UAE ambassador Lana Nusseibeh on Tuesday criticised international efforts to rein in Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels as “appeasement” and called for tougher sanctions and other measures against the armed insurgents.
In candid remarks at the UN headquarters in New York, Ms Nusseibeh criticised the body for failing to advance the peace process, even as the Houthis launched attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
She condemned the “continued failure of the political process under the leadership of the United Nations to deal realistically and firmly with a continuously intransigent position of the Houthi militia”.
Ms Nusseibeh singled out the UN’s peace envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, who she said repeatedly tried to “bring the Houthis back to the negotiation table” but had yet to deliver any meaningful progress.
“When will the appeasement of this terrorist group end?” she asked the UN Security Council.
A series of Houthi cross-border attacks in recent weeks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia underscored the need for action, Ms Nusseibeh said.
“Stopping the Houthi aggressive behaviour requires the international community to take serious, decisive and tangible steps, all of which keep in mind the nature of the Houthis extremist ideology and their true intentions,” she said.
Ms Nusseibeh called for “further sanctions” on the group, monitoring of cashflows to its members, and stricter enforcement of an arms embargo and maritime blockade.
The UAE has separately asked the US to re-designate the Houthis as a terrorist group.
“It is time for the Security Council to stop the Houthi militia's senseless and callous actions so that Yemen can recover and build a stable and secure future,” she told the 15-nation body.
Three men were killed and six others were injured by a Houthi strike on an oil installation and the airport in Abu Dhabi on January 17 — the first in a series of drone and missile attacks by the rebels on the UAE.
Mr Grundberg said the attacks showed “just how high the stakes have become” in the war.
“This conflict risks spiralling out of control unless serious efforts are urgently made by the Yemeni parties, the region and the international community to end this conflict,” the Swedish diplomat said.
He did not directly address Ms Nusseibeh's remarks, but said he would continue to have close conversations with the UAE ambassador.
Yemen has been mired in chaos since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital Sanaa in early 2015.
A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened a few months later at the request of the government.
Fighting has claimed more than 370,000 lives, directly and indirectly, the UN says, and caused widespread suffering, with four fifths of Yemen’s 30 million people needing handouts.
Houthi forces have frequently fired drones and missiles at Saudi cities, and recently expanded attacks to the UAE. The coalition retaliated with air strikes on the areas from which the attacks were launched.
The UN's top humanitarian Martin Griffiths said the conflict claimed the lives of more than 650 civilians in January, resulting in the “highest toll in at least three years”.