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Security Council Renews Sanctions Regime for Yemen

Security Council Renews Sanctions Regime for Yemen

Thursday, 27 February, 2020 - 07:45
UK's United Nations Ambassador Karen Pierce addresses the UN Security Council after a vote supporting Yemen related sanctions, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
New York - Asharq Al-Awsat

The UN Security Council on Tuesday renewed its sanctions regime on Yemen for another year, after tense negotiations between Britain and Russia, which threatened to veto any mention, even implicit, of Iran.

Thirteen countries eventually adopted the London-drafted resolution on the sanctions, which now are in effect through February 2021. Russia and China abstained, Agence France Presse reported.

The sanctions plan, which would have expired on Wednesday, includes the extension of the mandate of UN experts who monitor the arms embargo imposed in 2015.

The Yemeni government welcomed the resolution.

Yemen’s Permanent Representative to the UN Abdullah Al-Saadi told the Security Council that the recent report from the UN experts reflects the important role that the Council should play in ending the suffering of Yemenis caused by the war launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militias.

Saba news agency quoted the ambassador as saying that the violations committed by the insurgents contravene UN-led peace efforts.

Saadi accused the Houthis of failing to commit to the Stockholm Agreement.

“The militias continue to welcome Iranian experts and receive military support and weapons from Iran,” he said.

He also urged the UN to hold accountable Houthis for kidnapping children from schools in Yemen and putting them on battlefronts without the consent of their parents.

Talks on the latest resolution had been ongoing for a week with little apparent difficulty, but suddenly on Monday, Moscow said it could not support the text drafted by London. 

It threatened to use its veto and offered a counterproposal, diplomats said.

Russia was up in arms over any mention of Iran.

The report from the UN experts who monitor the arms embargo said the Houthis had been in possession since 2019 of new weapons -- drones and cruise missiles -- with "technical characteristics similar to arms" produced in Iran.

During the Security Council negotiations, Britain initially abandoned any mention of Iran.

But then -- shortly before the vote and after France and Belgium stepped in to mediate -- London agreed to omit any reference to the arms possessed by the Houthis and their similarity to Iranian weapons.

During the debate Tuesday, US representative Rodney Hunter accused Iran of smuggling weapons to the Houthi for years, thus violating the UN arms embargo on Yemen and one imposed against Iran, too.

Britain and France criticized what they called Russia's habit of threatening to use its veto power and proposing a competing text so as to have its way.

Veto power cannot become a negotiating tactic, said British Ambassador Karen Pierce. 

"If countries are going to engage in negotiations with us in detail and then not support the text, then that in my mind is sharp practice," Pierce said.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia denounced what he called an artificial crisis. He complained that none of Russia's concerns were taken into account by the British and said the approach in this case could be one of "take it or leave it."

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