Russia urges UN to call for a 'humanitarian pause' in Yemen
Russia's draft resolution to the UN demands "rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need," in a country torn by fighting between Houthi rebels and government forces.
Russia urged the U.N. Security Council on Saturday to call for a "humanitarian pause" in the conflict in Yemen to help diplomats and civilians caught in the fighting between Shiite rebels and supporters of the country's beleaguered president.
Russia called an emergency meeting of the council and circulated a draft resolution demanding "regular and obligatory" breaks in airstrikes by a Saudi-led military coalition against Houthi Shiite rebels to allow the evacuation of foreign personnel. It makes no mention of a halt to fighting by the Houthis.
The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, also demands "rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need."
Russia's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told reporters as he headed into the closed meeting that a pause is "very important" to help diplomats and civilians caught in the war.
Britain's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Peter Wilson expressed regret for any civilian casualties, but said Britain continues to support Saudi-led military action against the Houthis in response to "a legitimate request" from embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled from Yemen to Saudi Arabia last week.
Houthi advances in southern Yemen have created turmoil in the country and led to the swift unraveling of the country's military and other forces still loyal to Hadi.
Wilson said it's extremely important to remember that the current crisis was caused by the Houthis repeatedly violating cease-fires and taking military action instead of genuinely engaging in political talks.
"The only way out of this crisis is a return to genuine political talks on an equal basis and not using force," he said.
The Russian call for a "humanitarian pause" followed a call earlier Saturday by the International Committee of the Red Cross for a "humanitarian pause" lasting at least 24 hours that would open all air, land and sea routes to enable help to reach people cut off after more than a week of intense air strikes and fierce ground fighting throughout Yemen.
Robert Mardini, head of the ICRC's operations in the Near and Middle East, warned that "many more people will die" unless food, water and medical care reach people in the worst-affected areas, including the besieged southern port city of Aden.
"For the wounded, their chances of survival depend on action within hours, not days," he said.