U.N. imposes arms embargo on Houthis, labels group as terrorists

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Feb. 28 (UPI) — The United Nations Security Council on Monday imposed an arms embargo on Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis as several ambassadors voiced concern over the possible consequences by characterizing the rebels as a terrorist group.

The resolution seeks to limit the capacity of the Yemen-based Houthi rebels to conduct cross-border attacks in the United Arab Emeritus and Saudi Arabia by expanding an arms embargo to the entire group.

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It also states the council “strongly” condemns the series of attacks by Houthis that struck civilians and civilian infrastructure in the two nations in the past several weeks while labeling it as a terrorist group for the first time.

The resolution, proposed by the UAE, passed with 11 votes in favor with Brazil, Ireland, Mexico and Norway abstaining over its description of the Houthis as terrorists.

Lana Nusseibeh, UAE’s permanent representative to the U.N., applauded the council’s passing of the resolution.

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“The resolution will curtail the military capabilities of the Houthis and push toward stopping their escalation in Yemen and the region,” she said during the meeting. “It will also prevent their hostile activities against civilian vessels and threats to shipping lines and international trade.

“The resolution will also stop the suffering of Yemeni civilians and those affected in neighboring countries by their terrorist acts.”

Since the war between the Saudi-led coalition forces and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels began in 2014, the country has spiraled into what the U.N. has called “the world’s humanitarian crisis.”

According to a late January U.N. country analysis on Yemen, the war-torn country is facing severe food insecurity that borders on famine with about 24 million Yemenis, or 80% of the country’s population, in need of humanitarian assistance, of which 14.4 million are in acute need.

The United States designated the Houthis rebels a terrorist organization in January of last year. A few days ago, it imposed a fresh round of Houthi-related sanctions in relation to a recent series of cross-border attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia that have killed more than 650 civilians in January alone.

All country representatives voiced condemnation against the violence but several expressed dismay over its characterization of Houthis as terrorists for fear it could have unforeseen consequences.

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Trine Heimerback, the deputy permanent representative for Norway to the U.N., said her country abstained from the vote as it is worried over the use of the terrorist designation that lacks a clear definition, which may negatively affect U.N. efforts to achieve a political solution.

The Houthis’ inclusion also sets a precedence for other conflicts and present other legal ramifications as well as have unintended consequences affecting the U.N’s efforts to address human needs throughout Yemen, she said.

“The draft resolution does acknowledge the need for all parties to engage toward a political solution, and includes language aimed at safeguarding humanitarian action and not exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation,” she said. “However, it stops short of addressing our concerns.”

The vote was held days after the Security Council failed to pass a resolution condemning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia used its veto power to strike it down, but three countries abstained: China, India and the UAE.