Still hope for Yemen despite violence and famine, says UN envoy

Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen. (AFP/File)
Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 January 2021

Still hope for Yemen despite violence and famine, says UN envoy

Still hope for Yemen despite violence and famine, says UN envoy
  • Martin Griffiths hails resolve of newly formed Yemeni cabinet after they were targeted in airport attack
  • US urged to reverse designation of Houthis as terrorists to safeguard peace talks and avoid humanitarian disaster

NEW YORK: Even though it was a virtual session, one could sense the emotional atmosphere during a meeting of the Security Council on Thursday as Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, briefed members about the “harrowing note” on which 2020 had ended in the war-ravaged country.
He spoke of his shock when he visited Aden’s civilian airport and saw the damage caused by “a vicious attack” on Dec. 30 targeting the Yemeni government’s newly formed cabinet as they arrived at the airport. Dozens of civilians were killed or injured, including government officials, humanitarian-aid workers and a journalist.
As he condemned the attack “in the strongest terms possible” and hailed the resolve of the members of the new government, who chose to remain in Aden and carry out their duties despite the security risks, Griffiths reminded the council that “deliberate attacks on civilians (may) constitute a war crime.”
The members of the Security Council echoed his condemnation of the attack.
“The UK assesses that it is highly likely that the Houthis were responsible for this cowardly and craven attack,” said Barbara Woodward, the UK permanent representative to the UN.
“Only the Houthis have the means, the motive and the opportunity. It was a clear and deplorable attempt to destabilize the newly formed Yemeni government. The Houthi attack casts a dark shadow over a group that claims to be pursuing peace in Yemen.”
Woodward also condemned “Houthi cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia” and said the UK “shares US concerns about the Houthi commitment to peace.”
A Yemeni government investigation into the assault on the airport also concluded that the Houthis were responsible for an attack that “casts a dark shadow over what should have been a moment of hope in the efforts to achieve peace in Yemen.”
Griffiths said the formation of the Yemeni cabinet and its return to Aden “was a major milestone for the (Saudi-brokered) Riyadh Agreement, and for the stability of state institutions, the economy and the peace process.” He once again commended Saudi Arabia for its “successful mediation role.”
He added: “Progress on the Riyadh Agreement is significant. It shows us that reconciliation between opposing parties can be achieved. Despite all their bitter opposition, and with the tireless efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as mediator, the two sides made peace with each other. So it can be done.”
Turning to the “cumbersome and frustrating” negotiations for a joint declaration by the government and the Houthis — a set of proposals for measures including a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian aid and economic relief, and the resumption of the peace process — Griffiths acknowledged that they cannot continue indefinitely.
“But let me be clear: the parties can slice and dice the set of proposals contained in the joint declaration any way they wish,” he said. “It can be a whole package. It can be done in parts. I have no objection to the way these measures are adopted.”
He called for the focus to remain on the political process, irrespective of the outcome of the joint declaration negotiations.
Mark Lowcock, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, warned that the people of Yemen face a looming “massive famine,” amid projections that 16 million Yemenis will go hungry this year. He said that 50,000 people are already starving to death in what is “essentially a small famine,” and another five million are “just one step behind them.”
There is impending danger of an even larger-scale famine, Lowcock said, if US authorities do not reconsider their decision to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization. He joined Griffiths and World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley in calling on Washington to reverse the decision on humanitarian grounds.
 “We fear that there will be inevitably a chilling effect on my efforts to bring the parties together,” Griffiths told the 15-member Security Council.
Beasley said: “We are struggling now, without the designation — with the designation, it’s going to be catastrophic. It literally is going to be a death sentence to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent people in Yemen.”
Richard Mills, the deputy US ambassador to the UN, said the terrorist designation is a response to a stalling political process that “has produced little results despite the heroic efforts of (Griffiths).”
He assured the officials that their concerns will inform Washington’s approach to the implementation of the designation, but was adamant that “this step is the right move forward to send the right signal if we want the political process to move forward.”
Details of exemptions that would allow aid agencies to distribute food in Yemen despite US regulations have reportedly not been finalized yet by the State Department in Washington, with only days to go until the designation takes effect on Jan. 19.
On top of this, about 30 million Yemenis rely on aid from UN organizations, but Lowcock said that 90 percent of the food they distribute is imported. Even if exemptions are granted quickly to aid agencies, it will not be enough to prevent famine, he warned, because the agencies cannot adequately replace commercial imports. A number of NGOs have expressed concerns that the US designation of the Houthis will disrupt their ability to maintain shipments of food to Yemen.
Lowcock also said that fears of being sanctioned by the US is discouraging many traders from continuing to supply food because they consider the risks too great.
 “What would prevent (famine?)” he asked? “A reversal of the US decision.”
Beasley additionally warned that there is a massive deficit in the funding of aid for Yemen and urged countries in the region to contribute more.
He called on “the Gulf states, the Saudis to pick up the financial tab for the needs inside Yemen because the needs in other parts of the world are so great.”
 


UN advance team arrives in Libya to monitor cease-fire

UN advance team arrives in Libya to monitor cease-fire
Updated 1 min 33 sec ago

UN advance team arrives in Libya to monitor cease-fire

UN advance team arrives in Libya to monitor cease-fire
  • The group of about 10 United Nations staff flew into the capital Tripoli on Tuesday
  • The unarmed observer team is also tasked with verifying the departure of thousands of mercenaries and foreign fighters
TRIPOLI: The advance team of a UN observer mission has arrived in Libya, which after a decade of conflict and chaos plans to hold elections in December, informed sources said Wednesday.
The group of about 10 United Nations staff flew into the capital Tripoli on Tuesday, they said, to monitor a cease-fire between the country’s two rival armed factions.
The unarmed observer team is also tasked with verifying the departure of thousands of mercenaries and foreign fighters who have been deployed in the oil-rich North African country and have so far shown no sign of leaving.
Libya was thrown into years of violent turmoil after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and led to the killing of long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
The country has been split between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord, based in the capital and backed by Turkey, and an administration in the east supported by strongman Kalifa Haftar, with the backing of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.
The two sides reached a cease-fire in October, and UN-led talks since resulted in a new temporary administration elected in February, led by interim prime minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
A diplomatic source in Tunis said the advance team, made up from the UN mission in Libya and experts from UN headquarters in New York, arrived Tuesday via the neighboring country’s capital Tunis.
On its five-week mission it is to travel to Sirte, a city on the Mediterranean coast halfway between the eastern and western power centers, as well as to Misrata in the west and Benghazi in the east.
A diplomatic source in New York said the team is due to submit a report to the UN Security Council on March 19 on the cease-fire and the departure of foreign troops.
According to the UN, some 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters were still in Libya in early December. A January 23 deadline for their withdrawal passed without any signs of them pulling out.
The Security Council in early February ordered UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to deploy the vanguard of observers in Libya, following the October 23 cease-fire deal.
In a report late last year, Guterres himself had advocated an unarmed observer group be made up of civilians and retired military personnel from African Union, European Union and Arab League member states.

Turkey says it may negotiate maritime demarcation with Egypt if conditions allow

Turkey says it may negotiate maritime demarcation with Egypt if conditions allow
Updated 10 min 46 sec ago

Turkey says it may negotiate maritime demarcation with Egypt if conditions allow

Turkey says it may negotiate maritime demarcation with Egypt if conditions allow

ANKARA: Turkey and Egypt could negotiate a maritime demarcation agreement in the eastern Mediterranean if their ties, which have been strained, allow for such a move, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
Last month, Egypt announced the start of a bid round for oil and natural gas exploration and exploitation in 24 blocks including some in the Mediterranean.
Speaking at a news conference with his Georgian counterpart in Ankara, Cavusoglu said Egypt’s exploration bids had respected Turkey’s continental shelf and that Ankara viewed this positively. 


UAE confirms 2,692 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths in last 24 hours

UAE confirms 2,692 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 28 min 50 sec ago

UAE confirms 2,692 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths in last 24 hours

UAE confirms 2,692 new COVID-19 cases, 16 deaths in last 24 hours
  • The country’s COVID-19 caseload is now at 399,463

DUBAI: The UAE confirmed 2,692 new coronavirus cases and 16 deaths on Wednesday as the Emirates continues to expand its testing of citizens and residents for the early detection of the highly contagious disease.

The country’s COVID-19 caseload is now at 399,463, with a total of 1,269 fatalities related to coronavirus.

Health officials have conducted 218,351 additional COVID-19 tests overnight, state news agency WAM said, with the total number of tests now over 31 million.

The UAE leads the world in terms of conducting coronavirus tests relative to the size of population, with infection rates compared to the total tests being among the lowest in the region and the entire world, WAM earlier said.

It is also tops the global tally on COVID-19 vaccinations after implementing a vaccination campaign to for residents and citizens to achieve mass immunity. More than six million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been provided and 3,614,070 people have been vaccinated to date, which accounts for 46.61 percent of the target population.


Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack
Updated 03 March 2021

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis said Wednesday he still expected to make his historic visit to Iraq in two days time, after a rocket attack on a military base hosting US-led coalition troops.
"The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet these people who have suffered so much," the 84-year-old Francis said in his weekly Wednesday address.
The Argentine pontiff asked for prayers for the trip, the first ever by a pope to Iraq, through which he hopes to encourage the dwindling Christian community to remain in their ancient homeland while broadening his outreach to Islam.
"I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers so that it may take place in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits," the pope said.
He added: "The Iraqi people are waiting for us, they were waiting for Saint John Paul II, who was forbidden to go. One cannot disappoint a people for the second time. Let us pray that this journey will be successful."
At least 10 rockets slammed into a military base in western Iraq hosting US-led coalition troops earlier on Wednesday, security sources said, leaving one civilian contractor dead.
The attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad base in Iraq's western desert comes after several weeks of escalating US-Iran tensions on Iraqi soil.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Francis said the pope would be travelling by armoured vehicle and that he would not be meeting crowds.
"This is a particular situation, that's why the transports will all be in a closed vehicle, meaning it will be complicated to see the pope on the streets," spokesman Matteo Brunei said.
"There will be a number of meetings but none will be more than a few hundred people," he said.


New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir
Updated 03 March 2021

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

DUBAI: Kuwait Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah called on the executive and legislative authorities in his country to cooperate as a new government took oath before him, according to state-run news agency KUNA. 

Sheikh Nawaf received at his Bayan Palace the prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah to swear-in as head of cabinet.
Ministers of the new government were also sworn in.

The previous government had resigned in January.
Oil Minister Mohammad Abdulatif Al-Fares, Finance Minister Khalifa Hamade and Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah were reappointed in the new cabinet.