Russian U.N. envoy: West, Arab states pay 'lip service' on Yemen aid

Reuters News
Posted: May 01, 2015 6:40 PM

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia criticized Western and Arab members of the U.N. Security Council on Friday for paying "lip service" to humanitarian needs in Yemen after the council was unable to agree on a Russian-drafted statement calling for pauses in fighting to allow delivery of aid.

In the latest sign of increasing tensions between Russia and the West, who are already at odds over Syria and Ukraine, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his three-paragraph statement on Yemen was met with a "procrastination reaction."

"I was prepared to drop a reference to (a call for) an immediate ceasefire, just at the very least they need to have periodic humanitarian pauses to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies, they couldn't even agree to that," Churkin said after closed-door consultations on Yemen.

"If you cannot agree to a motherhood and apple pie statement what can you agree on," he said. "They pay lip service, they say 'things are very bad, but what can we do about it'."

Churkin said members were consulting with their capitals over the statement but he was skeptical about any agreement.

Violence has been spreading across Yemen since last year when Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa and effectively removed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The United Nations says about 12 million people need help.

The Iran-allied Houthis and soldiers loyal to former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh have been fighting alongside each other on the Arabian peninsula. A Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against the Houthis last month.

The United States said it fully supports the unimpeded delivery of aid to Yemen, including through humanitarian pauses.

"But let's be clear – it is the ongoing, unilateral actions of Houthis' and forces loyal to former president Saleh that are responsible for the humanitarian crisis," said a U.S. official.

"The Houthis and Saleh forces have sought to undermine the political transition process and have been aggressively expanding and occupying territory since mid-2014," he said.

Earlier this month the Security Council imposed an arms embargo targeting the Houthis and soldiers loyal to Saleh.

The Russian draft statement also expressed support for the new U.N. envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who last week replaced Jamal Benomar and is charged with trying to broker peace in Yemen.

(Editing by Grant McCool)