February 12, 2017 / 2:19 PM / in 8 months

U.N. chief affirms full support for Yemen peace envoy

RIYADH (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday the U.N. envoy to Yemen had his full support, days after Yemen’s Houthi group asked him not to renew the diplomat’s term due to what it said was bias against the Iranian-aligned movement.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attend a joint news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 12, 2017. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

“Our envoy has my full support and I believe that he is doing an impartial work, that he is doing it in a very professional way and independently of what other people may think, he has my full support,” said Guterres during a stop in Riyadh, part of a regional tour that also includes the United Arab Emirates.

In a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh, Guterres appealed to the combatants in Yemen’s almost two-year-old war not to exploit the delivery of humanitarian aid, adding any such action was to be condemned.

A top official of the Houthi-led government which controls Yemen’s capital called on the world body on Friday not renew the term of U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, saying he had shown “lack of neutrality” and sympathy for a Saudi-led coalition that is fighting to reinstate Yemen’s internationally-recognized government.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who has served as U.N. Yemen envoy since April 2015, has brokered several ceasefires in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people. The truces have tended to founder within days.

At the press conference, Jubeir said he expected support for rebels in Syria to continue despite the fall of Aleppo to the Syrian government in December, but noted that any decision would be made as part of the U.S.-led international coalition.

Saudi King Salman shakes hands with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 12, 2017. Picture watermarked from source. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

“We believe that the moderate opposition has an important role to play. We believe that they need to be able to defend themselves, as well as to fight against Daesh and Al Qaeda,” he said.

Jubeir also described the Saudi-American relationship as “excellent,” continuing to signal warm ties with the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump after visiting Washington and New York earlier this month.

Saudi King Salman meets with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 12, 2017. Picture watermarked from source. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

“We see eye to eye when it comes to the situation in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Libya. We see eye to eye when it comes to the danger of Iranian interference in the affairs of other countries,” he said.

Jubeir’s comments came two days after CIA chief Mike Pompeo made the first visit to Saudi Arabia by a Trump administration cabinet member.

Pompeo came to Riyadh to award Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef the George Tenet medal, an award for counter-terrorism work named after a former CIA chief, Saudi media reported.

Jubeir declined to discuss the agenda of Pompeo’s visit outside, but said “it shouldn’t come as a surprise” given extensive security ties between the two countries.

Reporting by Katie Paul, Editing by William Maclean and David Evans

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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