UN Envoy to Submit to Hadi New Initiative for Crisis Resolution

UN Secretary-General Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed speaks to media after the Yemen peace talks in Switzerland in Bern

Jeddah – UN Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Saturday to meet with Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and ministers in the Yemeni government, to present highlights of his new initiative for a political solution in the war-torn country.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Malek al-Mekhlafi told Asharq al-Awsat that during the upcoming meetings, the government would only listen to Ould Cheikh’s ideas then agree on the next measures to be taken. He noted that the government had not received any details about the new initiative.

He also said that the UN envoy would meet during his visit to Saudi Arabia with the ambassadors of the permanent members of the Security Council, and would hold another round of meetings with the Saudi side, noting that talks would focus on the new ideas for the solution in Yemen.

Yemeni sources said that optimism of Yemeni political leaders and the public opinion with the ability of the United Nations to reach a solution to the crisis is gradually diminishing in light of the failure of many previous initiatives and proposals, the latest of which was putting the port of Hodeidah under UN administration and lifting the siege on Taiz.

The UN envoy’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes two weeks after the UN issued its annual report on the situation of children in armed conflicts, in which it accused the Saudi-led coalition of breaching children’s rights in Yemen.

The report was met with a wave of international condemnation for containing inaccurate information and figures, which were based on unreliable sources. This issue will also be tackled during Hadi’s meeting with Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

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.”

Yemen Cautiously Welcomes New UN Initiative


Jeddah – Yemen’s Deputy Premier and Foreign Affairs Minister Abdul-Malek al-Mekhlafi said that the new initiative put forward by UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed for a political solution in Yemen was unclear.

“We haven’t received any details about it,” Al-Mekhlafi said, describing the initiative as “mere intentions to conceal the failures of the United Nations.”

However, the deputy premier said the legitimate government would consider the proposal should it respect the previous references.

In a phone conversation with Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Mekhlafi said: “The new proposal is an attempt to address the fiasco of the international community, which has failed to put pressure on the coup; it is also a mean to escape forward by talking about a new plan.”

He added: “The information reached confirms that there are no specific lines or ideas so far … but just intentions with which we will deal according to the references,” referring to the outcome of national dialogue, the Gulf Initiative and UN Security Council Resolution 2216.

“The Yemeni government will go in all directions, including the option of basic peace… we will respond to every initiative by the international community. We are working in this framework and this will remain the most important option for the government,” Al-Mekhlafi said.

Commenting on the recent report by the United Nations, which accused the Arab coalition of violating children’s rights in the armed conflict, the foreign minister said: “The Yemeni government has clearly condemned this report. We believe that this statement was unfair and was based on inaccurate and biased information by some UN staff.”

“We call on the United Nations to remove the Yemeni government and the Arab coalition from this report. We maintain communication with the United Nations and we will achieve the desired goal,” the deputy premier said, adding: “Attempts under the pretext of neutrality will be uncovered soon and the truth will be revealed.”

Yemen Envoy Ould Cheikh Resumes Talks after Getting Term Extension


Cairo, London and New York – United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will commence a new round of consultations in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman aimed at finding the basis for resuming negotiations between the Yemeni government and Houthi and Saleh insurgents to reach a comprehensive settlement for the crisis, diplomatic sources affirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat.

Another Arab diplomat meanwhile revealed that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres extended the term of Ould Cheikh for six months.

Ould Cheikh will start his round of talks once he returns from New York where he was participating in the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.

Sources stressed that talks will kick off from outcomes of the national dialogue, Gulf initiative, the related UN Security Council resolutions and Arab Summits on Yemen.

Talks will also tackle the suggested date to start negotiations between the crisis parties in Yemen. It has been proposed to hold the talks in October in either Kuwait or Oman, said the sources.

Ould Cheikh reiterated, as reported by Sky News Arabia, that the humanitarian situation in Yemen has become catastrophic, holding all parties are responsible for it. He added that although the crisis is humanitarian, its resolution is political.

Kuwait Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al Sabah said during his speech at the General Assembly that his country has exerted relentless efforts to settle the conflict in Yemen peacefully.

Moreover, Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit met Ould Cheikh on the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss the latter’s contacts with international, regional and Yemeni parties related to the crisis.

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.

Dispute between Houthis, Saleh Escalates as Coup Anniversary Approaches


Aden– Political sources in Yemen said that the General People’s Congress has withdrawn from a committee entrusted with the preparation for the rebels’ coup anniversary, which falls on September 21, highlighting a widening dispute between the Houthis and the party of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that Saleh’s party withdrew from the committee in the wake of decisions made by the president of the so-called “political council”, Saleh al-Samad, against members of the General People’s Congress.

The sources added that Samad has taken a series of measures, including the removal of pro-Saleh officials from senior posts in government institutions.

Rebels are preparing to celebrate the coup anniversary, amid the failure of a political solution and their continuous rejection of all initiatives presented by the UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the last of which was the administration of the port of Hodeidah by a neutral party to collect revenues and pay salaries that had been suspended for around ten months.

“The anniversary of the occupation of Sana’a on September 21, 2014 is a nightmare for the Yemeni people,” said Ghamdan al-Sharif, Yemeni prime minister’s press secretary, in remarks to Asharq al-Awsat.

“Our people are living in their suffering to this day,” he added, stressing that militias wanted to “overthrow the Republic and declare the Faqih mandate in Sanaa and Yemen in general.”

“The Yemeni people have stood against these plans with the support of our Arab brothers in the Decisive Storm, which has aborted this Iranian project and maintained the legitimacy and the Republic,” Sharif stated.

Yemeni Government Awaits UN Special Envoy’s Response on Hodeidah Plan

Riyadh- The Yemeni government is still waiting for the response of UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to the proposals it has made concerning Hodeidah, mechanism of supplying its port revenues to the Central Bank and the payment of salaries.

A Yemeni government official said that Ould Cheikh did not provide any response to the plan to hand over the port of Hodeidah to a third party, under international supervision.

Yemeni Government Spokesman Rajeh Badi told Asharq Al-Awsat Tuesday that the initiative has many benefits for ensuring that port revenues reach the state treasury, consequently paying salaries of public sector employees.

The initiative would also stop weapons smuggling to coup militias in Yemen as well as end financing of arms dealers, who are still active in the black market and are dragging the country to conflicts among the Yemeni parties.

Badi referred to the tension and differences between the coup parties in Yemen, saying that what recently took place in the capital Sana’a is normal for an alliance that has been founded on the destruction of the country and lacks the right bases for the establishment of legal alliances. The skirmishes also indicate their fake intentions towards the Yemeni people.

Houthi and Saleh militias have more differences than similarities, the Yemeni government spokesman stressed, noting that observers and government officials have bet on the failure of this alliance because it is based on making personal gains and destroying Yemen.

The conflict in the capital Sana’a is prone to escalate and cause deaths among the ranks of coup leaders, Badi said, pointing out that they have never fulfilled their obligations and are not committed to any international agreements or peace treaties to avoid further conflict.

Notably, Houthi militias have carried out attacks and violations on UN and relief organizations in the period from 2015 to 2017 in the cities of Sana’a, Taiz, Hajja, Hodeidah, Ibb and Aden. They killed, kidnapped, closed outlets and offices and looted them, which confirms their efforts to block the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need.

Ould Cheikh: ‘No Solution in Yemen but for Institutions to Work under Legitimate Government’


London- UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed revealed Friday that a close meeting between the United Nations and representatives of the Houthi militias will take place in Geneva or in any other regional countries, such as Muscat or Cairo.

He said in an interview with Al Arabiya channel that the upcoming meeting will discuss the details of the initiative of al-Hodeida port and Sana’a airport, adding that the Hodeidah plan allows for the entry of humanitarian aid and food.

Regarding the Houthi and Saleh’s militia, he added, “they are closing the door, but we are still trying with them.”

Ould Cheikh Ahmed pointed out that there is difficulty in reaching an agreement with them during negotiations, expressing concern about the consequences of the clashes between the Houthis and Saleh’s militia.

The UN envoy said that the city of Taiz has reached a catastrophic humanitarian situation and that there is no solution but for all institutions to work under the control of the legitimate government.

He praised Yemen’s government for backing up his efforts.

On the other hand, AlArabiya.net quoted Yemen’s Foreign Minister as saying that Iran has a project, replacing the state with the sect and the army with militias.

Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi blamed Iran and its support for Houthi Shi’ite rebels for causing the country’s civil war and said it can’t be part of the solution.

He said at a press conference at the United Nations in New York that Iranian weapons are still being smuggled into Yemen.

The poor humanitarian situation in Yemen was imposed by the Houthi coup, Mekhlafi added, pointing out that international organizations are trying to find humanitarian solutions at the expense of the national cause.

The Yemeni Foreign Minister said the United Nations would not accept for airplanes to use a Houthi-controlled airport.

He noted that UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien “has promised to visit Taiz, but the militias did not allow him and he did not talk about it.”

Mekhlafi explained that there are talks about Sana’a airport, but no one is mentioning the siege imposed on Taiz, stressing that ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh hates Taiz since demonstrations against him started there.

“We have also moved the Central Bank to Aden after billions disappeared from it,” Mekhlafi further noted.

Saudi Ambassador to UN: Houthis May Accept Proposal on Yemen’s Hodeidah


Riyadh, New York – Saudi Arabia’s permanent Ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah al-Moallimi stated that the Saudi request to increase the number of UN affiliated observers to ensure the access of aid to Yemen’s Hodeidah Port is now outdated in wake of a proposal by UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed called for forming an administrative financial committee and a technical one that supervise Hodeidah Port.

Moallimi stressed his country’s support for the proposal. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are some signs that the Houthi insurgents might also endorse it, which is seen as a positive development after their refusal to meet the UN envoy during his last visit to Sana’a.

Saudi diplomats have been active during the past two days at the UN headquarters in New York over the latest developments in Yemen.

Riyadh informed members of the Security Council during informal meetings about the violations of Houthi militias against the aid efforts between 2015-2017.

Dr. Abdullah al-Rabiah, general supervisor of the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid, revealed that 65 ships, 124 aid convoys, 628 trucks, 5,500 food baskets and 6,000 wheat bags were either confiscated or stolen by the Houthi militias. He also highlighted their offensives against UN affiliated organizations and other aid groups in six Yemeni cities.

Rabiah stressed before the UN Security Council members that Saudi Arabia is committed to principles of humanitarian and international law to protect civilians and staff. He also urged holding accountable anyone who hinders access of humanitarian aid to those in need in all regions.

Saudi Arabia to Install Cranes at Three Yemeni Ports

New York- Saudi Arabia has said it is installing four cranes at three ports in Yemen to speed up the delivery of humanitarian aid and was ready to do the same at the key insurgent-held port of Hodeidah if it was placed under the control of a neutral party.

The cranes are being installed at the ports of Aden, Mukalla and Mokha, the Saudi mission to the United Nations said on Thursday. All three southern ports are under the control of the military coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

The coalition stressed its willingness to assist the Yemeni government in restoring control over the country and providing alternative tracks for the entry of food and medicine supplies.

The United Nations has sought to avert attacks on Hodeidah, a vital Red Sea aid delivery point for millions of Yemenis in danger of slipping into famine. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports arrive via Hodeidah, revealed a report by Reuters.

“Saudi Arabia is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation,” the Saudi mission said.

“We have always supported every effort to ensure that the people of Yemen receive the aid and relief they require, especially in times of crisis,” added the statement.

The coalition accuses Houthis of using the port to smuggle weapons and it called for deploying UN observers there. The UN also suggested that Hodeidah be placed under the control of a third party to facilitate humanitarian aid access and protect the port from war effects.

“The coalition reaffirms its readiness to facilitate the immediate installation of cranes at the port of Hodeidah, in line with secretary general special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s latest proposals,” the statement added.