On Yemen, Talk of How Near Was Deal Before Saudi Strikes
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 27, 2015 -- In a UN announcement about Yemen on Saturday morning the other shoe dropped and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon named Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed to replace Jamal Benomar as envoy. Then on Monday, the UN Security Council heard Benomar's last briefing; Russia's Ambassador Churkin spoke to the press as he left the Council.
Churkin said, "They were very close. Only as far as I can tell from his description of the situation. They agreed on a whole series of arrangements for settling the political crisis. The only remaining issue was the way the collective leadership would be structured. The role of president Hadi, how the collective leadership was going to work. So it's one remaining issue, but it’s a very big issue."
Of the Saudi-led airstrikes, Churkin said, "We were very unhappy because we knew what the consequences were going to be. We are involved in a major evacuation campaign of Russian citizens and a number of other countries including dozens of American citizens who were taken out of Yemen."
Switching to Syria, Churkin told the press, "Now there is another very dangerous phenomenon, you can see it in Yemen now, you can see it in Syria, where the terrorist groups are being involved with others to pursue political certain objectives in a military campaign. We see it in Yemen and we see it in Syria, you could read a number of American newspapers over the weekend where they’re describing how the recent military successes of the opposition are explained by the fact that the Free Syrian Army is cooperating with Jabhat al Nusra. So this seems to be a new step in legitimizing terrorist groups in that part of the world."
Asked if any other Council member(s) also expressed this view, Churkin said "I was the only one who voiced this concern. It happens quite often."
Later Benomar and the Council's president for April spoke, but both during the UN's noon briefing, where Inner City Press asked more questions, watch this site.
Three times Inner City Press has asked the Office of the UN Spokesperson why Ould Cheikh Ahmed is not listed on Ban's webpage of public financial discloure and to say, yes or no, if he has an interest in a business which received funding from the Gulf. Three times the Office of Spokesperson promised to look into and give an answer, but never did.
On April 24, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric:
Inner City Press: Okay. I'm also informed of a letter from political parties in Yemen, including those representing Houthis and others, directed at the Secretary-General making two requests. One, that Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed not be named as a replacement to Mr. [Jamal] Benomar and that someone be appointed or retained who actually they will speak with. And I wanted to know… you may not know of this letter yet, but I'm reliably informed it is either there or on its way…
Spokesman: All right. I will look for the letter.
Inner City Press: And I guess my question would be, do you… has the Secretary-General… since we've already… we've heard from some of the ambassadors from the Security Council that he's put forward a name. Did he put any effort to speak to the parties on the ground in Yemen, the actual Yemenis?
Spokesman: I think the… when we're ready to announce the person, we will. Obviously, for a… an appointment as delicate as this… as this ongoing… to represent the Secretary-General in this ongoing crisis, it is normal to have as broad of a consultation as possible, and what is obviously extremely important is that once that envoy is named, that adviser is named, that all the parties give him access and engage with him.
Inner City Press: If you get the letter, will you squawk it? Does it mean that these parties that wrote…
Spokesman: I think…
Question: …once consulted…
Spokesman: It's an ongoing humanitarian crisis. It's an ongoing conflict. And we are trying to get the political process back on track. So we'd like to have a special envoy as soon as… a Special Adviser as soon as possible, and again hope that all the parties engage with him.
Question: Didn't you have one? That's my question. Didn't you actually have a Special Adviser?
Spokesman: Yes, we have Mr. Benomar…
Question: Is it your understanding that he's entirely unwilling to continue in the post?
Spokesman: Well, I think he's… he's… he's expressed his desire to move on and, as we said, we are… we're in the process of naming somebody shortly.
No response about the letter, either. This does not bode well.