An emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on Yemen ended Friday with the 15 members 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.”
He criticized Western and Arab members of the U.N. Security Council for paying “lip service” to humanitarian needs in Yemen after the council was unable to agree on a
“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.
But U.S. officials said Friday that Secretary of State John Kerry might visit Saudi Arabia, which has led an air campaign against Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen, next week to explore new strategies to end the violence.
Last month, Saudi Arabia announced $274 million in humanitarian aid for the embattled country. About 150,000 people have been displaced, 50 percent more than the previous U.N. estimate, the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA said in April, citing local sources.
Prospects for the U.N.-led talks are a concern. The Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, insists that talks be held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Churkin said the Houthi rebels wouldn’t go there.
‘Houthis responsible for humanitarian crisis’
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 [Yemeni] President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh that are responsible for the humanitarian crisis,” an unnamed U.S. official told Reuters news agency.
“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.
Talks had collapsed after Houthi militias went on the offensive in recent months, seizing the capital Sanaa and advancing on Aden, forcing President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to flee into exile to Saudi Arabia.
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched an air war on Yemen on March 26 to prevent the Houthis from taking the entire territory and to restore Hadi’s authority.