The Elders today called on the United Nations Security Council to take urgent action to bring an end to the blockade of Yemen and avert a worsening humanitarian catastrophe.
They particularly urged the United Kingdom, the United States and France, as the three major powers backing the Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen and as Permanent Members of the Council, to prioritise saving civilian lives.
Meeting in London on the occasion of their biannual board meeting, the Elders noted the recent declaration by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt that his country has a “special responsibility” as the “pen-holder” on Yemen at the Security Council.
This means the UK should apply immediate and concerted pressure on its regional allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end the blockade of Yemen’s ports and land borders that has left up to 13 million Yemenis facing famine.
The Elders called on the UK, US and France to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and review all aspects of their involvement in the Coalition’s military campaign so as to minimise civilian casualties.
The continued indiscriminate missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE by Houthi rebel forces are a reckless provocation that must also be halted immediately, they added.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, Acting Chair of The Elders and former Prime Minister of Norway, said:
“The United Kingdom can exert significant diplomatic, political and military influence on key protagonists in the Yemeni conflict as a major arms exporter with historic ties to the region. Foreign Secretary Hunt must now back up his words with actions, at the UN in New York and in his dealings with his Saudi and Emirati counterparts, before even more innocent civilians die from war and famine.”
The Elders deplored the continuing blockade imposed for over a year on Yemen’s ports by the Saudi-led coalition as an illegal act of collective punishment that cannot be justified by any security imperative.
Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said:
“It is obscene that starvation is being used as a weapon of war in the twenty-first century. The catastrophic humanitarian crisis must be addressed now, regardless of the state of the UN-led peace process. Western countries with leverage over the Saudi-led coalition must act with consistency and resolve by suspending arms sales with immediate effect.”
Lakhdar Brahimi, former Algerian Foreign Minister and UN diplomat, added:
“All parties to Yemen’s conflict, including regional powers and their Western allies, have a responsibility under international law to protect civilians. The UK, US and France can both act to alleviate suffering and support the UN’s Special Envoy in his mediation efforts; these are not mutually conflicting goals. Failure to do so would give comfort to those who assert the war can be solved by military means alone.”
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