Monday, March 7, 2016

Exclusive: UN Yemen Envoy Told Feltman Houthis Ready to Meet in Jordan, Saudi Low-ball

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, March 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. 
  Now Inner City Press has another exclusive: UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's email to UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, which contradicts what enovy Ould Cheikh Ahmed most recently told the Security Council. The email exclusively published by Inner City Press shows flexibility on the Houthi said, with the prospects of meeting in Jordan or Morocco, while the Saudis insist on sending low level representation. Here is the email:
"Dear Jeff, I just completed a 2-day visit in Riyadh and wanted to give you a quick update on how things have developed since my discussions with H/Mohamed AbdelSalam last week in Muscat.
I had a private discussion with both State Minister Mussaeed Al Ayban and Abu Ali where I briefed them on the readiness of th Houthis to resume discrete face-to-face meetings with KSA representatives. While they welcomed the progress made and expressed their commitment to go ahead with this track, they also emphasized that:
i) in light of the progress the Coalition has been making on the ground and their advance toward Sanaa, the Houthis should seize this opportunity and discuss in good faith as they are in a weaker position on the ground and their options are narrowing;
ii) KSA will not consider elevating the level of their representation in the KSA-H talks, as Mohamed AbdelSalam had requested. KSA considers that the 2 representatives they are sending are at the level of Mohammed AbdelSalam and the Houthis should not expect a higher representation at this point;
iii) KSA accepted the proposal of Mohamed AbdelSalam to meet in a third country (Jordan). Mohamed Abe Assalem has suggested to me either Morocco or Jordan as the venue.
 I immediately called Mohemad AbdelSalam from Riyadh to share the outcomes of the meeting. He was going to talk to his leadership and revert to me with a confirmation. If the Houthis accept, the Houthi - KSA meeting could go ahead as early as next week, in Jordan. We of course would not participate nor be present. I have however already started coordination with the Jordan Ambassador to Yemen, as needed.
Although we still do not have an agreement for a new cessation of hostilities, we have continued to press for commitment to the De-Escalation and Coordination Committee (DCC), and a range of economic initiatives (especially in relation to the Central Bank's independence and the reactivation of the Social Welfare Fund).
In my meeting with the GoY delegation, I continued to impress upon them the importance of participation of the GoY in the DCC, and to training which we are planning to organize in Amman during the coming weeks. The UK Ambassador informed me that Foreign Minister and Head of GoY delegation AbdelMalik El Mikhalfi today had responded positively to his suggestion.
There are been positive developments on economic initiatives which I have supported as well. Foreign Minister Mikhalfi participated in the Central Bank board meeting last week in Amman together with the Minister for Finance and the CB Governor. DPM/MoFA Mikhalfi acknowledged that significance of the Governor's attendance from Sanaa and was very grateful for my personal efforts to secure his participation with the Houthis, which was seen by the GoY as an important confidence building measure. Mikhalfi agreed on the necessity of developing further economic initiatives including the support for the SWF and SFD. My office is working with the UNCT, World Bank and IMF in order to ensure a sufficient level of technical support for these proposals.
 I am now in Nouakchott for 4 days where I need to renew my G4 visa and will proceed to New York on 16 February ahead of the SC briefing. I intend to remain in NYC until 22 February in order to meet with key Member States and HQ officials. I plan to also travel to Washington DC 19 February and hold meetings there. I look forward to seeing you in New York in a few days.
Best regards, Ismail."
  The above email was sent on February 11 and contradicts what Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the Security Council; meanwhile Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the UN told the press on March 4 that envoy IOCA does NOT want a humanitarian access resolution.
 In the UN Security Council on the Yemen sanctions resolution adopted on February 24, language was added to try to discourage the Panel of Experts from looking into the act of the Saudi-led Coalition. Concessions were made, of a kind not made for or about other countries under sanctions.
  (Inner City Press had to follow the process from outside the UN, literally, the park on 43rd Street across First Avenue, because only days after Inner City Press asked why the UN was so quiet about false claims of Iranian military equipment in a UN WFP aid ship, Inner City Press was summarily thrown out of the UN for seeking three weeks earlier to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room, and Banned, without due process. Petition here.)
  On March 4 in the same UN Press Briefing Room, Saudi Ambassador to the UN Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi held an unscheduled press conference to announce that OCHA, whose Yemen pick up the pieces campaign Saudi Arabia largely funds, does not think there's a need for a humanitarian access resolution. If true, some will say that OCHA has been bought.
 Inner City Press asked al-Mouallimi why his Yemeni counterpart had claimed to Inner City Press, on the record, that the WFP ship the Saudis seized contained "Iranian military equipment"? 
Al-Mouallimi said, among other things, the ship DID come from Iran... and the equipment wasn't on the manifest and was "hidden." Video here.
Inner City Press asked him about cluster bomb use; he denied it and many media printed that quote, without more. Inner City Press asked him, if opposed to the UN Panel of Experts looking into the impacts of the Saudi Coalition, who should do it? This was not answered, except to again emphasize how tied the PoE is to the underlying, one-sided resolution.
 At the end, Inner City Press asked Mouallimi to encourage the Yemen / Hadi delegation to hold its press session in this same UN Press Briefing Room, and not for Gulf and Western UNCA scribes only, a spoonfed breakfast,  see below. Al-Mouallimi said he would convey the request. We'll see.
 On March 1, back in on a reduced access pass, Inner City Press asked UN OCHA official John Ging about taking "aid" money from Saudi Arabia while it blasts away at Yemen. Video here.
 Ging said these two are "ring fenced," and that the UN doesn't allow Saudi Arabia to put conditions on aid or where it is delivered.

  Inner City Press asked, what about the Saudi threat that aid workers should leave Houthi-controlled areas? Ging said the UN had pushed back.
But quietly, as was the case with the Saudi diversion of the WFP ship. Does money talk?  Apparently yes. 
On March 3, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about something Ging's boss Stephen O'Brien had just said, UN transcript here (video link here)
Inner City Press: my first question is on Yemen.  Today, by video, Stephen O'Brien said, referring to the ship that was diverted by Saudi Arabia, that he was pleased to report that it's… that the food is now in Hodeidah and that the… and pleased to report that the humanitarian IT equipment will be delivered to Aden on 6 March.  So, I wanted to know, is… does… is OCHA pleased that a warring party conducting an airstrike campaign on Yemen was able to delay humanitarian IT equipment for this long?  And why is he pleased at that, rather than angry at that?

Deputy Spokesman:  You've heard what he said, and he means exactly what he said.  He is pleased that this has now been cleared up.  You'll have heard a few days ago John Ging, the Director of Operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that the idea that this equipment had been used for any other purpose has been disproven, and we're glad to know that, through this procedure, we were able to get the facts out and that the equipment will now go to its intended use.

Inner City Press:  But, will OCHA be equally pleased when other States block and delay their equipment… like, was this actually a legitimate process for a country to divert humanitarian IT equipment and then be pleased that it's released on a delay or should… is something more required?

Deputy Spokesman:  I think, sarcasm aside, the fact is we're pleased that the matter is now resolved.  It was a difficult matter, but it has now been resolved.

Inner City Press:  Have there been threats to the WFP ships to leave Hodeidah quickly or face airstrikes?  Question.

Deputy Spokesman:  You are aware of what Mr. Ging said about the matter in… just a few days ago, and I'll refer you back to what he said.  We expect to have our humanitarian staff continue to go about their work, regardless of the cautions that have been received.
   The Yemen "government," which under UN rules could hold a press conference for all journalists in the UN Press Briefing Room, has instead chosen to invited only members of the Gulf and Western media dominated UN Correspondents Association to a spin session. We've put the leaked invitation online here; here's some of the text:
Dear Colleagues,

UNCA is extending an invitation sent from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Yemen, to a light breakfast briefing with a public diplomacy delegation on their visit to New York to discuss the current political situation in Yemen, on Tuesday, March 8th at 9:00am at the mission (413 East 51st street). Please see the attached invitation to RSVP.

Giampaolo Pioli, UNCA President
The focus of the annexed invitation is on "IHL and HRL violations of the Houthi - Saleh rebels." This is UNCA: this is how the UN works, or doesn't.
On March 3, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq why UN OCHA official Stephen O'Brien said he was "pleased" when Saudi Arabia, which funds O'Brien's Yemen appeal, continues to hold the UN's "humanitarian IT equipment" at least under March 6, after Yemen's Ambassador - sure to be present at the spoon-fed breakfast for UNCA - said was Iranian military equipment.

  UNCA played a role in the UN's ouster of Inner City Press, and is now linked to at least two anonymous troll Twitter accounts trying to defend the ouster. This too is how the UN works: UN Censorship Alliance.   In action.
 This same UNCA board in December 2015 offered up seats with Ban Ki-moon for $6,000, after arranging for indicted Ng Lap Seng a photo op with Ban. Covering the organization is entirely legitimate, whatever the UN says, now more than ever with the spoonfed breakfast of Yemen spin.
 On February 28, Ban Ki-moon but not his invisible envoy issued a canned statement about the previous day's airstrike:
"The Secretary-General... calls for a prompt and impartial investigation of this incident."
  Ban's call for an impartial investigation rings hollow, when he has allowed his Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach to oust Inner City Press, which reports on Yemen, based on an "investigation" which never even SPOKE to Inner City Press. This incongruity, and its consequences, has been raised directly to Ban and his most senior advisers. Impartial?
  On February 16, Inner City Press asked the President of the UN Security Council for February, Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela, about what OCHA said in the Council, that the Saudi-led coalition diverted a UN World Food Program ship, the MV Mainport Cedar, from Hodeidah to the Saudi port of Jizan.
  Ramirez said this had been discussed and that the UN's Stephen O'Brien is trying to clarify it.
  On February 17, before the Security Council heard from UN enovy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Inner City Press asked Yemen's stated Permanent Representative to the UN Khaled Alyemany about the WFP ship. 
  Alyemany said that that ship had been found to have Iranian military equipment. Video here. Inner City Press asked OCHA and then three WFP spokespeople as well. The response from Gerald Bourke:
"We can confirm that on Thursday February 11 one of WFP’s charter vessels, the MV Mainport Cedar, carrying humanitarian relief supplies, travelling from Djibouti with a scheduled and approved stop in the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, was diverted by Coalition forces to the Saudi Arabian port of Jizan. WFP is in communication with the Coalition Forces regarding the circumstances of the ship’s diversion to Jizan Port. On behalf of the Yemen humanitarian community, the vessel was transporting commodities including canned tuna, medical supplies for delivery to Hodeidah Port and United Nations Emergency Telecommunications Cluster IT equipment for delivery to the Port of Aden. WFP has been asked by the Coalition Forces to resubmit the paperwork regarding the humanitarian IT equipment. We hope the vessel will depart shortly. WFP has been in touch with the owner and the crew of 13."
 And so on February 18, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here.

 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?
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 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.

Inner City Press previously reported on and published the Houthis' letterdenouncing 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 heretranscript 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 heretranscript 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.
 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.)
  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 heretranscript here

 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.

   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 Pressasked, here.
  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.