Two-year-old Jibril Mohammad Ali Al Hakami receives treatment for malnutrition in Hodeida. The government accuses Al Houthis of hijacking critical aid intended for civilians. Image Credit: Reuters

United Nations: A proposed UN resolution circulated Monday urges Yemen’s warring parties to relaunch negotiations to end the three-year conflict and take urgent steps to tackle the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, which has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

The Security Council resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, also calls on Yemen’s internationally recognised government and Iran-backed Al Houthi militants to agree to a ceasefire around the key port of Hodeida.

Yemenis are completely reliant on commercial and humanitarian supplies of food, water, fuel, medicine and other essential supplies, and over 70 per cent of those are shipped through rebel-held Hodeida.

The government accuses the militant group of hijacking critical aid and using the port to smuggle in weapons from Iran.

Its surrounding area has been the scene of recent attacks and air strikes, though fighting has eased in recent days.

The British-drafted resolution also calls on the parties “to cease all attacks on densely populated civilian areas across Yemen” - and to halt missile and drone attacks “against regional countries and maritime areas.”

Security Council diplomats said negotiations on the draft are scheduled on Tuesday.

Problems with draft

Kuwait’s UN Ambassador Mansour Al Otaibi, the Arab representative on the Security Council, told reporters he had “problems” with the draft resolution and hoped they were addressed before a vote.

12m

of 28 million Yemenis face famine, according to UN World Food Programme

The spotlight has fallen on what many viewed as the long-forgotten war in Yemen since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said he is determined to take advantage of “the international attention and energy” to move toward peace.

The draft resolution expresses “unqualified support” for efforts by Griffiths, who told the Security Council on Friday that Al Houthis and the Saudi-backed government have agreed to attend talks “soon” in Sweden.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital of Sana’a by the Iranian-backed Al Houthis, which toppled the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting Al Houthis since 2015 after carried out a coup against the legitimate government.

The draft resolution condemns the targeting of civilians and civilian buildings, “the unlawful military use of civilian infrastructure” and drone and missile attacks by Al Houthis against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It also expresses concern at reports of civilians being used as human shields.

It welcomes the coalition’s recent de-escalation in Hodeida and calls on Al Houthis “to respond in kind in order to allow urgent deliveries of assistance and flows of lifesaving commercial imports.”

It also welcomes “the renewed commitment from the Yemeni parties to work on a political solution” under Griffiths’ leadership.

Fighting resumes

Meanwhile, fierce fighting broke out in the Yemeni port city of Hodeida late Monday, between Al Houthis and pro-government forces, despite progress in peace talks and appeals for calm, pro-government military officials said.

A day earlier an Al Houthi official called on his group to halt attacks but on Tuesday fighting was raging in and around Hodeida.

Pro-government forces responded while planes from the Saudi-led coalition, which also supports the government, launched 12 raids, the sources said.

Humanitarian appeal

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned the council on Oct. 23 that Yemen’s economic crisis and escalating conflict had pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation closer to famine than ever before, and on Friday he again urged its members to take action now.

Lowcock said the Security Council should urge the parties to negotiate an end to the conflict and the international community to boost aid. He also called for a humanitarian cease-fire around key aid facilities, delivery of humanitarian and commercial imports to all Yemeni ports and onward to their final destinations, and funding to pay Yemeni pensioners and civil servants.

The draft resolution calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Hodeida governorate and to missile and drone attacks and for all bureaucratic roadblocks to the delivery of humanitarian aid to be removed within two weeks.

David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Programme, visited Yemen last week and told the Security Council on Friday that as many as 12 million of the 28 million Yemenis “are just one step away from famine.”

To avert that, Beasley said, the international community must combine increased humanitarian funding with “an all-out effort to restore the Yemeni economy,” which has collapsed.

The draft resolution calls on Yemen’s government with support of the international community “to deliver a larger and faster injection of foreign currency into the economy” and to expedite credit for traders and payments to pensioners and civil servants within one month. It asks Griffiths to explore ways for the government and the Houthis to cooperate on channeling revenue, including from Hodeida, to the Central Bank of Yemen.