UN special envoy awaits Houthis at Yemen peace talks in Geneva

The Houthi delegation failed in Geneva to arrive following a series of last-minute demands. (Reuters)
Updated 07 September 2018
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UN special envoy awaits Houthis at Yemen peace talks in Geneva

  • UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths is still working on getting the Ansarullah delegation to Geneva
  • The UN wants the government and the Houthi movement to work toward a deal to end the war

GENEVA: The United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has discussed issues including prisoners, humanitarian access and the reopening of Sanaa airport with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Yamani, a UN spokeswoman said on Friday.
But Griffiths, who began consultations with the Yemen government delegation in Geneva on Thursday, still awaits representatives of the Iranian-allied Houthi movement from the capital Sanaa, UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said.
“He is still working on getting the Ansarullah delegation to Geneva,” she said.
“Since yesterday (Thursday) he has been discussing with them confidence-building measures, including the issue of prisoners, humanitarian access, the re-opening of Sanaaa airport, in addition to economic issues,” she said.

The Houthi delegation rejected an offer to be transported by an Omani plane Friday after it was searched by the Saudi-led coalition.

The Yemeni government's delegation announced Friday that it will stay in Geneva regardless of whether the Houthis arrived or not. 

Meanwhile, Washington's ambassador to Yemen said Friday that the Geneva consultations will resume within two weeks if they do not start on Saturday. 
The United Nations announced on Thursday that Griffiths was not expected to hold any talks at its Geneva offices on Friday.
Two sources in the government delegation told Reuters on Thursday they had given the international envoy additional time to noon on Friday to persuade the Houthis to come to Geneva.
A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s war against the Iranian-allied Houthis in 2015 to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government. Subsequent peace talks flopped.
Since then the humanitarian situation has worsened sharply, putting 8.4 million people on the brink of starvation and ruining the weak economy.
The United Nations wants the government and the Houthi movement to work toward a deal to end the war, remove foreign forces from Yemen and establish a national unity government.
The Houthis’ Al-Masirah TV reported on Wednesday that the coalition had prevented their delegation from flying from Sanaa to Geneva. The Houthis have accused the United Nations of not keeping a promise to transport wounded on the flight.
Hamza Al-Kamali, Yemeni deputy minister for youth, told reporters in Geneva on Thursday the flight clearance had been given three days earlier.


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.