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UN receives $930m Saudi cheque while seeking Yemen solution

Date of publication: 28 March, 2018

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The United Nations received a cheque for $930 million from the Saudi Crown Prince on Tuesday, but stressed the need for a political solution to the war in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia presented a $930 million cheque to the UN for humanitarian aid in Yemen on Tuesday, as the UN chief pushed for an end to the war in which Riyadh leads a military coalition.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman handed the cheque to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who thanked the prince for the contribution but stressed that the war in Yemen requires a political solution, and not just a humanitarian response.

"There is no humanitarian solution for humanitarian problems," Guterres said after receiving the check, which also came from the United Arab Emirates.

The Emirates plays a major role in the Saudi-led coalition, which intervened militarily three years ago to support Yemen's government against Houthi rebels.

Civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes have drawn criticism from rights groups, and in October the UN placed the alliance on a "blacklist" for killing and maiming children.

Riyadh insists the coalition respects its obligations under international humanitarian law.

"The solution is political and we are entirely at your disposal to work to find a solution" that will "end the suffering in Yemen," Guterres said.

The United Nations is making a fresh push for peace talks in Yemen, where the coalition acted to support the internationally-recognised government after the Houthis seized the capital.

More than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the war that has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by the UN.

Some 22.2 million people are in need of aid, there is a growing risk of famine and a severe outbreak of cholera.

‘Stupid war' 

It was the second meeting between the UN chief and the crown prince, who has bristled at Guterres' description of Yemen as a "stupid war" that is harming the interests of the countries involved. 

Prince Mohammed said Saudi Arabia was working to uphold UN principles which he said meant "not interfering in the affairs of other countries," an apparent reference to Iran's support for the Houthis.

"We try as much as we can to solve the problems of the Middle East politically and if things get out of control, we try as hard as we can to avoid all the other impacts," said the crown prince, speaking through a translator.

"We will continue to comply, as we always have, with international law," he said.

The UN chief has appointed a new peace envoy, Martin Griffiths, who was in the rebel-held capital Sanaa this week for talks on kick-starting the political process, following a first round of meetings in Riyadh.

UN diplomats believe the new effort could succeed because Iran has sent signals that it is willing to pressure the Houthis to seek a settlement.

On Tuesday, Guterres will travel to Geneva for a donors' conference hosted by Switzerland and Sweden to raise funds for Yemen.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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