April 4, 2015 / 4:57 PM / 4 years ago

Russia calls for pause in Yemen air strikes to evacuate foreigners

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia on Saturday called for the United Nations Security Council to push for pauses in Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen to allow the evacuation of foreign civilians and diplomats.

Russia circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member council during closed-door consultations, which was seen by Reuters, that also “demands rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed on Saturday for an immediate 24-hour halt to hostilities in Yemen to deliver life-saving medical aid into the country, where it said the humanitarian situation was dire.

The Russian draft resolution “emphasizes that any impediment to humanitarian assistance and evacuation constitutes a serious violation of international humanitarian law”.

It demands “regular and obligatory humanitarian pauses in the air strikes by the coalition to allow all concerned states and international organizations to evacuate their citizens and personnel.”

The Saudi-led coalition is bombing Iran-allied Houthi fighters and army units fighting forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. It has taken control of Yemeni air space and ports since it began its offensive 10 days ago.

“The council members need time to reflect on the Russian proposal,” said Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar, who is president of the council for April.

Saudi Arabia’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said Saudi Arabia shared Russia’s concern ensuring the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Yemen, but how this was to be done would have to be discussed.

“We always provided the necessary facilities for humanitarian assistance to be delivered,” he told reporters. “We have cooperated fully with all requests for evacuation.”

He said the humanitarian situation in Yemen was already addressed in a draft resolution by Gulf Arab states and Jordan that was being negotiating with the council’s veto-wielding powers - Russia, China, the United States, Britain and France.

That draft resolution would impose an arms embargo on groups spoiling the peace and political process in Yemen, but diplomats say Russia want an arms embargo imposed on the whole country, including the government.

“There is little point in putting an embargo on the whole country,” Al-Mouallimi said. “It doesn’t make sense to punish everybody else for the behaviour of one party that has been the aggressor in this situation.”

Jordan’s Kawar said their negotiations would continue on Saturday and “we hope that by Monday we can come up with something.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Andrew Roche and Chizu Nomiyama

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