Paris (AFP) – Ten international rights groups called on French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday to pressure Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over his country’s bombing campaign in Yemen.
Macron is set to host Prince Mohammed for a three-day trip to France starting Sunday, the latest stop in an international tour by the 32-year-old son of King Salman who is considered the de facto Saudi leader.
A civil war in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia has been bombing since 2015, is considered the world’s worse humanitarian crisis by the United Nations with 22.5 million people in need of aid.
“Emmanuel Macron should put Yemen at the centre of his discussions with Mohammed bin Salman as he hosts him in France,” said a statement from the rights group including Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch.
They called for “the end of bombing targeting civilians and respect for international humanitarian law” as well as the “unconditional and permanent lifting on restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid and commercial goods to Yemen”.
In November, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies including the United Arab Emirates tightened a pre-existing blockade on Yemeni ports and airports, severely restricting deliveries of food aid and other humanitarian supplies.
The Saudi-led coalition says it has since lifted the restrictions, but a recent visitor to the main port of Hodeida, humanitarian worker Suze van Meegen, described it as a “wasteland” in an interview with AFP in late March.
The UN Security Council warned last month that conditions in Yemen were deteriorating and having a “devastating” impact on civilians.
The Saudi-led military intervention began in March 2015 with the goal of rolling back Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and restoring Yemen’s internationally-recognised government to power.
“As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it (France) must do its utmost to demand that Saudi Arabia respects its international obligations,” the rights groups said.
France is a major arms vendor to Saudi Arabia and separate rights groups have accused the country of doing too little to ensure that its weapons are not used in the Saudi military campaign.
Amnesty International says it has documented dozens of Saudi-led coalition military operations that could amount to war crimes due to the deaths of more than 500 civilians.
“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,” Prince Mohammed said at the UN in New York last week.
“We will continue to comply, as we always have, with international law,” he told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres after presenting him with a cheque for $930 million (757 million euros) for humanitarian aid in Yemen.