The United Nations has strongly urged the warring sides in the Yemen conflict, including the invading Saudi Arabia, to allow humanitarian assistance into the impoverished country, as the Saudi war machine increasingly kills more civilians, including women and children.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made the remarks in a press conference in Kuwait on Sunday, amid a political stalemate that has seen violence spilling into the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.
“We are doing our best to create the conditions for the present stalemate to be overcome,” he said, following talks in Kuwait City, which is currently leading mediation efforts in crises across the Persian Gulf region, including the standoff between Qatar and a Saudi-led quartet coalition.
Guterres’ comments came as tension between militia loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi Ansarullah movement, led by Abdul Malik al-Houthi, escalated into armed clashes that left a number of people from both sides killed late Saturday. Saleh had formally announced his alliance with Houthis in July last year in a bid to defend the Yemeni nation against the Saudi aggression.
Since March 2015, Yemen has been under heavy airstrikes by Saudi warplanes as part of a brutal war against the Arabian Peninsula country in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi movement and reinstall the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
More than 12,000 people have been killed since the onset of the campaign, and much of the country’s infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been ravaged. The Saudi war has also triggered a deadly cholera epidemic across Yemen, dragging the impoverished nation to the brink of a widespread famine.
Guterres said the UN was trying to facilitate the re-opening of Yemen’s main international airport in Sana’a as well as the southwestern port of Hudaydah, which is the key entry point for sending aid into the country.
“We will be working very closely with the (parties) to see when and how a new strong initiative will be possible,” he added at the presser.
On Friday, Saudi warplanes pounded two residential buildings in the capital’s southern neighborhood of Faj Atan, killing 14 civilians, including two women and six children, and wounding 16 others.
Just recently, the Foreign Policy magazine said it had obtained a new confidential draft report by Guterres, saying that Saudi airstrikes had killed 502 Yemeni children and injured 838 others since 2015.
In response to growing concerns over the killing of Yemeni children, Guterres said on Sunday that he faced “no pressure” from the regime in Riyadh to return it to a child rights blacklist annexed to the draft report.
On June 6 last year, the UN gave in to a Saudi demand to remove the oil-rich kingdom from its annual blacklist of child rights violators, less than a week after it blamed Riyadh for the killing of hundreds of Yemeni children.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UN drew international criticism after then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that he had expunged Riyadh from the blacklist under “undue pressure.”
The United States and Britain have been providing the bulk of the ordnance used by Saudi Arabia in the war. London has licensed 3.3 billion pounds’ worth of weapons since the beginning of the war.
The White House also sealed a multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Riyadh when US President Donald Trump made his maiden visit abroad in May. The deal, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately, was hailed by the White House as a significant expansion of the security relationship between the two countries.