UK drafts UNSC resolution calling for ‘immediate’ ceasefire in Yemen

London will present a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen following last week’s deadly raid on a funeral. Despite this, the UK is not suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which is involved in the conflict.

“We have decided to put forward a draft Security Council resolution on Yemen calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a resumption of the political process,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters in New York.

The resolution will also focus on delivering humanitarian aid to the war-torn country following the escalation in violence after the breakdown of peace talks in August. The draft text is expected to be circulated among the council’s 15 members in coming days.

The British initiative follows one of the deadliest air strikes of the conflict by the Saudi-led coalition, which hit a funeral service in Sana’a last week, killing over 100 people and injuring some 600 mourners.

The UK draft proposal also comes after Russia blocked a statement drafted by Britain that condemned the air strike. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said it was “wishy-washy,” as he urged the UNSC members to do “some very serious thinking” on how to halt violence in Yemen, AFP quoted.

Immediately after the strike, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that “further tragedies of this sort can be avoided only by ending the violence and resuming a full-fledged political process in which all Yemenis, without outside intervention, will determine their own future.”

A roadmap to peace should be conducted on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the decisions of the Yemen National Dialogue Conference, Moscow said.

The announcement on Friday follows Human Rights Watch’s plea for the UK and the US to stop selling weapons to Riyadh in the wake of the funeral strike, which the NGO has called a “war crime”.

London’s call to end violence in the small Arab state also quite ironically coincided with the US military’s first direct engagement in the conflict.

Steve Topple, a UK-based political analyst told RT that UK’s policy is “contradictory” when it comes to Yemen, because on one hand London advocates peace in the country, yet at the same time London refuses to conduct an independent investigation into alleged crimes by the Saudi-led coalition which the UK supports.

“If you look at the UK record with Saudi Arabia so far during this conflict, they abandoned the plan for an international investigation into potential war crimes, leaving it for Saudi Arabia to conduct itself,” the expert pointed out.

“While the UK continues to sell weapons, which has been called out by Amnesty International repeatedly; while they continue to do that, everything seems, as the Russian Ambassador said,‘wishy-washy’. Its seems halfhearted.”

“Saudi Arabia is extremely important geopolitically for [the UK] in the Middle East, and of course we have the arms deals. Just last year the UK sold over 1.7 billion worth of Euro fighter typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia. And the news came out last week that the UK is in talks again with the kingdom for a five-year deal on the same product,” Topple told RT.

“These are the jets by the way which the UN has confirmed killed 510 children in Yemen since the conflict began,” he added.

In fact before the current Conservative government of Theresa May took charge in July 2016, lawmakers of her predecessor, David Cameron, licensed £5.6 billion ($6.82bn) in sales of arms, fighter jets and other military hardware to Saudi Arabia, Campaign Against Arms Trade revealed early this year. Some £3.3 billion ($4.02bn) worth of arms was supplied by the UK to Saudi Arabia since the bombing of Yemen in March 2015. Beside Typhoon jets, mentioned by Topple, UK sold Hawk fighter jets and machine guns, bombs and tear gas to the Saudis.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have shown that UK arms are being used on civilian targets in Yemen. Just last month the UK blocked a European Union drive to set up an independent international inquiry to be conducted by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) into the war in Yemen.

And while the UK’s own parliamentarian committees last month urged their government to suspend arms trade to Saudi Arabia pending an independent inquiry into alleged breaches of international law in Yemen, UK’s new Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has defended the arms trade. 

“The key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to international humanitarian law is whether those weapons might be used in a commission of a serious breach of an international humanitarian law. Having regard to all the information available to us, we assess this test has not been met,” the FM said written statement to parliament in September.