UNITED NATIONS: Saudi Arabia demanded Monday that a UN report blaming the military coalition it is leading in Yemen for the deaths of hundreds of children be corrected and warned it could undermine peace talks.
The annual UN report on children and armed conflict added the Saudi-led coalition to a blacklist of children’s rights violators after determining that it was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 children killed in Yemen last year.
Saudi Ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallimi told reporters that he was “deeply disappointed” and “disturbed” by the report and said the figure of 60 percent was “wildly exaggerated.”
“We are asking that the report be corrected immediately so that it does not reflect the accusations against the coalition and Saudi Arabia in particular,” he told reporters after meeting with UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.
The coalition launched an air campaign in support of Yemen’s President Abedrabbo Mansour in March 2015 to push back Huthi rebels after they seized the capital Sanaa and many parts of the country.
The war has left some 6,400 people dead, with more than 80 percent of the population in desperate need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN.
The report was released Thursday as the United Nations was seeking progress in talks held in Kuwait to try to end the war.
“The timing of this report is most unfortunate because it comes as we are hoping for a breakthrough in the discussions in Kuwait leading to an agreement and hopefully an end to the conflict,” said Mouallimi.
“Issuing such a report at this time can only be counterproductive for the purposes of the peace negotiations on Yemen,” he said.
The ambassador acknowledged that “there were some collateral damages from time to time” but that the coalition had played a “positive role” in restoring Yemen’s legitimate government and providing humanitarian aid.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric defended the report and said some adjustments would be made even though the list would remain intact.
“We are looking at changing the format, and not the content,” he said. “The report is as it stands.”
Human rights groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the heavy civilian toll from the Saudi-led campaign.