Britain says it plans to put forward a draft resolution at the UN Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen. The conflict in the impoverished Arab nation has escalated in recent months.
Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters the draft text demanding a truce would be passed on to the Security Council's 15 members in the coming days.
He said the decision to seek a formal resolution came after the body failed to agree on a statement condemning an airstrike that killed 140 people at a funeral ceremony in Yemen's rebel-controlled capital, Sanaa, last week. Council statements must be agreed by consensus, but Russia had blocked the text, describing it as too "wishy-washy."
"Sadly the Yemen statement is dead," Rycroft said. "We have decided instead to put forward a draft Security Council resolution on Yemen calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a resumption of the political process."
Troops loyal to Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi have been battling Houthi rebels for control of the country since 2014. A coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia started a bombing campaign in support of Hadi in March last year after the Iran-allied rebels overran the capital, Sanaa. Saudi Arabia has accused its regional rival Iran of providing support to the Houthis - a charge Tehran denies.
Fighting between the two sides has intensified since UN-sponsored peace talks ended in August without an agreement. Tensions escalated further after the deadly funeral strike in Sanaa, which was widely blamed on Saudi warplanes. In the aftermath of the attack, the United States - one of the Saudi coalition's main backers - said it would review its support for the alliance.
Possibly in response to the funeral attack, a US warship in the Red Sea was this week targeted by a missile fired from territory held by the Houthis, although the rebels have denied any involvement. On Thursday, the US military launched cruise missiles against three Houthi sites in retaliation.
Meanwhile on Friday, local media reported that at least five people were killed and 15 wounded when a bomb went off inside a funeral tent in the eastern Marib province. The ceremony was for Abdul-Rab al-Shadadi, a pro-government army commander killed in fighting with Houthi rebels. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blast.
Since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015, more than 6,000 people - most of them civilians - have been killed in the conflict in Yemen, according to the UN. The country is one of the poorest in the Arab world, with food shortages now affecting nearly 70 percent of the population.
nm/jm (AFP, Reuters, AP)