Riyadh and Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat—The King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works and UNICEF have begun joint efforts to deliver humanitarian relief to Yemenis caught up in the country’s current conflict.
Both parties signed a memorandum of understanding on Saturday to cooperate on a joint humanitarian project for Yemen.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday, Ibrahim El-Ziq, UNICEF’s Gulf Area Office representative, said the project was expected take around six months.
It includes the delivery of aid to Yemen itself as well as helping provide support to Yemeni refugees and hospitals in Djibouti unable to deal with the influx of the displaced, who have been offered refuge in the East African country.
Ziq also revealed that the United Nations and the Saudi-led coalition targeting the Houthi movement in Yemen were cooperating in order to secure safe routes into the country to deliver the aid to Yemenis affected by the conflict.
He said the UN and several NGOs were currently experiencing “extreme difficulties” delivering aid into the country due to “the Houthi militias setting up barriers to stop these medical supplies and the aid from reaching those who need it most.”
The Riyadh-based King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works was opened on May 14, aiming to deliver aid and assistance to distressed communities.
King Salman has already pledged a total of half a billion US dollars in aid in order to help Yemen’s people.
The current crisis in Yemen intensified after the Shi’ite Houthi movement launched a coup in the country in February, deposing internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and placing him under house arrest.
This came following the group’s takeover of Sana’a earlier in September of 2014, when Houthi militias occupied government, military and media installations and buildings, amid a complete security vacuum in the city.
Along with Iran, Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh—who was ousted from power following mass protests in 2011 and 2012 against his more-than-three-decade rule—is accused by Saudi Arabia, its Arab allies, and the international community of aiding the Houthi coup via members of the security and military establishments still loyal to him.
The Saudi-led air campaign began targeting the Houthis in Yemen on March 26 following President Hadi escaping house arrest and heading to Riyadh to request military intervention in the country.
A truce was offered to the Houthis one month later on condition they stopped targeting civilians in the country and cease all hostile action.
But, according to local sources speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat in recent weeks, the Houthi militias have continued to spread across Yemen, also using heavy weapons including tanks and rocket launchers to target civilian areas.
On Wednesday airstrikes by the coalition targeted weapons caches belonging to the Houthis in Sana’a. Local sources said loud explosions were heard throughout different areas in the capital.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday Yemen’s Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin told Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone that peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in the country, which were due to take place today in Geneva, had been postponed due to the Houthis not adhering to a UN Security Council resolution on Yemen.
Resolution 2216 stipulates the Houthis vacate Sana’a and other parts of the country they have occupied and cease all hostile action against civilians.
Yassin said the peace talks have not been canceled outright and the offer remains on the table for the Houthis to cooperate with Yemen’s legitimate government and seek a peaceful solution to the crisis.
“The reason the peace talks in Geneva, which were supposed to include all parties in Yemen without exception, have been delayed is that there was no clear vision tabled for the [talks],” Yassin said.
“Yemen’s legitimate government continues to work to ensure peace and stability in the country. But there has to be adequate preparation and a clear vision proposed, as well as a clear schedule put forward for how the talks will proceed, and [all this should happen] without the calls for dialogue being made by one side [the Yemeni government] only.”