Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday called for a ceasefire in the conflict in Yemen between forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Shiite rebels backed by Tehran.
Rouhani, who made his remarks in a speech marking Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, also stressed the need for urgent humanitarian aid in a war that has killed at least 643 civilians and wounded another 2,226.
He spoke a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif urged a swift end to the crisis with a call for an immediate ceasefire, followed by humanitarian assistance, dialogue among Yemenis and the formation of an “all-inclusive government.”
“Everyone should be thinking of putting an end to the war, of a ceasefire and of humanitarian aid,” Rouhani said, calling on the Arab coalition carrying out airstrikes on Shiite Houthi rebels to “reverse course.”
The Saudi-led forces launched the airstrikes last month as the rebels advanced on Yemen’s main southern city of Aden after seizing the capital.
Hadi fled Aden for Saudi Arabia during the Houthi advance and the city has since seen heavy clashes between pro and anti-government forces.
Rouhani also spoke of the plight of Yemeni children, with UNICEF having said at least 74 have been killed and 44 wounded since the bombing began on March 26.
“Do not kill innocent children,” he said, without pointing the finger at any country.
“Why massacre people?” he asked, saying: “A great people like the Yemenis will not surrender to bombing.”
Riyadh has accused Tehran, the major Shiite power, of backing the rebels in a bid to establish a pro-Iran state on its doorstep.
Zarif, speaking in Islamabad on Wednesday, rejected the claims and said: “Fighting will not resolve this problem.”
“We are not bombarding anyone,” he said. “Our planes are not there hitting hospitals and bridges and flour factories.”
However, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday openly accused Iran of providing support to the rebels.
“There have been — there are, obviously — flights coming from Iran. Every single week there are flights from Iran and we’ve traced it and know this,” Kerry told PBS television in an interview.
“Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries in other countries,” he said.
The US has backed the Saudi-led campaign, which launched airstrikes last month as the rebels advanced on Yemen’s main southern city of Aden after seizing the capital, Sana’a.
Kerry, fresh from world powers striking a framework agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, said Washington was not looking for confrontation with Tehran.
“But we’re not going to step away from our alliances and our friendships and the need to stand with those who feel threatened as a consequence of the choices that Iran might be making,” he said.
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