The UN Security Council has held closed-door meetings on the conflict in Yemen, where fuel shortages are threatening aid efforts, six weeks into a Saudi bombing campaign against the country's Houthi rebels.
Russia requested Friday's closed-door Security Council consultations on the fighting in Yemen, saying the Council should at least aim to arrange a humanitarian pause in the fighting to permit aid deliveries. However, the assembly could not agree on a Russian-drafted statement to this end, Moscow's ambassador Vitaly Churkin accused the Council of showing "amazing indecision" on the issue.
"If you cannot agree to a motherhood and apple pie statement, what can you agree on? I don't understand," Churkin told reporters after the meeting. Diplomats said that Russia's draft statement was not rejected out of hand, but that the delegations needed more time to consider its wording.
The World Health Organization said on Friday that fighting on the ground and airstrikes by a Saudi-led local coalition have killed 1,244 people, injuring more than 5,000 between March 19 and April 27. Reports on casualties have varied in recent weeks, a separate UN study this week estimated at least 550 civilians had died in the war.
Fierce fighting was reported on Friday, at least 20 civilians died during Saudi-led airstrikes on rebel Houthi targets, including a strike in the capital Sanaa. The Shiite Houthi rebels also attacked Saudi border posts, according to Saudi Arabia's government, prompting overnight fighting that killed three Saudi soldiers and dozens of Houthis. During the course of the air campaign, Riyadh says that 11 Saudi troops have died in such border skirmishes.
The Houthis, thought to be backed by Iran, have taken control of much of the country in recent months. As the Shiite forces began gaining complete control in March, forcing Sunni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the country, neighboring Saudi Arabia intervened militarily.
Aid deliveries at risk amid fuel shortage
A month of airstrikes has virtually halted aid deliveries into the embattled area; the International Committee of the Red Cross has described the current situation as "alarming."
"After a month of airstrikes and fighting, Yemen's health system is struggling to cope and there are severe shortages of essential items, especially food and fuel," the ICRC said in a statement.
The Red Cross even described the forced evacuation of a hospital in the second city of Aden.
"The surgical team from the ICRC and all local staff and patients were forced to evacuate Aden's Al-Jumhurriya hospital when the building itself became a front line in the fighting," it said. "We are shocked by the lack of respect for the hospital, as a neutral health facility, by fighting parties."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking ahead of Friday's Security Council meeting, warned that the lack of available fuel - much of which is stockpiled by the rebels - threatened the international community's capacity to assist.
"Humanitarian operations will end within days unless fuel supplies are restored," Ban said, calling for an "immediate resumption of fuel imports to avoid making the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen even worse."
Iran is seeking domestic peace talks between President Hadi's internationally-recognized government and the Houthis, conducted at a neutral venue - a move rejected by foreign ministers from the Gulf region in a Thursday meeting in Riyadh. They argued such talks should only be held in Saudi Arabia.
msh/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)