Middle East

UK says US call to end fighting in Yemen is ‘welcome’

Yemeni fighters from the Popular Resistance Committees, loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government, take part in a graduation ceremony in Taiz this month (AFP)

The United Kingdom has welcomed a call by the US to end the fighting in Yemen, adding that there was a chance to create a humanitarian corridor and head off a "terrible situation".

"This is an extremely welcome announcement because we have been working towards a cessation of hostilities in the Yemen for a long time," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC.

Obviously, the US has considerably more leverage with Saudi than we have

– UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Hunt's comments came after the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for the end of the three-year conflict late on Tuesday, urging all parties, including US allies in the Saudi-led coalition, to end the fighting.

The leadership of both countries has come under pressure over their continued support for the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen in the wake of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's premeditated murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.

The UK has faced additional calls from humanitarian organisations to press for action over Yemen through the United Nations where the country is the "penholder" with responsibility for Yemen on the Security Council.

On Tuesday, David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary who is now chair and chief executive of the New York-based International Rescue Committee, called on the UK to seek a new Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

The UK is the “pen holder” on this file at the UN and needs to draft a UN Security Council resolution immediately calling on all sides to honor a ceasefire. #YemenCantWait

— David Miliband (@DMiliband) October 31, 2018

That call for action was echoed by George Graham, director of conflict and humanitarian policy at Save the Children, who said: "As the penholder on Yemen at the UN Security Council, Britain has the power to play a leading role in shaping peace efforts going forward."

In comments to the BBC, Hunt denied that the UK had been left on the back foot by the US announcement, suggesting that it was the US that took the lead because of its greater influence over Saudi Arabia.

"Obviously, the US has considerably more leverage with Saudi than we have," he told the BBC.

"But what we've been doing is trying to bring together the Saudi coalition on the one hand, the Houthis on the other, backing the plans by the United Nations Envoy Martin Griffiths whom I met last night."

The foreign secretary, who is scheduled to address the UK Foreign Affairs Commitee on Wednesday afternoon, said this was "a very positive moment".

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In Saudi-besieged Hodeidah, Yemen's famine has already struck

"If we can land this," he said, "we could create a humanitarian corridor and head off this terrible situation which we see in the Yemen where nearly half the population are now dependent on humanitarian food aid and that's an incredibly worrying situation."

A Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemens war in 2015 has conducted frequent air strikes targeting the Iran-aligned Houthi group and has often hit civilians, although it denies doing so intentionally.

On Monday, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, an independent research group, reported that at least 56,000 people have been killed in armed violence in Yemen since January 2016.

The tally is more than five times higher than the 10,000 figure which has been regularly cited for the past two years.

Original Article