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Middle East

France under attack from NGO for supporting Saudi Arabia in Yemen

media Displaced family from Taizs to Sanaa in Al Habbari informal settlement: "Now we have nothing left" Becky Bakr Abdulla/NRC

Pressure is mounting, ahead of Friday's G20 meeting in Argentina, for Western powers to take action against Saudi Arabia for its role in the war in Yemen and following the murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post reporter Jamal Kashoggi in Turkey. The Norwegian Refugee Council says that France, along with other Saudi allies supplying arms to the coalition, is actively contributing to the crisis in Yemen.

"The French government needs to stop talking and start doing things to assist people in Yemen," declares Suze van Meegen, Norwegian Refugee Council's protection and advisory officer in Yemen.

Listen to the interview here

France, the United States and the United Kingdom are just three of the countries selling arms and providing diplomatic support to Saudi Arabia.

These arms have been allegedly used in the nearly four year war pitting the Houthi rebels backed by Iran against the deposed government supported by a Saudi-led coalition.

The United Nations has described the war as one of the world's worst man-made humanitarian disasters. Along with other NGOs, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) alerted the world to what may be the largest famine in decades that is likely to affect 14 million people.

"What we see on the ground in Yemen is children who are starving to death, families who have to make choices about which child they feed, which child get medicine," Suze van Meegen, who has been based in Sanaa for nearly 18 months, said. The capital is under Houthi control along with most of northern Yemen.

France and Yemen

NRC points out the discrepency between the position of the French government and the French parliament where MPs are pushing for a bill to open a parliamentary investigation commission on arms sales to the parties involved in the Yemen conflict.

"If the French government is selling weapons, as we know they are, that have been used on Yemeni civilians, they have a responsability to use that influence on the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition to stop them from continuing to strike hospitals, schools, road and bridges that are needed to move food around the country and to start addressing some of the economic deterioration in Yemen," says van Meegen.

She adds that she doesn't understand why France, the USA and the UK have not followed other European countries in their position against Saudi Arabia.

Recently, the United States announced that it will not support a United Nations resolution calling for a limited ceasefire and increased humanitarian aid in Yemen for fear of angering Saudi Arabia.

Political process

The warring parties are expected to meet in Sweden next week for talks brokered by the United Nations.

The Houthi rebels are to meet the internationally recognised Yemeni government. There are high hopes riding on this meeting; Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen who is charged with organising the meeting, said that the enormity of the humanitarian task of trying to keep people alive in Yemen is mind boggling and that the peace process needs to start now.

"Humanitarian aid is a very small plaster on a gaping wound. Humanitarian aid will help keep people alive but it's only the proper, strong political and economic measures that will prevent this crisis from getting even worse," comments van Meegen.

She believes that a political solution is the only way out of this crisis.

Follow Suze van Meegen on Twitter @suzevanmeegen

Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt

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