By Keith Vaz , Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Yemen

IN 24 hours’ time, the United Kingdom will take control of the rotating residency of the United Nations Security Council. In assuming the Presidency, we will play an essential role in the functioning of the Security Council: we will prepare the programme of work for the month, organise and chair meetings, and release the decisions, declarations and press releases of the Council. The UK plans to focus on three primary issues when it assumes the presidency. These are Myanmar, elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a general look at conflict mediation. All of these issues are extremely important and the UK is right to put them on the record. However, there is one clear and glaringly obvious oversight: Yemen.

While UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths will be reporting to the Security Council this Thursday on the progress with negotiations, Yemen should be a matter of priority at the UN for the UK. Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis; 22.2 million people countrywide need urgent humanitarian assistance. The UK has a moral imperative to push for peace in Yemen, not only because we “hold the pens” on Yemen in the UN Security Council and now hold the presidency, but because we are a major arms exporter to the combatants. Not specifically placing Yemen on the agenda is an unacceptable omission.

Recently I, along with Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) and Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife) co-ordinated a letter to the Prime Minister calling on her to remove material support for the Saudi-Emirati-led coalition if an attack on Hudaydah Port occurred. This letter has now been signed by 75 MPs including three party leaders and three Select Committee Chairs. While the coalition did embark on an assault on Hudaydah province they have wisely paused these offensives and have not yet attacked the Port. With the presidency of the UN Security Council, the UK should be making a clear case that the humanitarian consequences of a military attack on the port would be monumental and unacceptable.

Parliamentary opinion in the UK is clear. We must push to find a negotiated solution to the conflict and end the relentless suffering that has devoured the people of Yemen since 2015. As the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) called for in its recent report Yemen: The Continuing Tragedy, the UK must use its position at the Security Council to push for a new resolution. This resolution should set out an inclusive peace process in which all major actors and representatives of diverse civil society – including women, youth and representation of different regional, tribal, cultural and religious groups– are included.

Raising this at the highest possible level at the United Nations Security Council is by far the most effective way to get international attention focused on Yemen and the world’s “forgotten war”. The Government has gone to great pains to promote the new post-Brexit “Global Britain” but shirking our international responsibilities damages our reputation globally.

On the day of his resignation, I received a letter from then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson saying that Yemen was a priority for the Government. Yet not putting it on the agenda at the UN Security Council shows that is clearly not an agenda-setting priority. For too long at the UN the UK has sat on its hands and not fully utilised its influence in the UN. I implore our new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, to seize this opportunity and put Yemen at the top of the UN’s agenda.