Sun, May 03, 2015 - Page 5 News List

UN denies Russia’s Yemen appeal

AFP, UNITED NATIONS

Houthi supporters in Sana’a on Friday protest Saudi-led military operations against positions held by the Houthis and their allies.

Photo: EPA

The UN Security Council on Friday failed to back a Russian appeal for an immediate ceasefire or humanitarian pauses in war-torn Yemen, where critical fuel shortages threatened relief efforts and doctors described desperate scenes.

Russia requested an urgent meeting of the 15-member council as the Saudi-led air war on Yemen’s Houthi rebels entered a sixth week, crippling deliveries of fuel, food and medicine.

The latest strikes and clashes on the ground killed 47 people in the second city of Aden, where the Red Cross scrambled to evacuate staff and patients from a hospital when it became a front line.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that fuel shortages could bring all relief operations to a halt “within days,” echoing alarm from the International Red Cross and other embattled aid agencies.

During a closed-door council meeting, Russia proposed a draft statement calling for an immediate ceasefire or at least humanitarian pauses, and an urgent return to political negotiations.

However, after the statement failed to win endorsement, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that fellow envoys were showing “amazing indecision” in the face of the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Russia’s diplomacy has been greeted with some suspicion given Moscow’s close ties to Iran, which is supporting the Huthi rebels, who have seized the capital, Sana’a, and forced Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.

“If you cannot agree to a motherhood-and-apple-pie statement, what can you agree on? I don’t understand,” Churkin said.

Diplomats said the Russian statement appealing for action was not rejected out of hand, but that council members needed time to consider the wording.

“There was a strong degree of council agreement on the desperate humanitarian situation in Yemen and need to return to political talks, but no agreement in the room on the exact wording of the statement,” a diplomat said.

The World Food Program said it was halting food distribution because most stocks of fuel were in rebel hands, while the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) raised alarm over the dire plight of doctors and medical workers.

The WHO said as of Monday, 1,244 people had been killed in fighting in Yemen since March 19.

The organization said the collapse of access to healthcare had fanned the spread of epidemic diseases, with 44 alerts of suspected outbreaks of diseases, including measles, dengue fever and meningitis.

Last week, Riyadh announced a halt to the air war, but since then it has kept up daily strikes.

The new UN envoy for Yemen is due to travel to the region next week for talks on advancing prospects for a return to peace negotiations, diplomats said.

It is to be Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s first visit to capitals in the Gulf and Middle East since he was appointed as peace envoy on April 25.

The Mauritanian diplomat was appointed to replace Jamal Benomar, who resigned after losing the critical support of Gulf states.

Talks collapsed after the Shiite Huthi rebels went on the offensive, seizing Sana’a and advancing on Aden, forcing Hadi to flee into exile to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition launched the air war on March 26 to prevent the Houthi rebels from taking the entire territory and to restore Hadi’s authority.

UN efforts to resume peace negotiations for Yemen have run into hurdles over disagreements on the venue for the talks, with Gulf nations insisting they be held in Riyadh.

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