The outgoing United Nations envoy on Yemen warned on Monday that enforcing a new arms embargo targeting the Houthi militia could accidentally prevent the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid to the poor country on the Arabian peninsula.
In his last briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Jamal Benomar also said he regretted that the 15-member body had not taken strong action sooner on his warnings of “systematic acts of obstruction” to the peace process.
Earlier this month the Security Council imposed an arms embargo targeting the Iran-allied Houthi rebels and soldiers loyal to former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who have been fighting alongside the Houthis.
“Implementation of the new targeted arms embargo … could inadvertently restrict the flow of much-needed commercial goods and humanitarian assistance to Yemen, including food, fuel and medical supplies,” Benomar told reporters after the briefing.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen has become catastrophic, relief officials said on Monday. The United Nations says 12 million people need help.
Benomar brokered a 2011 transition aimed at quelling political turmoil in Yemen. He said “substantial agreement had been reached on the core elements” of a power-sharing deal before the conflict escalated last month when a Saudi Arabia-led coalition launched air strikes against the Houthis.
“The main sticking point was the issue of the presidency,” Benomar said.
“I told the Security Council that the collapse of the transition was not the fault of one side but rather the result of accumulated mistakes and miscalculations made to varying degrees by all sides,” he said.
Violence has been spreading across Yemen since last year when Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa and effectively removed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has since fled to Saudi Arabia.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday named a Mauritanian diplomat, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to replace Benomar.