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Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 25 January 2022

14. What diplomatic steps the Government are taking to help support a negotiated peace settlement in Yemen. (905237)

A negotiated political settlement is the only way to bring long-term stability to Yemen. On 10 January, I hosted the UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, here in London and reiterated UK support for the UN-led peace process to drive forward the political process in Yemen. We urge the parties to engage constructively in negotiations to end this conflict, which is bringing death and suffering on an appalling scale.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but this brutal conflict is in its ninth year. Recent deadly coalition-led attacks on children and civilians have rightly been condemned by the UN General Secretary. As the UK is the penholder at the UN for Yemen, does he believe that the continued sales of arms from the UK and the recent withdrawal of UK aid are helping or hindering diplomatic efforts?

The money that the UK has allocated and distributed in Yemen has helped to protect lives and feed children, and I am incredibly proud of the work we have done. The fact of the matter, however, is that we cannot properly help the people of Yemen until this conflict has come to a conclusion. That is why we continue to work with the United Nations special envoy, Hans Grundberg. I remind the hon. Lady that aggression has been perpetrated by the Houthis in Yemen and across the borders in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. We call upon the Houthis to lay down their arms and engage with the peace process so that we can bring peace to Yemen and properly help the Yemeni people to lift themselves out of poverty.

The situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate, and the attacks are ever more brutal. Just last week, three children who were out playing football were among 60 people killed when missiles struck Hodeidah and Saada. Does the Minister agree that this demonstrates the importance of re-establishing the group of eminent experts? What fresh efforts does he believe are needed within the UN Security Council to end this terrible conflict?

The recent loss of life in Yemen, and in the nations surrounding Yemen that have received attacks emanating from the Houthis, is terrible. Ultimately, the best thing we can do as a leading member of the international community and the penholder at the United Nations is to push for peace in Yemen. I have in the past done that directly with the Houthi leadership, and we have done it indirectly through countries in the region that have some degree of influence with the Houthis. We also have these discussions directly with the Government of Yemen and the Governments in the surrounding countries. It will remain a priority for this Government to pursue peace through the United Nations special envoy and others so that we can set that country on a road to recovery and out of the hell that it currently finds itself in.

We were all horrified by the atrocities of the airstrike on Friday, which led to dozens of deaths and was another horrific incident in this conflict. It adds to one of the world’s greatest humanitarian disasters, with an estimated 20 million Yemenis in need of assistance. As the Minister knows, the Saudi air and sea blockade means that hardly any humanitarian aid is getting through, so I ask him: what influence are the Government using to bring about a peace conference to end the blockade, so that people on the brink of starvation can get the humanitarian aid they need?

I have in the past spoken both with the Government of Yemen and with countries in the region to ensure that fuel supplies that are needed, both to transport grain and also for grain milling for bread, have been made available, and I am pleased that the UK intervention at those times facilitated the distribution of aid to Yemen. The hon. Gentleman raises the issue of the loss of life that has been experienced, and I remind him that the only way to meaningfully reduce the loss of life, both within Yemen and in the nations around it, is for the parties to get to the negotiating table—and that means the Houthis. We will continue to support the United Nations special envoy in his work to bring that about.