U.N. arms embargo imposed on Yemen’s Houthis amid vote questions

United Nations (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis on Monday amid questions by some diplomats over links between Russia’s support for the move and abstentions by the United Arab Emirates on two council votes on Ukraine.

Both the UAE and Russia denied a deal was made on voting.

The council agreed to expand a targeted U.N. arms embargo on several Houthi leaders to the whole group, a move pushed by the UAE after the Houthis claimed several drone and missile assaults on the UAE and Saudi Arabia this year.

It received 11 votes in favor, while the remaining four council members — Ireland, Mexico, Brazil and Norway — abstained. Russia voted in favor after abstaining on the council vote a year ago to renew U.N. sanctions on Yemen.

Some frustrated U.N. diplomats accused the UAE of winning Russia’s support by abstaining on Security Council votes on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on Friday and Sunday. The UAE had previously voted in favor of a council meeting on Jan. 31 to discuss Russia’s buildup of troops on the Ukraine border.

“The UAE has taken a very transactional approach,” said a senior European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There’s a lot of disappointment out there … hopefully, they will now come back to a more principled approach.”

A spokesperson for the UAE mission to the United Nations said the UAE “does not engage in vote trading at the U.N. Security Council.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia scoffed on Sunday when asked if Russia had given its support for blacklisting the Houthis in exchange for the UAE’s abstention.

“We do not anything in exchange like some of our colleagues in Security Council, who besides exchange — without any shame — twist arms of our Security Council members and the members of General Assembly to do or to vote the way they want, including methods which are not diplomatic,” he said.

A Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused the UAE of making a “deal with the devil” to secure Russia’s support. “UAE’s two abstentions on Ukraine bought the Russian yes vote,” the diplomat said.

A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis for seven years in a conflict backed by Iran to destabilize Yemen. The war has killed tens of thousands of people and caused a dire humanitarian crisis.

The coalition, the United States and U.N. sanctions monitors have accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with arms, which both Tehran and the group deny.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital Sanaa. The group says it is fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, criticised the decision for ignoring “crimes” by the coalition and said in a Twitter post that any arms embargo that does not apply to the Western-backed alliance “had no value.”