Saudi prince to meet UN chief over Yemen crisis

Saudi prince to meet UN chief over Yemen crisis

Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is due to meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday, the kingdom’s ambassador said, after the United Nations infuriated Riyadh by briefly blacklisting a Saudi-led coalition for killing children in Yemen.

Mohammed bin Salman will be in New York next week for meetings with business leaders after a visit to the U.S. West Coast, U.N. officials told Reuters.

“An official request has come to the office of the secretary-general for a meeting with the deputy crown prince and as soon as we’re able to confirm something we shall,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Saudi U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi told Reuters that the meeting had been confirmed for Wednesday.

US president Barack Obama and the deputy crown prince met on Friday and discussed ways to support Iraqis in their fight against Islamic State militants and the importance of a political transition in war-torn Syria, the White House said.

Obama welcomed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a political settlement of the Yemen conflict and support by the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the kingdom is a member, to address humanitarian needs and rebuild the country, the White House said.

However, U.S. officials have expressed unease about the Saudi-led campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen, which according to the United Nations and human rights groups has resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties.

Dujarric said that the U.N. had not yet responded to a June 8 letter to Ban from Mouallimi on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The letter asked the United Nations to reveal details on the sources of information for its report on violations of child rights during armed conflicts.

Dujarric said this week the United Nations would not disclose those sources.

The U.N. report on children and armed conflict said the coalition, which began an air campaign in March 2015 to defeat Iran-allied Houthi rebels, was responsible for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in the conflict last year, killing 510 and wounding 667.

Riyadh, a major U.N. donor, had threatened to cut off funding to a Palestinian aid program and other U.N. initiatives. Saudi Arabia has denied using threats, although Ban himself confirmed the initial Reuters report.

The coalition’s removal from the blacklist prompted angry reactions from human rights groups including Human Right Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam, which accused Ban of caving to pressure from powerful countries. They said that Ban, in the final year of his second term, risked harming his legacy as U.N. chief.

The Saudi-led coalition includes Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Sudan.