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On Yemen, As Pause for Evacuation Proposed in UNSC, What's US Position?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 4, with video -- Amid complaints by Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross that they can't get medical aid into Yemen, an urgent UN Security Council meeting began on Saturday April 4 at 11 am, on a proposal for "humanitarian pauses" -- and evacuation.

  This puts the US, which has yet to evacuate Americans in Yemen, in a strange position. At the State Department's briefing on April 3, Acting Spokesperson Marie Harf was asked why the US is not doing an evacuation (giving rise to a campaign, #StuckInYemen) and said

"first, we have been warning for I think a decade now that American citizens not travel to Yemen. So that’s not a reason why not to; I’m just reminding people of that. The second is that in each of these cases, we have to make a decision based on the security situation and what is feasible to do. And given the situation in Yemen is quite dangerous and unpredictable, doing something like sending in military assets even for an evacuation could put U.S. citizen lives at greater risk. In some other places we’ve helped evacuate U.S. citizens. For example, airports were still open and you could evacuate people on commercial airlines. Obviously, that’s not the case in Yemen. So we’re continuing to evaluate the security situation, and we’re continuing to look at what our options are, but at this point, no plan – no change in plans."

  If the lack of a humanitarian pause for evacuation is one of the reasons the US has not done one, now a resolution has been proposed which would call for just such a pause. What is the US position?  We hope to have more on this.

    UK Deputy Permanent Representative Peter Wilson on his way into the Security Council said, "we continue to support the Saudi-led action in Yemen... in response to a legitimate request.”

  Wilson said the UK regrets all casualties and is committed to international humanitarian law including access by agencies to deliver aid.

  But, Wilson said, “it is extremely important” to note “how we got to this position.” He said the Houthis took military action, took action by force instead of engage in talks and called for a return to “genuine political talks on an equal basis.”

   Despite being called "urgent," things were surprisingly low key. Speaking on the way into the Council's closed door meeting were the Permanent Representatives of Chad and Nigeria, and the Deputy Permanent Representatives of Russia and, as noted and quoted above, of the UK.

  The Saudis, it should be noted, have been air-dropping weapons and ammunition into Yemen. One might think the Security Council would want to get a briefing from the ICRC. But they were not here.

  Soon it was leaked -- presumably by a Western Permanent Three members of the Security Council -- that Russia had tabled a resolution.  This is how it works, or doesn't, at the UN Security Council.

   Beyond aid getting in, how might this impact people's desire and need to get out?

   Back on March 30  Inner City Press asked the US State Department if any steps are being taken to evacuated Yemeni Americans.

  On March 31 a State Department official provided Inner City Press on background with this answer:

"We have no current plans to evacuate private U.S. citizens from Yemen. We continue to watch the situation closely. The protection and safety of U.S. citizens overseas are among our top priorities."

  Some of those impacted, including Yemeni Americans, pointed out to Inner City Press that other countries, as simply one example Pakistan which is part of the Saudi-led coalition, have done evacuations. This has been followed by India, China and others.  But not (yet?) the US, leading to the campaign #StuckInYemen. We'll haver more on this.


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