By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pushed Saudi Arabia on Thursday to provide information on actions they are taking to prevent the killing and wounding of children in Yemen as Riyadh said it was conducting its military operations with “great care.”
Ban met with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in New York to further discuss a U.N. report on children and armed conflict that briefly blacklisted a Saudi-led military coalition for killing children in Yemen.
Ban removed the coalition from the list last month pending review after Riyadh, a major U.N. donor, threatened to cut funding. Saudi Arabia has denied using threats, but Ban blasted Riyadh for exerting “unacceptable” pressure.
“The Secretary-General welcomed the Coalition’s readiness to take the necessary concrete measures to end and prevent violations against children,” Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said after the meeting.
Ban told Jubeir he hoped “the coalition would be able to provide information on the concrete actions they have taken” ahead of a Security Council meeting on the report on Aug. 2, Dujarric said.
Ban also met with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmanlast month over the report. Saudi Arabia has said the report is based on inaccurate information.
The U.N. report said the coalition, which began an air campaign in Yemen in March 2015 to defeat Iran-allied Houthi rebels, was to blame for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in the conflict last year, killing 510 and wounding 667.
“Where mistakes are made, they are acknowledged and rectified, but in general we are conducting our operations with great care in order to avoid damages to civilians and in particular children,” Jubeir told reporters after meeting Ban.
“We are committed to international humanitarian laws and committed to adhering in all of our operations to those laws,” Jubeir said.
The Saudi-led coalition includes UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Sudan.
U.N. sanctions monitors said in January that the coalition had targeted civilians in Yemen and that some of the attacks could be crimes against humanity.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)