UK backs UN call for Saudi Arabia and Houthis to end Yemen bloodshed
Yemen UK backs UN call for Saudi Arabia and Houthis to end Yemen bloodshed
Jeremy Hunt says cessation of hostilities could âalleviate sufferingâ of Yemeni people
Britain is to end its opposition to the tabling of a UN security council resolution designed to put pressure on Saudi Arabia and the Iranian-backed Houthis to end the bloodshed in Yemen and allow the free flow of humanitarian aid.
The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, criticised both t he Saudi-led coalition and opposition Houthi rebels backed by Iran on Monday, saying: âFor too long in the Yemen conflict, both sides have believed a military solution is possible, with catastrophic consequences for the people.â
His remarks appear to presage plans to table a UN security council resolution on the crisis, something the UK has resisted for many months, leading to claims that it is siding too much with the Saudis in the bloody four-year civil war. The UK is the penholder at the UN over Yemen, and some former Conservative cabinet ministers, notably Andrew Mitchell, say Britain has been protecting Saudi Arabia from criticism there.
Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, has been pressing privately for greater UN involvement and is due to brief the security council in the next fortnight on his efforts to get peace talks started.The Observer view on the âcessation of hostilitiesâ in Yemen | Observer editorial Read more
Hunt said in the statement that the UK was talking to the other 14 security council member states about increasing action to help the population of the Arab state, which has been torn apart by sectarian fighting since 2015.
He said: âNow, for the first time, there appears to be a window in which both sides can be encouraged to come to the table, stop the killing and find a political solution that is the only long term way out of disaster.
âThe UK will use all its influence to push for such an approach. I met UN special envoy Martin Griffiths on Tuesday, and there is a small but real chance that a cessation of hostilities could alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. This must be the first priority as we seek to put in place a longer term solution.â
The UK is understood to be working with Sweden, which has offered to host any peace talks if their terms can be agreed.
In a surprise move, the US last week called for a ceasefire in Yemen, or a ce ssation of hostilities within a minimum of 30 days, a deadline that appeared to lead to an escalation in fighting as both sides sought to strengthen their military positions.
Huntâs statement does not specifically vow to table a resolution, but he appears to be heading in that direction. A resolution has greater force than a presidential statement and would in effect tie Riyadh into not trying to escalate the war by capturing Hodeida, the strategic port held by the Houthis on the Red Sea coast through which most aid flows. Saudi-backed forces have been gathering on the outskirts of Hodeidah, but it is not clear if Saudi Arabia believes it could capture the port before any ceasefire came into force.
Saudi Arabia has been thrown on the defensive diplomatically after the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but the UK has been reluctant to sanction Riyadh in response. Diplomats believe that the weakening of the position of the crown prince, Mohammed bi n Salman, may provide a brief window to get peace talks started.'End war on Yemen's children': conflict escalates around Hodeidah hospital Read more
Labour has been calling for the UK to table a Yemen resolution at the UN for over a year.
Saudi Arabia is a long-term defence partner of the UK and signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year with the UK government to buy 48 jets in a deal worth billions of pounds.
At a press conference in Amman, Jordan on Sunday, Geert Cappelaere, the regional director for the Middle East and north Africa at UN childrenâs agency Unicef, called on the warring parties to join proposed peace talks later this month and agree to a ceasefire. âYemen is today a living hell â" not for 50% to 60% of the children â" it is a living hell for every boy and girl in Yemen,â he said.
According to Unicef, 1.8 million Yemeni children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition. It sai d both sides in the conflict were impeding the flow of aid.
The UNHCR special envoy, Angelina Jolie, also issued a statement, saying: âAs an international community, we have been shamefully slow to act to end the crisis in Yemen.âTopics
- Middle East and North Africa
- Jeremy Hunt
- United Nations
- Saudi Arabia
- Foreign policy
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