UN Teams Head to Riyadh to Discuss Houthi Access to Weapons

On 25 November 2017, a shipment of vaccines is delivered to the Sana’a International airport to protect Yemeni children from diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus. Photo: UNICEF/Madhok
On 25 November 2017, a shipment of vaccines is delivered to the Sana’a International airport to protect Yemeni children from diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus. Photo: UNICEF/Madhok
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UN Teams Head to Riyadh to Discuss Houthi Access to Weapons

On 25 November 2017, a shipment of vaccines is delivered to the Sana’a International airport to protect Yemeni children from diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus. Photo: UNICEF/Madhok
On 25 November 2017, a shipment of vaccines is delivered to the Sana’a International airport to protect Yemeni children from diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus. Photo: UNICEF/Madhok

Several UN teams will head to Riyadh in the upcoming days to meet with the coalition to support Yemen's legitimacy to discuss inspection mechanisms and verification. This comes in response to the coalition's request to ensure the insurgency does not succeed in smuggling more weapons and contraband into Yemen.

The weapons pose a threat to the international navigation and can be used to target civilians in neighboring countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Abdullah al-Maalmi revealed that the teams and delegations heading to Saudi Arabia had been determined and the visit should as early as of December.

Since Decisive Storm began in Yemen, UN had been inspecting every ship entering the country, however the coalition had confirmed more than once that smuggling operations still take place in the country, accusing Iran of supporting Houthis.

After Houthis launched a missile at Riyadh, Saudi-led coalition announced a temporary closure of the Yemeni ports. Two days later, the ports opened in areas under the Yemeni legitimacy control and the rest were reopened for humanitarian aid on November 22.

In a press conference held in Riyadh, Saudi-led coalition revealed several photos and evidence that show Iran's involvement in arming Houthis in Yemen.

An informed source confirmed that "foreign support from the Iranian regime came to sustain the operations of Houthis threatening the security of Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, as well as international security in the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb and the Red Sea."

The source also pointed out that Iran's aggressive actions are targeting Mecca and other Saudi cities.

Iran's behavior is a breach of UN resolutions, including Resolutions 2231 and 2216, according to the source, who also indicated that the technical support and training to Houthis threaten regional security.

He called upon the United Nations and the international community to impose strict measures to stop the Iranian regime and hold it accountable for violating the UN resolutions and supporting groups like Lebanese Hezbollah and Houthis.

Remnants of four ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels this year appear to have been designed and manufactured by Iran, according to a "confidential" report by United Nations sanctions monitors to the Security Council seen by Reuters.

Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, Maalami stated that Saudi Arabia had been cooperating with the UN and facilitated the visit of the team and informed them of all information available about the missiles.

The independent panel of UN monitors said it “as yet has no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier” of the missiles, which were likely shipped to the Houthis in violation of a targeted UN arms embargo imposed in April 2015.

Experts visited two Saudi Arabian military bases to see remnants gathered by authorities from missile attacks on Saudi Arabia on May 19, July 22, July 26 and November 4.

“Design characteristics and dimensions of the components inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian designed and manufactured Qiam-1 missile,” the monitors wrote.

Reuters also reported GlobalSecurity.org public policy organization which explained that Qiam-1 has a range of almost 500 miles and can carry a 1,400-pound warhead.



One Year Later, Migrants Who Cheated Death Off Greece Seek Justice

A boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean. Reuters file photo
A boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean. Reuters file photo
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One Year Later, Migrants Who Cheated Death Off Greece Seek Justice

A boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean. Reuters file photo
A boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean. Reuters file photo

Desperate hands clutched at Ali Elwan's arms, legs and neck, and screams misted his ears, as he spat out saltwater and fought for three hours to keep afloat in the night, dozens of miles from land.
Although a poor swimmer, he lived — one of just 104 survivors from the wreck of a dilapidated old metal fishing boat smuggling up to 750 migrants from North Africa to Europe.
“I was so, so lucky,” the 30-year-old Egyptian told The Associated Press in Athens, Greece, where he works odd jobs while he waits to hear the outcome of his asylum application. “I have two babies. Maybe I stay(ed) in this life for them.”
Thousands have died in Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks in recent years as migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa seek a better life in the affluent European Union.
But the sinking of the Adriana a year ago Friday in international waters 75 kilometers (45 miles) off Pylos in southern Greece was one of the worst. Only 82 bodies were recovered, so that hundreds of families still lack even the grim certitude that their relatives are dead.
Elwan, a cook whose wife and children are in Cairo, says he still gets phone calls from Egypt from mothers, brothers and wives of the missing.
“We (left) home to get the best life for the family and until now (their families) know nothing about them,” he said.
And after a year there are only hazy answers as to why so many lives were lost, what caused the shipwreck and who can be held answerable.
Migrant charities and human rights groups have strongly criticized Greece's handling of the sinking and its aftermath.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Thursday “a credible process for accountability” was needed.
“It is unconscionable that one year since this horrific tragedy, the investigation into the potential liability of (Greece’s) Coast Guard has barely progressed,” HRW official Judith Sunderland said in the groups' joint statement.
The Greek coast guard, migration ministry and other officials did not respond to AP requests for comment ahead of the anniversary.
Authorities had a coast guard boat on the scene and merchant ships in the vicinity during the trawler's last hours. They blame smugglers who crammed hundreds of people into an unseaworthy vessel — most in an airless hold designed to store a catch of fish — for a nightmare voyage from Libya to Italy.
They also say the Adriana capsized when its passengers — some of whom wanted to press on for Italy after five dreadful days at sea, others to seek safety in Greece — suddenly surged to one side, causing it to lurch and turn turtle. And they insist that offers to take the migrants off the ship were rebuffed by people set on reaching Italy.
Elwan — who says he was on deck with a clear view of what happened — and other survivors say the lurching followed a botched coast guard attempt to tow the trawler. He claimed the coast guard hurriedly cut the towline when it became evident the Adriana would sink and drag their boat down with it.
“If you find the ship (at the bottom of the sea), you will find this rope” still attached to it, he said.
But the logistics make such a feat nigh-on impossible, Greek authorities say, as the ship rests some 5 kilometers (more than 3 miles) down, at one of the Mediterranean's deepest points.
The coast guard has denied any towing attempt, and allegations that its vessel tried to shift the trawler into neighboring Italy's area of responsibility.
A naval court began investigating last June, but has released no information on its progress or findings.
Separately, in November Greece's state ombudsman started an independent probe into authorities' handling of the tragedy, bemoaning the coast guard's "express denial” to initiate a disciplinary investigation.
Last month, a Greek court dropped charges against nine Egyptians accused of crewing the Adriana and causing the shipwreck. Without examining evidence for or against them, it determined that Greece lacked jurisdiction as the wreck occurred in international waters.
Effie Doussi, one of the Egyptians' defense lawyers, argued that the ruling was “politically convenient” for Greek authorities.
“It saved the Greek state from being exposed over how the coast guard acted, given their responsibility for rescue,” she said.
Doussi said a full hearing would have included testimony from survivors and other witnesses, and let defense lawyers seek additional evidence from the coast guard, such as potential mobile phone data.
Zeeshan Sarwar, a 28-year-old Pakistani survivor, said he's still waiting for justice, “but apparently there is nothing.”
“I may be looking fine right now, but I am broken from the inside. We are not getting justice,” he told the AP. “We are not receiving any information about the people of coast guard ... that the court has found them guilty or not.”
Elwan, the Egyptian, said he can still only sleep for three or four hours a night.
“I remember every second that happened to me,” he said. “I can’t forget anything because (I) lost friends in this ship.”
The journey that preceded the wreck was also horrendous.
Survivors said Pakistanis were confined in the hold and beaten by the crew if they tried to stir. But Arabic-speaking Egyptians and Syrians enjoyed the relative luxury of the deck. For many, that spelled the difference between life and death when the ship capsized.
“Our condition was very bad on the first day because it was the first time in our life that we were traveling on the sea,” Sarwar said.
“If a person ... tried to vomit, then they used to say that you have to do it right here on your lap, you can’t get (outside),” he said. “On the fifth day, people were fainting because of hunger and thirst. One man died.”
Elwan said he left for Europe secretly, telling his wife he would be away for months, working at an Egyptian Red Sea resort.
He's upset that he's still to be granted asylum, unlike many Syrian survivors who, he said, have moved on to western Europe.
“Only people from Egypt can't get papers,” he said. “I've been working for 10 months to send money for my family ... If someone says come and move rubbish, I will go and move this rubbish, no problem for me.”
If he gets residence papers, Elwan wants to work in Greece and bring his family over.
Otherwise, “I will go to Italy, maybe Germany. I don't know.”