Yemen UN Envoy Underlines ‘Transparent’ Contacts with Houthis


London – An official at the office of United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed denied on Friday that any of his aides had contacted Houthi leaders residing in Beirut.

The official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the envoy had never even traveled to Lebanon since he was appointed to his post.

He made his remarks in response to media claims that Ould Cheikh had met Houthis in the Lebanese capital.

The official added: “There is no second line of contacts between the envoy and Houthis. All contacts are being done transparently and through the usual channels.”

The envoy had recently announced a new comprehensive solution to resolve the crisis in Yemen that started with a coup in 2014.

The official at Ould Cheikh’s office said: “We have not yet fully and officially presented this initiative to any side. The envoy will work on this in the upcoming days.”

Saudi Diplomacy Stops Project to Internationalize Investigations in Yemen

Overview of the United Nations Human Rights Council is seen in Geneva

London – The Netherlands surprised the United Nations Human Rights Council by submitting a draft resolution to internationalize investigations in Yemen.

Saudi Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Dr. Abdulaziz al-Wassel said that the Netherlands did not announce in a pre-session organizational meeting, its intention to put forward a draft resolution on Yemen. Consequently, the European country and its supporters later withdrew the draft resolution.

The Human Rights Council, instead, has agreed to send a technical support team to Yemen, under Article 10, rather than dispatching an international commission of inquiry, which was proposed by the Netherlands.

“The Saudi diplomacy has succeeded in assuming its leading role, and passed the Arab draft resolution, which avoided the internationalization of Yemen’s investigations,” an Arab diplomat noted, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Wassel told Asharq al-Awsat that the Saudi leadership has sent directives to the Saudi diplomats at the UN to always seek the interest of the Arab and Islamic nation.

He stressed that the agreement reached during late Thursday’s session was the “fruit of common efforts”, adding: “The moment when the text was agreed was the last hour of the current session of the Human Rights Council.”

On Thursday evening, the penultimate day of the session, efforts were deployed to draft a new text that would be based on both the Dutch and Arab proposals.

“The last hours have been difficult, as serious negotiations have begun to reach consensus, namely the last 48 hours of the session, which witnessed extensive reviews and diligent work,” Wassel said.

“The resolution has been unanimously endorsed by the participants, highlighting a unified international position on Yemen,” the Saudi diplomat stated.

The resolution called on the Yemeni parties to engage in a comprehensive, peaceful and democratic political process for the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2216.

It also expressed “appreciation to the countries that have committed to contribute to Yemen’s humanitarian response plan for 2017,” according to Wassel.

The resolution recognized the role of the Yemeni National Committee in the investigations and the importance of maintaining its work in accordance with the decision of the Yemeni President.

Imminent Activation of Yemeni Outward Transfers via Domestic Banks

London- Yemeni commercial banks have been informed that outward transfers will be activated soon, but they are required to meet some simple conditions, the Central Bank’s Deputy Governor Khaled al-Abbadi said.

“Most Yemeni banks are responding positively and showing willingness to comply with the conditions and to perform their role,” Abbadi told Asharq Al-Awsat. Some of the conditions are: providing necessary data such as their budget, statistics and the plan to transform their headquarters to Aden in addition to other obligations.

When asked how the support for Yemen’s commercial banks would benefit Yemeni citizens, he said the Central Bank’s move would provide sufficient liquidity for the financial system. Consequently, salaries would be paid on time, in addition to witnessing an increase in imports.

Abbadi affirmed that Yemen’s account in the US Federal Reserve would receive the whole revenues. Before opening the account, there were some challenges and obstacles. The first was represented in contacting the other party (Houthi and Saleh) and second tackling all US concerns and responding to all remarks.

His statement was made after he departed from Bank of England in London, when he asserted that he seeks restoring relations between the Yemen Central Bank and the Bank of England that has contributed 53 years ago in the establishment of the first central bank in the Arabian Peninsula.

Abadi added that a work plan has been agreed upon to re-normalize the Yemeni public account in the Bank of England. It is “the biggest account in sterling and we can carry out banking operations worldwide through it.”

Hadi: We are about to Regain the Three Authorities

London– Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi said that the legitimate power was about to restore the state’s three main authorities.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Hadi noted that since his arrival in Aden, he has sought to activate and protect the constitutional institutions, mainly the presidency, “and then we worked to restore the government.”

“We have recently completed the activation of judicial institutions, and soon we will finalize the regulation of the three authorities with the holding of Parliament sessions in Aden”, he added.

The Yemeni president stressed that the coup perpetrated by the Houthis and the supporters of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh was aimed at destroying the country and imposing the Iranian influence.

“We have realized from the start that this coup is not targeting the power, but is aimed at the destruction of the state and the implementation of a hybrid model imported from Iran, based on the idea of the guardianship of the jurist [Welayat al-Faqih – which cannot be tolerated by our people,” Hadi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Asked about the revenues withheld by the Houthi and Saleh militias and how the legitimacy was dealing with external debt repayment and internal obligations, the Yemeni president said that coup militias have exhausted all the state’s hard currency reserves and seized state resources.

“We have tried to save the situation and protect the Yemeni monetary and banking system by transferring the central bank to Aden to save what can be saved. We succeeded in maintaining international support for Yemen by paying foreign debt service regularly, in addition to the salaries of diplomatic institutions and financial aid for our students abroad,” he noted.

He stressed that despite the scarcity of resources, the legitimate government has “acted responsibly towards all our people without distinction, and we try to cover as much as possible salaries of some vital sectors.”

“In contrast, militias still control more than 70 percent of the State’s resources, which are estimated at five billion dollars annually, from national industries, telecommunications, customs revenues, Hodeidah port revenues and Khat taxes, as well as looting and illegal toll-raising on industries and business people,” Hadi said.

Asked about his recent participation in the UN General Assembly session in New York, the Yemeni president said he had fruitful meetings with international financial and monetary institutions in order to mobilize economic support for Yemen.

“We also discussed the requirements of the Reconstruction Fund and the role of the Yemeni government in overseeing the identification of projects and the urgent need to support the government budget and enable it to meet the basic obligations,” he noted, adding: “We have succeeded in activating the Central Bank’s foreign accounts in a number of financial institutions, most notably the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.”

On the UN envoy’s efforts to reach a political solution to the Libyan crisis, Hadi said: “The coup insurgents have refused to deal with the international envoy, but tried to liquidate him physically, and even today they reject initiatives of Mr. [Ismail] Ould Sheikh Ahmed on the grounds that the Hodeidah initiative would require them to provide the central bank with state resources they are stealing.”

He underlined the legitimate government’s willingness to offer compromises in order to establish peace in the war-torn country.

Deputy of UN Yemen Envoy Heads to Sana’a


London – Preparations are ongoing by the new deputy to United Nations special envoy for Yemen Ma’ain Shuraim to head to Sana’a to tackle the settlement file, diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Sources from UN special envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed affirmed that a team of experts will head to Sana’a.

Shuraim’s visit will be the first of its kind by a high-ranking official since Ould Cheikh’s trip to Yemen four months ago where he escaped an assassination attempt.

This step is supposed to boost the UN’s quest to restore communication with insurgents in Yemen.

The special envoy reported in previous statements that communication is cut, but he voiced optimism that it will be restored.

The step will also yield the establishment of an office for the UN special envoy in the temporary capital Aden.

The diplomatic source, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that a few meetings will likely be held on the sidelines of the General Assembly to back the special envoy and his plans.

In a related matter, a meeting was held in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Saturday between Shuraim and Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mekhlafi.

Mekhlafi stressed that the Yemeni government has been treating all peace efforts positively, including efforts to resolve the crisis exerted by the UN envoy.

Houthis Besiege Saleh’s Journalists


London- Houthis have tightened the noose on journalists associated with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh after besieging them to choose between speaking in support of a united rhetoric or keeping silent.

The latest Houthi threat came in light of the dispute that erupted last month between both parties.

Yemen’s Minister of Information Muammar al-Iryani told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that “the general behavior of Houthis with journalists is marked by exclusion. The rebel groups do not miss a chance to silence any voice that does not respect their ideologies, even if their moves were at the expense of their partners in the coup.”

The minister said Houthis should release all prisoners, especially journalists.

Yemeni political analyst Najib Gholab explained that Houthis were currently expanding their threatening approach.

“They arrested some journalists and threatened others. Journalist Nabil al-Soufi who is close to Saleh, already announced that he will not speak about politics, and cynically said he will talk about cooking and fashion in order to avoid being arrested,” Gholab said.

He said that several social media activists considered the fact of submitting to the threats as not a right decision.

Yemeni political analyst Abdullah Ismail told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that “Houthis have started early to target pro-Saleh journalists,” adding that those insurgents do not accept any kind of criticism.

“Several journalists were subject to distortion and threats,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Foreign Ministry denied Iranian claims that Saudi Arabia requested Iranian mediation with Houthis.

Director of Media Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Osama Ahmed Nugali, refuted the statements of Hossein Amir Abdollahian, senior advisor to the Iranian Parliament Speaker, carried by Iranian News Agency (IRNA) that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia requested Iranian mediation with Houthis in Yemen.

He further confirmed that these claims are outright baseless and unfounded.

Early this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said that Tehran’s propaganda of rapprochement with Riyadh is “ridiculous.”

Britain Calls on Houthi, Saleh to Respond to Ould Cheikh’s Plan

United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, speaks to reporters upon his arrival at Sanaa airport on a visit to Sanaa

London– British Ambassador to Yemen Simon Shercliff blamed the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh militias for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, calling on them to respond to the efforts of UN Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and study his proposals carefully.

In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Shercliff urged Houthis’ Ansarallah group and the General People’s Congress to improve the humanitarian conditions that “have worsened because of their actions” and to prioritize the interests of the Yemeni people when discussing possible solutions to the crisis.

“A political solution is the only way out and is not impossible to attain,” the ambassador said, noting that such solution required the constructive participation of all parties without preconditions, calling on all the factions to “sit on the negotiating table immediately to reach an agreement.”

“The situation in Yemen is disastrous, and the country is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world at this time, so looking for solutions through negotiations is a priority for us,” he stated.

The ambassador went on to say that the humanitarian impact on the Yemeni people was shocking.

“We cannot tolerate the denial of access to necessities such as food and medicine. A large number of Yemenis are also faced with an uncertain future in light of the collapse of the educational system,” he warned.

Asked about the request of Yemeni President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi to activate the Friends of Yemen Association, Shercliff said that it was a group of friends and international partners who agreed to help the Yemeni people during the preparations for the National Dialogue Conference.

“Most of these countries and organizations are still helping Yemen in its current crisis,” he stated.

Shercliff stressed the need to respond to the efforts deployed by the UN envoy to Yemen, noting that his country calls on all parties to carefully consider the proposals submitted by Ould Cheikh Ahmed for the sake of the Yemeni people.

Role of International Humanitarian Organizations in Yemen Put to Question


London- Humanitarian questions arose on Hodeidah not receiving any aid, despite it being closest to a main seaport. On the contrary, images capturing the situation there continued to spread showing dire cases of famine.

“We have told them (aid agencies) that you cannot play the role of the government, and the months went by and the issue became clear,” said Al-Bara Sheiban, a Yemeni political researcher who says the UN organizations working in Yemen have tried to play a bigger role, believing they will be able to cover the role of the government.

Sheiban, like many other analysts, doubts the effectiveness of the role played by the UN organizations in Yemen. There are two billion dollars, according to a press release issued by Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani, spent on humanitarian aid, but with no evident results.

Any aid effort pales in comparison to documented field scenes released showing Yemenis in suffering.

Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to analysts about the role of humanitarian organizations in Yemen and sent questions to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“It must be recognized that most organizations have formed their political identity during the Cold War, so their approach is based on the use of their political relations with the international community,” said Abdullah al-Junaid, a Bahraini political writer.

“In Yemen, aid organizations pressure the Yemeni constitutionally-elected government through continued targeting of its regional backers, namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as media campaigns in the United States and the United Kingdom are being carried out with preconceptions about what Saudi Arabia and the UAE are doing in Yemen,” said al-Junaid.

“Relief and rights international organizations seemingly operate according to criteria that are important human rights, but the propaganda establishment obscures the reality of these organizations and influences the reality of their interests.”

Yemeni Ambassador Blocks Selling of Government Property in London

Yemeni Ambassador in London Yassin Noman

London- Yemeni Ambassador in London Yassin Noman said on Friday that he blocked the selling bid on embassy property in the UK.

Houthis, a key player in a national insurgency in Yemen, had procured the official documentation of the embassy-related asset after having raided foreign ministry offices in Sanaa.

A group of Houthi-aligned brokers has already sold a valuable property which once belonged to the Yemeni government in Park Lane, central London, some 15 years ago, Noman told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The ambassador contacted the British Foreign Office telling them that serious documents belonging to the Yemeni embassy in London, also relevant to two other properties, one in London and the other in Birmingham, “are now in the possession of Houthis militias in Sanaa.”

Noman conveyed the embassy’s fear that those documents will be put to illicit use and demanded that necessary precautionary actions be taken.

The diplomat said that as soon as Houthis knew about the measures taken by the embassy, they rushed into reacting by Hisham Sharaf – the coup-assigned foreign minister—writing to a lawyer in Britain on the topic.

According to the ambassador, “the British Foreign Office has shown positive responsiveness and transferred the matter to legal affairs to complete needed procedures.”

“We will now continue the next steps and will inform the British Foreign Office, which will in turn contact local municipal councils,” Noman added.

He also warned against Houthis and loyalists to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh manipulating assets of the Yemeni state abroad.

The ambassador wondered why Houthis seized original documents of state property. He also stressed the importance of the papers remaining in safety from any irresponsible behavior.

Houthi-Saleh Tension Paralyzes Coup Institutions

A Yemeni soldier stands on the debris of a house hit in an air strike on a residential district in the capital Sanaa, on August 26, 2017

London- Clashes between militias of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and head of Ansar Allah group, Abdul Malik al-Houthi uncovered on Sunday a “paralysis” that affected the “coup” institutions.

Signs of confusion appeared in a statement issued by the Houthi-controlled “parliament” in Sana’a announcing that both parties were not anymore bound by agreements signed earlier between them, also asking the two sides to reveal all settlements signed without the parliament’s knowledge.

On Saturday, a war of words between the two previous allies exploded into a military confrontation when militants believed to be linked to Saleh’s Republican Guards fired at a Houthi military position in the Joulat al-Misbaha where the two groups exchanged fires in the presence of a high security deployment. Reports said the clashes erupted after Houthi fighters tried to set up a security checkpoint near Saleh’s house in Sana’a.

Meanwhile, a leading figure at the General People’s Congress (GPC) Khalid al-Shujaa compared Houthis to ISIS, in a comment posted on his Facebook page on Sunday.

“Houthism is an intellectual dirt that needs to be removed similar to ISIS and Qaeda,” Shujaa wrote, adding that Houthis survive on the presence of disputes between the warring parties and different Yemeni forces.

A Yemen affairs expert, Najib Gholab said that what happened in Sana’a lately was similar to “an explosion of the crisis before rearranging the papers of the coup.”

Despite a cautious calm reported Sunday by several news agencies, a high-security presence appeared at several intersections in the Yemeni capital.

Yemeni political writer Sam al-Ghobari told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that the dispute between the two parties is very deep and was previously buried under the sand.

Also on Sunday, Saleh’s GPC party said in a statement that Colonel Khaled al-Rida, deputy head of foreign relations in the GPC was killed last Saturday by groups “that are strangers to morals, treaties and commitments,” falling short of naming Houthi militants for killing him.