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On Yemen, UN Says Evacuations Hampered, IOM Wouldn't Say by Saudi Arabia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 23 -- Two days after Saudi Arabia declared a formal end to its Decisive Storm campaign of airstrikes on Yemen, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for the country Johannes Van Der Klaauw issued a statement about the impact of the strikes.

  Van Der Klaauw said, "In the capital, Sana’a, the offices of several UN agencies and partner organizations were damaged by explosions on 21 April, forcing at least one partner to suspend operations. In Sa’ada, another partner’s warehouse was reportedly hit by an airstrike on 19 April. The evacuation of third-country nationals from Sana’a has been temporarily suspended due to insecurity."

  This last was a reference to the International Organization for Migration, which earlier in the weekend said "operations continue to be hampered by unacceptable demands in regard to the identity of passengers to be evacuated by IOM."

  Inner City Press asked IOM to say WHO was demanding the ID information. IOM spokesperson Joel Millman replied, "We are not sharing that detail."

  On April 22, Saudi Ambassador to the US Jubeir said his country has been checking everything and everyone going into Sana'a - and everything and everyone going out.

So why wouldn't IOM say who was hampering it? What is the "counter-terrorism" work behind all this, including by the UN? Why did IOM's William Lacy Swing, who signed onto a statement with three UN officials on April 23 about the Mediterrean, not speak on this? Why was his Mediterranean statement not sent to the Press? We'll have more on this.

  On April 21, Inner City Press asked Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh about the civilian casualties caused, and if the campaign by the coalition of which Jordan is a part is providing opportunities to Al Qaeda. Video here.

  Judeh referred to the briefings given by the Saudi military spokesman, and said harm to civilians was certainly not the goal. He said Al Qaeda has been in Yemen for some time, and cited his earlier statement that this group, Daesh and other extremist groups must be defeated.

  Earlier in the Security Council meeting on the Middle East, after Israel's Ambassador Ron Prosor cited Netflix' House of Cards and Frank Underwood, Juden replied to Prosor about "all the TV shows you watch."  Yemen's Hadi was to appear on TV just as the Security Council meeting ended. Watch this site.

Earlier on April 21, a week after Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the UN assured Inner City Press about his country facilitating evacuations from Yemen, amid its airstrikes, the International Organization for Migration announced its

"decision to temporarily suspend its evacuation of third country nationals (TCNs) from Sana’a, Yemen...operations continue to be hampered by unacceptable demands in regard to the identity of passengers to be evacuated by IOM."

  But who is it, making demands in regard to identities?

  Inner City Press asked IOM spokesperson Joel Millman:

"Can you say WHO is making these demands about identity information? Is it only the countries to which flights are going - in which case, are some countries less demanding than others -- or do other countries, including IOM donors, makes these demands?"

  Millman replied quickly: "No we are not sharing that detail."

  Why not? We'll have more on this.

 Back on April 14 the UN Security Council adopted the GCC's resolution; Russia abstained. Inner City Press put the resolution, as sent out by the UN after the vote, online here.

  After the vote, the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen came to the stakeout. Inner City Press asked the Saudi ambassador, what about the humanitarian consequences including lack of electricity and lack of food, with UN staff pleading (unsuccessfully, see below) to be evacuated?

 The Saudi Ambassador said that no one is more concerned about Yemen than Saudi Arabia, adding the wounded Yemenis have been evacuated to Saudi hospitals. (The Yemeni ambassador moments later put that number "in the dozens.")

   But when asked if his country might launch a ground invasion, Saudi Arabia's ambassador said that diplomats here in New York don't know what is happening on the ground. What then of the humanitarian assurances?

  "What does this mean for Iran?" asked the previously-designated questioner for UNCA, the UN's Censorship Alliance. The three Ambassadors beamed. Iran's plan is said to be launched tomorrow.

   As to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, not only did he fail to clearly call for a halt in the airstrikes on Yemen at his rare press availability on April 9 -- he has also failed to protect UN national staff there, despite their request.

  Now Inner City Press is multiply and exclusively informed of plans to create supposedly "safe havens"  for UN national staff inside Yemen - even after the staff representatives said clearly that "relocation inside the country is not an option any more."

 It wasn't Ban Ki-moon who told UN national staff in Yemen that their plea was being rejected, it was Helen Clark of the UN Development Program, who answers press questions at UN headquarters even less than Ban, while seeking to succeed him.

  In the midst of this, the UN Security Council scheduled an April 14 vote on a resolution imposing an arms embargo on the Houthis and Saleh supporters, with no commitment to halt the airstrikes on the country. The so-called UN Correspondents Association, rather than push for answers or even just more Q&A sessions from Ban (and Clark) instead bragged they will party with Ban and Prosecco -- "UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend for a toast! Cocktail and refreshments to be served: Italian Appetizers, Piadina, Ravioli, Dolcini, Red & White Wine, Prosecco and Spirits."

 This is the same organization whose board and president tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN for actual reporting, on the UN's failure to protect civilians in Sri Lanka then UNCA's ghoulish and conflict screening of a war crimes denial film inside the UN. This is the UN's Censorship Alliance.

 At the April 10 UN noon briefing, which UNCA's partier-in-chief attended without asking a single question at, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: Yesterday the UN staff unions, with the plural, I guess, because the one in New York, it's unclear who the union is, basically raised questions about the UN not making any move whatsoever to either evacuate or offer protection to national staff members inside Yemen.  Farhan said it's not the policy to ever evacuate national staff.  But, if it's unsafe for international staff...  the safely level doesn't matter what your passport is.  So, what's the UN's thinking?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think we're obviously… our national staff is continuing to work inasmuch as they can to help deliver humanitarian aid, which is critical, and I think we honour their bravery in doing so in very challenging circumstances.  We are in touch with them, whether it's through the Secretariat or through the heads of agencies, to ensure that they're as safe as possible.  And we're doing that on a daily basis.  And if we have anything more to say on that, we'll…

Inner City Press:  Does Ban Ki-moon join this call by the humanitarian resident coordinator for humanitarian pause?  Is that…?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think I just… I just said we obviously were urging for cessation of hostilities.  I think that…  I think that covers it fairly broadly.

Inner City Press:  Have you conveyed that to the Saudi led coalition?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think that… this is a message that will be passed along to… in the Secretary-General and his contacts and obviously the ones our humanitarian partners are having.

  In the more than three days since, the UN has provided no information on any evacuation of its national staff from Yemen. But multiple sources have exclusively provided Inner City Press with an email from Helen Clark as head of the UN Development Program, floating among other things the idea of "safe haven" inside Yemen:

Subject: RE: SOS-URGENT- Request for Evacuation for National Staff of UNDP in Yemen
From: Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP
Date: 04/09/2015 01:27PM

..."At this time we are also in contact with some Member States asking for all to respect the neutrality and non-belligerent status of UN premises and staff.
For national staff of UNDP who are working from locations outside Yemen, we will adopt a work from home approach until we have reassessed the situation.
"And, finally, we are currently exploring safe haven approaches within Yemen for national staff and families that will allow a place of greater safety for you and allow a return as soon as possible of our international colleagues."

  Many have asked, what are these "safe haven approaches," and how do they differ from "shelter in place"? We'll have more on this.


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