Saudi-led coalition asks U.N. to share details of child deaths in Yemen

FILE PHOTO: The United Nations flag is seen during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., Sept. 24, 2019. REUTERS/Yana Paskova/File Photo

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition fighting in Yemen asked the United Nations on Tuesday to share details of its accusations that the coalition was responsible for 222 child deaths or injuries last year so it could investigate.

In a statement, the coalition also said it welcomed U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ decision to remove it from a U.N. blacklist, several years after it was first accused of killing and injuring children in Yemen.

Guterres said in his annual report to the Security Council on Monday that the coalition would “be delisted for the violation of killing and maiming, following a sustained significant decrease in killing and maiming due to air strikes” and the implementation of measures aimed at protecting children.

He said the coalition killed or injured 222 children in Yemen last year. The Houthis were responsible for 313 such casualties and the Yemen government forces 96 casualties and both remain on the annual children and armed conflict blacklist.

“The coalition takes any allegations of violations of civilians and children’s rights very seriously,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. “In order to investigate the allegations attributed to it in the report, the coalition invites the U.N. to share with the coalition the relevant information.”

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Iran-allied Houthi group ousted the government from the capital Sanaa in 2014. The Saudi-led military coalition in 2015 intervened in a bid to restore the government.

The Saudi-led military coalition has officially been on the blacklist for the past three years.

It had been briefly added to the blacklist in 2016 and then removed by former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pending review. At the time, Ban accused Saudi Arabia of exerting “unacceptable” undue pressure after sources told Reuters that Riyadh threatened to cut some U.N. funding. Saudi Arabia denied threatening Ban.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Christopher Cushing