West, Arab states only pay ‘lip service’ to Yemen humanitarian aid – Churkin

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin (Reuters / Eduardo Munoz)
The UN Security Council is paying “lip service” to Yemen’s humanitarian needs – that is the accusation voiced by Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin following Friday’s meeting, where Russia’s proposal for a humanitarian pause in hostilities was left in limbo.

These comments follow an escalation in casualties in Yemen, as Saudi Arabia stands accused of indiscriminate bombing, claiming the lives of innocent civilians.

Thousands flooded the streets of the capital Sanaa on Friday to voice their powerlessness over the situation for the second time in two weeks.

Russia implored the Security Council to agree at least on a temporary ceasefire plan to allow for the delivery of aid, but Churkin saw his three-paragraph proposal being met with “procrastination.”

READ MORE: Thousands protest in Yemen against Saudi-led intervention (VIDEO)

"I was prepared to drop a reference to (a call for) an immediate ceasefire, just at the very least they need to have periodic humanitarian pauses to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies, they couldn't even agree to that," the Russian envoy told reporters after the closed-door meeting.

"If you cannot agree to a simple statement what can you agree on… They pay lip service, they say ‘things are very bad, but what can we do about it.”

The representatives are said to be discussing the proposal further with their governments, but Churkin remained “pretty sure” on Friday that “we will not have any statement today.”

“This really shows an amazing indecision and I think lack of understanding of how things are evolving,” the Russian envoy added.

Girls carry jerrycans they filled with water from a public tap amid an acute shortage of water supply to houses in Sanaa (Reuters / Khaled Abdullah)

Ever since the Iran-allied Shia Houthi rebels expelled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the country has been devastated by fighting.

Former President Ali Abdullah Seleh’s forces sided with the Houthis, and the fierce fighting escalated, until in March the Saudi-led coalition decided to bomb the country from the air. This resulted in 12 million people in dire need of humanitarian aid, their homes and livelihoods lost.

The US has taken up a central position, appearing to praise the Russian initiative, but careful to underline that the Houthis are the only ones complicit in the current crisis. As one US official was cited by Reuters, “Let’s be clear – it is the ongoing, unilateral actions of Houthis and forces loyal to [the] former president… that are responsible for the humanitarian crisis.”

"The Houthis and Saleh forces have sought to undermine the political transition process and have been aggressively expanding and occupying territory since mid-2014," he added.

READ MORE: Yemen suffers vital food and aid shortages as shelling continues

Whether this is true or not, Saudi-led bombardment has coincided with a steep rise in casualties since March, with hundreds killed and thousands injured. At least that is what the furious protesters are upset about.

Despite the US striking a visible balance in throwing accusations and supporting a humanitarian initiative, Churkin made it clear he’s not convinced. The permanent representative stressed earlier that the United States supported the coalition bombing of Yemen and so it should also “bear the responsibility for the humanitarian consequences, the responsibility for the inviolability of diplomatic facilities.”

The five weeks of fighting in Yemen (March 19-April 27) have left nearly 1,250 people dead, the World Health Organization said on Friday. Local estimates on the ground are much higher.