The UAE is keeping to its promise to help the people of war-torn Yemen, reiterating its readiness to help them rebuild and develop their country after the defeat of the Houthi rebels.
UAE ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, outlined the Arab Coalition’s humanitarian plan to address the needs of civilians, including the restoration of Hodeidah port and other infrastructure that has been damaged by the Iran-backed militias.
"Our efforts are now dedicated to implementing Security Council resolution 2216, which demands that the Houthis end their use of violence and withdraw their forces from all the areas they have seized. We believe liberating Hodeidah is vital in order to restart the political process," she said at a joint coalition meeting in Washington on Friday.
"Our vision for Yemen's success doesn't end with Hodeidah. When a political agreement is eventually reached and the conflict ends, the recovery will require stability, development and investment.
“The UAE stands ready to help rebuild and develop the country when that time comes."
The Arab Coalition – which includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE – intervened in the Yemen war in March 2015 at the request of the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
Both countries were recognised by the UN for their contributions to the humanitarian response in Yemen – where the conflict has left up to 10,000 people dead.
More than 22 million people in the country are in need of aid, including 8.4 million who are at risk of starvation, according to the UN, which considers Yemen to have the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Earlier this month, the UN recognised Saudi Arabia and the UAE's contributions to the international organisation’s Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. The UAE contributed US$465 million (Dh1.7 billion) of the requested $2.1bn.
Countries in the Arab Coalition pledged $1.25bn for the response plan, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE committing to provide up to $1bn.
Ms Nusseibeh said that implementation of the humanitarian response plan remains the UAE’s top priority as the operation to liberate the key port city of Hodeidah from the rebels continues.
“Alongside the current surge of pre-positioned aid for Hodeidah, there is a rapid expansion of country-wide aid capacity through other ports, airlifts, and land corridors, conducted in coordination with the UN,” she said.
Since 2015, the UAE's assistance to Yemen has been close to $4bn, said Minister of State for International Co-operation, Reem Al Hashimy last week.
Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, praised the UAE’s joint pledge with Saudi Arabia.
“[It] was unconditional, except for the fact that the money was to be used for the UN’s response plan, and was unearmarked. In other words, it was our favourite kind of funding,” he said, noting that the UN is now able to provide aid to seven million Yemenis per month, compared to the three million per month in 2016.
David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, said that “the UAE and Saudi Arabia stepped up in an extraordinary way”.
He said that the countries' financial and logistical support was supporting eight million civilians who are on the brink of famine.
"Things have taken a negative turn with regards to [humanitarian] access with the Houthis," he said, adding that the rebels are digging trenches and had cut off the water supply to Hodeidah residents.
On Friday, UAE Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, said that the coalition in Yemen was preparing its next phase of its military and humanitarian plan to push the Houthi rebels towards the negotiating table.
He reiterated during the coalition meeting in Washington the Emirates’ support for UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths's efforts to “facilitate the Houthis’ peaceful and unconditional handover of Hodeidah port and city to the legitimate government of Yemen”.
Yemen government forces – backed by the coalition – launched an offensive on Hodeidah on June 13 to box the rebels into Sanaa, cutting off their supply lines and forcing them to work on a political process.
“The coalition is preparing the next phase of its calibrated and integrated military and humanitarian plan to press the Houthis to the negotiating table while meeting the needs of the Yemeni people,” the UAE Embassy in the US tweeted on Friday.
It also said that the city’s port remains open, adding that 25 ships have unloaded goods in the last month.
“Food for 6.6 million people for a month is already stockpiled in Hodeidah. But the Houthis are stealing and selling aid to fund their war effort,” said the embassy.
“The Houthis have placed tens of thousands of landmines and IEDs. They are firing ballistic missiles. They are using sea mines to block shipping.”
Mr Griffiths said on Thursday after talks with Mr Hadi in the de facto capital of Aden that both the rebels and the government have confirmed their willingness to talk.
The Yemeni government and the coalition said the Houthis must completely withdraw from the city and hand over control to the UN. However, the rebels – who have been using Hodeidah to smuggle weapons provided by Iran – have so far only agreed to share control with the UN.
The port is also an entry point for aid deliveries and commercial goods, and the Yemeni government fears the rebels’ grip on the city will cut the only lifeline for millions facing starvation.