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Ending Yemen Talks, Cheikh Ahmed Admits No Deal, No New Date, To NY

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 18 -- 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.

  Now it's gotten ever worse.  Replacement envoy Cheikh Ahmed held a press conference on June 18 at which he claimed positive outcomes from Geneva - then admitted that nothing had been agreed to, not even another date for talks. He mentioned analogies from Uganda, and proposing civilian observers. Only in his final answer did he say something solid: aid workers cannot count on a UN Security Council resolution to protect them.

  Cheikh Ahmed said he will come to the UN in New York then engage in "shuttle diplomacy"

Not only has Abdel Wahhab al-Humayqani, listed on the US Treasury Department terrorism list, here, been included in the Hadi delegation to Geneva - he was permitted into the UN's Palais de Nations (from which Houthis are so far banned), and met directly with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, photo here.

 On June 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq how this could happened, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: the meeting apparently between the Secretary-General and Abdel Wahab al-Humayqani, he is on a US Treasury list being affiliated with Al-Qaida.  And my question is you said, you appeared to say it's up to the delegation who they brought, and who came to Geneva is entirely up to the team of [Abd Rabbuh Mansour] Hadi, and who comes into the UN and stands next to Ban Ki-moon, I would think, is up to the UN.  So, I wanted to know, and I'm staring at a photograph of them next to each other with the Special Adviser right next to them, did the Secretary-General know that the individual he was meeting was on the US Treasury Al-Qaida list, and did his security know?  Because we have a lot of security in the UN where people’s passes are disputed, et cetera.  What is the process for the UN in terms of screening people, checking existing sanctions lists before allowing them in the building and to meet with the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  It was the responsibility of the parties to determine who their representatives were.  Security is aware of the names of all of the people with whom the Secretary-General meets.  In this case, the name of this particular person was submitted by the Yemeni Government delegation, which is to say the Riyadh delegation, as one of them, and he met with that delegation as he intended to meet with the Sana’a delegation before he left Geneva.

Inner City Press:  So being on, you know, the Al-Qaida or other sanctions list is not a ban to meeting with the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesman:  He is not, I believe, on the list of the 1267 Sanctions Committee.  This is a US list you're referring to and you need to take up with the US on that.  But, in this case, he was meeting with the members of the Riyadh delegation.  This was part of his effort to meet as much as he could with all the various parties.  Of course, because of logistical delays he was not able to meet with the Sana’a delegation.

  Why does Ban Ki-moon have security, if his new Special Adviser brings in a designated terrorist to meet with him? Note that on June 18, Ban's security was used, by UN Peacekeeping chief Ladsous but in front of Ban, to eject Inner City Press from an "open" meeting, video here, story here.

  These questions particularly arises because Inner City Press is informed by exclusive sources that Ban's bungling Adviser Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed has been meeting with the opposition or Sana'a delegation in the hotel they are staying in, insisting they re-agree to only seven seat before they are permitted to the Palais de Nations to speak with the media as the Hadi / "terrorist" delegation does.

  Inner City Press is informed that Cheikh Ahmed was told in this hotel meeting that he is incompetent, better suited to an administrative assistant position. The UN has insisted he is very qualified -- by what, human resources work for UNICEF in Yemen, where he allowed a staff member to be taken hostage due to his own failure to pick up armored vehicles from the airport or to arrange a security escort for the staff member to the airport?

  Now this -- bringing in a listed terrorist to meet Ban Ki-moon, which pleading with Oman for a plane. We'll have more on this.

  At the June 17 UN noon briefing, Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq tried to say the UN had nothing to do with Abdel Wahhab al-Humayqani. But how did he get into the UN building, and meet and shake hands with Ban Ki-moon? Note that Ban's previous special adviser on Yemen avoided Abdel Wahhab al-Humayqani, knowing he was a listed terrorist. This UN is in decline.

  While UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric at the June 16 briefing at noon in New York said the plane with the Houthis on it had left Djibouti for Geneva, albeit after Ban Ki-moon had left Geneva, ten hours later Inner City Press was exclusively informed by sources that the issues with the Houthis and the other parties was still not resolved.

  The bungling envoy Cheik Ahmed, the sources tell Inner City Press, to try to lure the Houthis and other parties to Geneva promised them more than the seven seats previously announced, and put this on a Facebook page he established.

  Then, pressured by the Hadi / Saudi side, Cheikh Ahmed reiterated the old seven seat offer on a UN website, in English. Meanwhile in desperation, the sources exclusively tell Inner City Press, he reached out to Oman, asking them to intercede with the Houthis - and for a plane.

  The sources say the UN sent more than one plane to Sana'a, but then had to leave. Now those they lured onto the (final?) plane have been in transit for more than 48 hours with no bed to sleep in, becoming concerned they could be rendered to, where else, Saudi Arabia.

  This is the UN?

Update: meanwhile on June 16 the UN human rights office said its team in Yemen counted 50 civilians killed between June 11 and 15 -- with over 70% (36) killed by the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes, versus 14 killed by fighting between the Houthis and "local armed groups." So even the 14 are not necessarily directly attributable to the Houthis, compared to the 36 through the air. Where is Ban Ki-moon, and his or the Saudis' Cheikh Ahmed, on this?

 On June 15 in Geneva, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met the Hadi government and the so-called Group of 16 ambassadors to Yemen - but not the Houthis. Ban said it was a logistical snafu but that now he had to leave. His public schedule at the time of that announcement still stopped at his June 14 Central Asia tour. Here's from what Ban said:
"I have taken part in very constructive meetings with representatives of the Government of Yemen.  I have also just briefed the so-called Group of 16-plus Ambassadors to Yemen. As you know, our goal was to have a joint meeting this morning, but logistical issues made this impossible this morning... This is purely a logistical issue that representatives of Houthis and other groupings were not able to arrive yesterday.  I am expecting that they will arrive late this afternoon or early this evening, so they will meet with my Special Envoy.  Unfortunately, I could not wait for their arrival because of unavoidable engagements."

  During the June 15 noon briefing, UN spokesman Dujarric said that the plane with the Houthis on it had belatedly left Djibouti after logistics issued he said involved "refueling." But see above.
  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has scheduled a meeting of its members' foreign ministers about Yemen on June 16 - while the UN facilitated talks in Geneva are supposed to be taking place. This comes amid reports the the UN plane from Sana'a did not include all participants; typically, the UN has remained silent.

 Here is the OIC's June 14 announcement:

"The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has finalized its preparations for the convening of an emergency meeting at the level of foreign ministers on the situation in Yemen, at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday 16th June 2015.

"The meeting, which is being held pursuant to a request from the Government of Yemen coupled with the approval of a majority of the OIC Member States, will consider the situation in Yemen and ways to ensure the return of security and stability there. It is expected that the meeting will be attended by a large number of OIC Member States Foreign Ministers."

The OIC has told the Press that at 3 pm, after their meeting, there will be a press conference.

Back on June 6, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced a new round of talks to start June 14.

  Then in a statement issued on June 12, the date was pushed back to June 15 --while maintaining a Ban photo op with the Gulf Cooperation Council on June 14. Here's the UN's Note to Correspondents:

"There has been a change in the timing of events related to the Geneva Consultations on Yemen. Due to unforeseen circumstances, one of the Yemeni delegations will now arrive in Geneva on Sunday evening, 14 June.

Therefore, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and his Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Chiekh Ahmed, will begin consultations with the Yemeni delegations on Monday morning, 15 June, 2015.

Accordingly, there will not be a press stakeout by the Secretary-General on Sunday evening, as previously announced. That press stakeout will now take place on Monday morning, after the beginning of the Consultations.

Please note that we still expect that there will be two photo-ops on Sunday afternoon, time to be confirmed, with the GCC and the Group of Sixteen.
The press corps covering the Consultations are again invited to the planning meeting in Room III on Sunday 14 June at 13:00, when we expect to announce exact times and procedures."

 So both the GCC and the Group of 16 will be there. Who else? Watch this site.

 On June 9, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric a simple question: which Yemeni political parties have been invited to Geneva? Even this, he refused to answer on June 9. Video here.

 But on June 10 he returned with a read-out, which Inner City Press photographed and Tweeted it and now reports it in its two-sentence full text here:

“Ismael has now said publicly that seven seats have been allocated for both sides and that he expects representatives of the Houthis and the General People's Congress party, as well as the Socialists, the Nasserites and Islah party

  “The government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi will also be represented."  We'll have more on this.

 On June 3, the UN Security Council got a briefing about Yemen from new UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien. Inner City Press staked-out the meeting and was told that O'Brien would speak. But when he emerged, he begged off.

 While perhaps this is because his first week, the Free UN Coalition for Access believes O'Brien should speak on the record, particularly on Yemen at this point (as well as Sudan, Burundi and so forth).

  O'Brien did not speak, but Russia's Vitaly Churkin did, including about O'Brien. Churkin said "Mr O’Brien, it’s his first appearance at the Security Council, his account was very graphic, about the humanitarian consequences. Over 2000 people dead, a lot of destruction, the fact that it’s difficult to bring in humanitarian supplies, it’s difficult to bring in commercial supplies. Commercial supplies and the situation in Yemen, it’s also a humanitarian aspect of the whole situation, because it doesn’t include the fuel oil, and without fuel the country cannot function because of electricity and things like that. So, it’s extremely dramatic situation and a strong reason to stop fighting and start seriously to talk, without preconditions, as the statement which we adopted finally last night is pointing out."

 On June 2 the UN Security Council has issued a Press Statement calling for the resumption of talks -- on information and belief on June 10 -- in Geneva, without preconditions. Here is the Security Council Press Statement, eights minutes after it was issued:

"The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern about the grave situation in Yemen. In this regard, the members of the Security Council were deeply disappointed that the consultations in Geneva planned for 28 May did not take place. The members of the Security Council urged Yemeni stakeholders to participate in the UN-brokered inclusive political consultations as soon as possible.
The members of the Security Council recalled Security Council resolutions 2014 (2011), 2051 (2012), 2140 (2014), 2201 (2015) and 2216 (2015), emphasizing 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 UN-brokered political inclusive consultations.
The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their call on Yemeni parties to attend these talks and engage without preconditions and in good faith, including by resolving their differences through dialogue and consultations, rejecting acts of violence to achieve political goals, and refraining from provocation and all unilateral actions to undermine the political transition. The members of the Security Council emphasized that the UN-brokered inclusive political dialogue must be a Yemeni-led process, with the intention of brokering a consensus-based political solution to Yemen’s crisis 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 reiterated their full support for the efforts of the United Nations and the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Yemen, and further reiterated their request of the Secretary-General to intensify his good offices role in order to enable a resumption of a peaceful, inclusive, orderly, and Yemeni-led political transition process that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people.
The members of the Security Council endorsed the UN Secretary General’s call for a further humanitarian pause in order to allow assistance to reach the Yemeni people urgently. The members of the Security Council urged all parties to facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance, as well as rapid, safe, and unhindered access for humanitarian actors to reach people in need of humanitarian assistance, including medical assistance. The members of the Security Council called upon all sides to comply with international humanitarian law, including taking all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects, including water systems, schools, and hospitals, and to urgently work with the United Nations and humanitarian aid organizations to get assistance to those in need. The members of the Security Council stressed the urgent need for ongoing commercial supplies to enter Yemen because of the heavy dependence of Yemen and its people on imported food and fuel.
The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Yemen, and its commitment to stand by the people of Yemen."

 Background: Inner City Press has learned how new UN envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed was viewed during his Sana'a trip as a "tool of the Saudis," and how with the UN having thus marginalized itself, the process has moved beyond it to Oman, with involvement of UN Security Council members which still pay lip service to Ould Cheikh Ahmed's shrunken role.

  On Cheikh Ahmed's first day in Sana'a, Inner City Press is told, the Houthis let him wait, and stew. When they met him, he was asked why the previously Yemeni-agreed Peace and Partnership Agreement was being dropped, if he wasn't a "tool of the Saudis."

  The answer was not convincing. Cheikh Ahmed was said to be asking the Saudis how much time they want, to continue bombing Yemen. Is this was the UN should be, it was asked.

  Even Security Council (Permanent) members who say there is no military solution and pay lip service to Cheikh Ahmed's so far unsuccessful work are now working around the UN, through Oman. We'll have more on this.

  On May 26, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press: on Yemen, since we're on this topic.  I mean that sort of goes to the heart of it.  Didn't he say there would be no preconditions?  So, if the Riyadh conference that the Houthis didn't attend is somehow involved or a basis of these talks…?

Spokesman:  I think… we're talking about getting people around the table.  That's what we want to see.  I'm not going to start to negotiate from here with the different parties.

Inner City Press:  Sure.  But how about… okay.  One's kind of a strange one.  I heard something like the children's parliament has been invited and would be flown in at UN's expense.  Is that the case?  Is it true that either the Yemeni Government or the Saudi side provided a list of accepting candidates under the categories of youth, civil society and women?

Spokesman:  I think… I think all the different sides are engaged in… what could we say… a tussle.  I think what we need to see is we need to see all of them… all the parties around the table.  I don't have any specific information on the children's parliament.

Question:  One more?

Spokesman:  I'll come back to you.

 Some of the UN's bungling is entirely public.  Two days after Inner City Press and others reported that the May 28 talks were postponed or canceled, only on the afternoon of May 26 did Ban confirm the postponement. Here is his announcement:

"The Secretary-General has asked his Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to postpone the consultations in Geneva planned for 28 May following a request from the Government of Yemen and other key stakeholders for more time to prepare. The Secretary-General is actively working to convene the talks at the earliest possible time.

The Secretary-General is disappointed that it has not been possible to commence such an important initiative at the soonest possible date and reiterates his call for all parties to engage in United Nations-facilitated consultations in good faith and without pre-conditions. He also reiterates that the only durable resolution to the crisis in Yemen is an inclusive, negotiated political settlement.  

The Secretary-General has instructed his Special Envoy to redouble his efforts to consult with the Yemeni Government, Yemen’s political groupings and countries in the region with the aim of producing a comprehensive ceasefire and the resumption of peaceful dialogue and an orderly political transition.

Noting that the conflict has escalated once again following a much-needed five-day humanitarian pause, the Secretary-General urges all parties to be mindful of the suffering of Yemeni civilians, and to support the efforts of the Special Envoy. He is acutely aware that a postponement or delay in a return to the political process will exacerbate a steadily deepening humanitarian crisis.

The Geneva initiative, aimed at bringing together a broad range of Yemeni governmental and other actors, follows extensive consultations by the Special Envoy as well as strong expressions of support by various Security Council resolutions, including 2216 (2015), for a peaceful and Yemeni-led political transition process based on the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism and the outcomes of the comprehensive National Dialogue Conference. "

 On May 24 Inner City Press was informed that the UN already informed the Houthis and other participants that May 28 was off.

  But what were and are the Saudis' demands? Inner City Press is exclusively informed by well placed sources that the Saudis demand that the basis -- and constraints -- of the Geneva meeting be the "Riyadh Declaration," reached without any involvement by the Houthis.

  The UN already let the Saudis name individuals who would attend under the heading "women, youth and civil society." The GCC and the G14 were to attend -- the deck was already stacked for the Saudis. But they wanted the Riyadh Declaration as the basis (just as they excluded the September 2014 Peace and Partnership Agreement).

 Or, as one well place source put it, the Saudis don't WANT a UN process, "they want to keep bombing, either to eliminate the Houthis" - a la Sri Lanka and the LTTE -- or to "make them capitulate and agree to a final meeting in Riyadh."

   The Houthis agreeing to that, ever, seems unlikely. It is the UN of Ban Ki-moon that has capitulated. Watch this site.

  First the UN allowed US Secretary of State John Kerry to tell it not to dare hold Yemen talks in Geneva on May 11 as the UN had planned, as Inner City Press exclusively reported on May 6.

  Now the May 28 talks in Geneva, conveniently after the Houthi-less talks in Riyadh, will be stacked in ways both pro-Saudi and laughable, sources tell Inner City Press.

 New Saudi-picked "UN" envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who appeared on the podium in Riyadh, has dropped from the list of documents on which the May 28 talks are based the Peace and Partnership Agreement that all Yemeni political parties agreed to on September 21, 2014.

  The reason? Saudi Arabia doesn't like what was agreed to at that time: it created obligations not only for the Houthis but also for Hadi. So it is gone.

Update: and now, at least for now, so is Hadi. Despite the May 28 talks being Saudi dominated, Hadi says he won't go unless Security Council resolution 2216 is "fully implemented." And about about the Peace and Partnership Agreement that he signed but didn't implement? We'll have more on this.

   Slated for attendance on May 28 are the Saudi-led Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Gulf Cooperation Council currently headed by Bahrain and GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani - but notably not Iran. The number of seats for the Houthis will be limited.

  Who else is slated to go? Causing laughter in diplomatic circle and in Yemen where it is sorely needed, Cheikh Ahmed is angling to fly in the so-called Children's Parliament organized by an NGO in Yemen, as well as their parents and guardians. "Who is paying for this?" one source demanded of Inner City Press.

  Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric at the UN noon briefing on May 26.

  This last step is blamed by the sources on Cheikh Ahmed having little political background. Inner City Press has already reported on his failure while previously in Yemen to protect UN staff -- failure to pick up the armored vehicles from the airport or have the recommended security detail with staff going to the airport, leading to the long kidnapping of a UNICEF staffer.

 But even at UNICEF, Cheikh Ahmed was in human resources, not substantive policy. And the Press questions about his fishing business and its funders remain UNanswered. We'll have more on this.

  For now, this: Inner City Press is informed that after Cheikh Ahmed's quick visit to Iran, he was summoned back to Riyadh and, highly irregular for the UN, went without his policy "team," not even a note-taker. What might have been discussed?

  The UN, we note, routinely refuses to answer Press questions.

  Back on April 29, Inner City Press asked the UN's deputy spokesperson to confirm that the UN was considering Geneva as a venue to continue Yemen talks, after its previous envoy Jamal Benomar resigned in protest of Saudi airstrikes and was replaced by a more amenable envoy, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed.


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