Bri­tish min­is­ter of state says ‘in­sur­gents and ter­ror­ists’ clut­ter Ye­men pub­lic sec­tor pay­rolls

The National - News - - NEWS - DAMIEN McEL­ROY Lon­don

Alis­tair Burt, the Bri­tish Min­is­ter of State for the Mid­dle East, said that ef­forts to sta­bilise Ye­men are be­ing com­pli­cated by the de­lib­er­ate in­clu­sion of “in­sur­gents and ter­ror­ists” on lists of pub­lic sec­tor salaries.

Ef­forts to pay civil ser­vants and other govern­ment em­ploy­ees is a top pri­or­ity for me­di­a­tors and hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions seek­ing to in­crease money in the econ­omy and stave off food short­ages and the coun­try’s de­scent into near star­va­tion.

Donor coun­tries have sought to pro­vide funds to the Ye­men govern­ment and the Houthirun min­istries in Sanaa to al­low pub­lic ser­vants to draw salaries.

“There is a new and added com­pli­ca­tion in speak­ing to the UN over the week­end – not ev­ery­body on the list is nec­es­sar­ily all they seem. There are those on the lists who may be in­sur­gents and who may be ter­ror­ists and no­body is go­ing to hand over tax­pay­ers’ money to just pay salaries to these peo­ple. This is a new com­pli­ca­tion done by those who seek to abuse these lists.”

Mr Burt also dis­missed sug­ges­tions that a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion should be passed that de­mands a cease­fire in the Ye­men con­flict.

Speak­ing to par­lia­ment, Mr Burt said he was guided by the need to pro­vide max­i­mum sup­port for the ef­forts of Martin Grif­fiths, the UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s spe­cial en­voy, who is at­tempt­ing to restart ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Houthi rebels.

“The best way to use the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is to sup­port the role of UN spe­cial en­voy Martin Grif­fiths,” he said. “We don’t want to do any­thing to un­der­cut it. If you want to see an end to the con­flict you will sup­port Martin Grif­fiths and his ef­forts.”

Mr Burt said Mr Grif­fiths, who was meeting the US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo yes­ter­day, con­tin­ued to work to build con­fi­dence among the war­ring par­ties for ne­go­ti­a­tions af­ter the fail­ure of an at­tempt to launch a new round of talks in Geneva in Septem­ber.

Mr Burt said that the Houthi lead­er­ship had been re­spon­si­ble for the fail­ure of the Geneva ini­tia­tive. He said the sum­mit be­tween the govern­ment of Ye­men and its Houthi-led ri­vals was “thwarted by the Houthi” who re­fused to at­tend ne­go­ti­a­tions. At­tempts to blame lo­gis­ti­cal hur­dles and the lack of hu­man­i­tar­ian or med­i­cal evac­u­a­tions were not cred­i­ble.

“If they had wanted to be there, they would have gone,” the long-serv­ing min­is­ter said.

He said the Houthis were re­spon­si­ble for abuse of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, sys­tem­atic re­cruit­ment of child sol­diers, in­ter­fer­ence in the fight against cholera and cam­paigns of tar­geted as­sas­si­na­tion.

It was a view echoed by Jan Ege­land, the head of the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil and a for­mer deputy to Kofi An­nan as spe­cial en­voy to Syria. He said the diplo­matic fail­ure was com­pa­ra­ble to the lack of pressure on the As­sad regime in 2012.

“Martin Grif­fiths is do­ing ev­ery­thing that can be done as a spe­cial en­voy. He did ev­ery­thing right un­til Geneva but there was not enough pressure on the par­ties from the out­side world. To me it echoes the sit­u­a­tion with Kofi An­nan and the par­ties in Syria in 2012,” Mr Ege­land said. “There wasn’t enough pressure on these ir­re­spon­si­ble par­ties.”

The Bri­tish par­lia­ment also heard a call from Marwa Baab­bad, a re­searcher with the Ox­ford Re­search Group, for pressure on Iran to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Houthi groups it arms and funds.

“There is a per­cep­tion among some Ye­me­nis that the UN Spe­cial En­voy is not hold­ing the Houthis ac­count­able enough,” she said.

“The UK govern­ment should pressure Iran to stop arm­ing the Houthis and hold them re­spon­si­ble for their at­tacks on their pop­u­la­tion.”

AFP

A Ye­meni boy in Ja­bal Habashi near Taez suf­fer­ing from se­vere mal­nu­tri­tion as a re­sult of in­creas­ing food short­ages

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