Secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, has announced that the Saudi-led Arab coalition will remain off the blacklist of those causing the deaths of children in Yemen.
Earlier this year the UN included the coalition on its list following a report on children and armed conflict, using data that suggested the coalition was responsible for 60 per cent of child deaths an injuries in Yemen in 2015 – killing 510, wounding 667, and making half of the attacks on the country’s schools and hospitals.
Following a complaint by Saudi Arabia, however, the coalition was temporarily removed from the list, pending a joint review by the UN and the coalition of the cases cited in the annual report.
The removal has now been made permanent – a move confirmed by Ban during a UN council briefing on Tuesday.
Making an address at the meeting, Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Al Mouallimi, said the kingdom puts the interest and safety of children at the top of its priorities.
He said: “We believe that children’s place is at school and not in the battlefield. That they have an absolute right to education and healthcare, far from flying bullets.
“We are fully committed to protecting civilians and children in war zones.”
Regarding the allegations made in the UN’s original report, he added: “We have formed an Arab committee to look into these allegations and we will provide the UN with the outcome of the investigations as soon as they are completed.”
The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen began in 2015 in a bid to restore its internationally-recognised government to power, having been ousted by the Houthis and their allies in 2014.
During the UN meeting, Al Mouallimi highlighted the humanitarian assistance Saudi Arabia has provided in supporting reconstruction efforts in Yemen, including $440m in aid, plus assistance to refugees in Jordan, Sudan and Djibouti.
“More than a million Yemeni citizens have crossed the borders into our country seeking refuge. We opened our government schools to their children and granted them full access to medical care,” he said.
Despite the removal of the coalition from the blacklist, Ban reiterated his “very strong concerns” about protecting Yemen’s children from its airstrikes.
He told member states “if you want to protect your image, protect children,” and that while UN officials continue to engage with Saudi officials about their concerns, “the content of the report stands”.