On Yemen & Yarmouk, Ban's Bland Encounter Has Handpicked Qs, No Answer on Airstrikes
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 9, 2015 -- When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon scheduled a "press encounter" for April 9, his first one this year in UN Headquarters by some counts, the UN canceled its noon briefing. Ban would speak on two topics: the Yarmouk Camp in Syria and on Yemen.
After bland open statements (one correspondent called them platitudes, others were less diplomatic), Ban's spokesman handpicked questions such that the only question on Yemen was whether Iran could be condemned for sending warships to the Gulf of Aden.
Inner City Press asked, quite audibly, Should the airstrikes stop? But this simple question was not answered.
In fact, Inner City Press has been reliably informed that when Ban deigned to ask the Saudis for a mere two hour humanitarian pause, they said only if Ban more openly supported their coalition (which included, for example, Sudan, which now brags that Suadi Arabia has removed trade sanctions on it.)
Then Ban left, to Panama and tellingly Qatar.
It was surprising to some that Ban or his team did not go public with this attempt to condition humanitarian access on a political statement.
Why for example hasn't outgoing UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos spoken out? Where is her successor, Stephen O'Brien, also of the UK? (Inner City Press' exclusives on that UK to UK hand-over of a UN post were credited during the process by for example Channel 4, and after by the Telegraph.)
On Saturday April 4 an urgent UN Security Council meeting began at 11 am, on a proposal for Russian draft resolution for "humanitarian pauses" -- and evacuation.
Nearly an hour after the meeting broke up, April's Security Council president Dina Kawar of Jordan came to the stakeout and gave a summary, or two (as President and in her national capacity) and took two questions, including one from Inner City Press (the US did not raise the issue of evacuations in the meeting).
Here's what Ambassador Kawar said as Jordan's Ambassador:
“As you know the GCC has been engaged for some time on a draft resolution that deals with the political situation in Yemen. We will continue our efforts to reach a consensus on that. We should not forget the root causes that led to the current grave situation and humanitarian situation in Yemen is due to the failure of the implementation of Resolution 2201 by the Houthis.”
“We just met. We have arranged for meeting on the side between a few members of the Council and the GCC, we are working on that all day today. We hope that by Monday we can come up with something.”
Inner City Press asked Kawar if any UN Security Council member raised the issue of evacuations. She said, evacuations are under way. Inner City Press asked if the US had raised the issue of evacuations in the meeting. She said, No, the US did not raise it.
Here is what Ambassador Kawar said as UNSC President:
“The Council met this morning upon a request from the Russian delegation. The Council members reaffirmed their views on the importance of the full implementation of the Security Council's resolutions on Yemen in particular Resolution 2201. The Council members also reiterated their concern over the grave humanitarian situation that Yemen has been facing for a while.
“The Russian delegation circulated a draft resolution to the Council members regarding humanitarian pauses in Yemen and expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation in Yemen since a long time. The Council members need time to reflect on the Russian proposal.”
The meeting ended at just after noon at 12:30. Saudi Arabia's ambassador and an entourage arrived outside the Security Council. Inner City Press asked him if Saudi Arabia has spoke with the US about allowing safe evacuation of Americans. Video here and embedded below.
Overall, the Saudi ambassador said that the GCC draft resolution is "more comprehensive" than what Russia proposed, and that he hopes Russia wouldn't veto the GCC proposal. He said that aid access should be coordinated with the Secretary General -- now though this exclusive we know why.
When the meeting ended, UK Deputy Peter Wilson said he'd leave it to the Presidency - that is, Jordan's Dina Kawar - to say what happened as a result of the meeting. Which was, very little.
The UK's Wilson on his way into the Security Council said, "we continue to support the Saudi-led action in Yemen... in response to a legitimate request.”
Wilson said, "any civilian casualties and all civilian casualties are ones that we deeply regret. We remain fully committed to ensuring that international humanitarian law is complied with and that proper access is given to agencies who need to get access to grant relief."
So does Saudi Arabia trying to condition humanitarian access on Ban Ki-moon making a statement in support of the military offensive comply with international humantarian law?
Back on March 30 Inner City Press asked the US State Department if any steps are being taken to evacuated Yemeni Americans.
On March 31 a State Department official provided Inner City Press on background with this answer:
"We have no current plans to evacuate private U.S. citizens from Yemen. We continue to watch the situation closely. The protection and safety of U.S. citizens overseas are among our top priorities."