a few weeks - and added that the Oman talks were "not UN."

 So how then might the parties negotiate? UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was headed back to Riyadh. That seems to be his base, where he works from - and for? Watch this site.

  Oman has received murky thanks for France for facilitating the release of a hostage, who was working for the Social Development Fund there. Did Oman pay for France? Or will others be released, as France brought about in Mali?

  On July 28, Inner City Press asked Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative about Mokha or Mocha; he replied that previous allegations about Saudi airstrikes on Old City Sana'a and on a palace in Aden once used by Queen Elizabeth had been proven untrue. We'll have more on this.

  Inner City Press asked Yemen's representative about the talks in Cairo involving the United Arab Emirates, allies of former president Saleh and, it's said, the US and UK. He replied that the Yemeni government - in exile - deals through formal channels, the GCC or UN.

  He might have been asked, which foreign minister is he reporting to: the one named by Hadi, or the one - his predecesor - named by Bahah? We'll have more on this as well.

   After publishing its multi-sourced story, Inner City Press on July 22 asked the UN's Associate Spokesperson about new APC and weapons in Aden, and if Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is on vacation. Video here. She replied that she would check - but did not revert with any response either way.

  So on July 23, amid reports that without Cheikh Ahmed or any UN presence talks were occurring about Yemen in Cairo, Inner City Press asked, here.

  Inner City Press asked the UN where Cheikh Ahmed is. UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told Inner City Press that he has been "planning his travels," soon to Riyadh. Yeah, Inner City Press was told by another less constrained but at least as knowledgeable source: planning his future travels while already on vacation. Another source compared it to then UN envoy to Pakistan Jean-Maurice Ripert going on vacation amid national disasters in Pakisan and then losing his post.

   The buzz in Sana'a, where Hadi has named a governor in exile described as an Islamist, is that Cheikh Ahmed may well have known of the plans to bring in APC and weapons to those fighting the Houthis in Aden, and so "misleadingly" urged a pause. Another compared this to the UN luring out surrendering rebel leaders in Sri Lanka - to their deaths.

  And so from Aden, photographs of brand new light brown vehicles, American-made, brought in. Will they end up in the hands of Al Qaeda?

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.


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