- Meetings highlight Iran’s move to undermine efforts to find a solution in Yemen through export of ballistic missiles to Houthis and encouragement of the armed group’s use of child soldiers
- Speakers at KSRelief event underscore the need for better coordination in humanitarian efforts and call for a political solution to the conflict
RIYADH, October 30, 2017–Saudi Arabia has hosted two high-level events, gathering government and military officials, as well as representatives of the humanitarian community to discuss the progress of the Saudi-led Coalition’s stabilising efforts in Yemen.
In an official summit on Sunday of Foreign Ministers and Chiefs of General Staff of the member states of the Coalition to support Yemen, the member states reaffirmed their commitment to countering the Houthi aggression, continuing humanitarian aid efforts with international partners, working to reinstall the legitimate government and stopping the entrenchment of terrorist organisations seeking to exploit the power vacuum.
Representatives from all 13 coalition countries were present at the event. The attendees noted that the Coalition’s decision to support legitimacy in Yemen was made in response to a request from its legitimate government represented by President Abdu Raboo Mansour Hady, the final communique said.
“The members strongly condemned ongoing military actions taken by the coup militias against the Yemeni citizens,” the communique said, adding that these actions have “caused death, famine, sickness and instability” in Yemen.
The leaders of the coalition stressed that military operations are not the only option to end the Houthi insurgency. However, they also strongly condemned the Houthis for recruiting and using child soldiers. They referred to a recent diktat issued by the self-proclaimed Houthi Youth Minister, Hassan Zaid, which stated that “children should be taken out of schools and sent to the battlefield.”
Meanwhile, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) organised a high-level meeting in Riyadh on Sunday as part of an effort to boost humanitarian response in Yemen. The event focused on humanitarian operations and effective ways to contain the spread of disease and mitigate conflict-related hardships.
Dr. Abdulah Al Rabeah, Advisor to the Royal Court and Supervisor General of KSRelief, denounced the Houthis’ use of child soldiers: “We condemn this and call on all parties to help in our effort to rehabilitate these children.”
Dr Abdul Malek Al Mekhlafi, Yemen’ Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, also highlighted how Iran and the former Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, “imposed the war on us”. Al Mekhlafi also underscored the need to restore commercial flights at the Saana airport, which is currently under siege, while urging the international community to exert more pressure on the Houthis for a political solution.
A similar view on the Yemen solution was expressed by Sir Mark Lowcock, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who also commended the efforts of KSRelief and other humanitarian agencies for their work in Yemen.
In a Q&A session following the summit of military officials, the spokesperson for the Coalition, Colonel Turki bin Saleh Al-Maliki of Saudi Arabia, pointed out that Houthis are the only armed non-state group in the world that possesses ballistic-missile capability, thanks to the arms supply from Iran. He also pointed out that the Houthis have fired 77 ballistic missiles into Saudi territory over the period of the conflict, and it is within the international mandate to de-weaponise such armed groups as part of global counter-terrorism efforts.
The meeting also referred to the professional assessment of US Navy Admiral Kevin Donegan, who recently stated that it was “clear that Iran was supplying Houthi rebels with sophisticated weaponry.” Maritime concerns were at the forefront of the discussion, given the instability in Bab Al Mandeb strait, a major channel of international maritime traffic. Colonel Al-Maliki further expressed the Coalition’s concerns over the import of arms through the port at Hudeidah, and said that the Houthis had rejected the proposal for the port to be placed under the UN’s administration.
The Coalition spokesman said that the Coalition acts in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and supports the UN Special Envoy’s efforts in Yemen, but that the members reject the findings of the recent UN Secretary General’s report on children in armed conflict because of its erroneous methodology and prioritisation of one-sided sources. The representatives also emphasised that part of the Coalition’s humanitarian mandate is to monitor and report human rights abuses.
The summit was hosted a week after US President Donald Trump issued new sanctions against the Iranian regime, designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as an official terrorist organisation.