UN chief warns against escalation after attacks on Houthis


United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all sides not to escalate the explosive situation in the Red Sea, his spokesman said on Friday after Washington and London launched attacks on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The spate of attacks on Friday morning against the Houthis, who they say are acting in solidarity with Gaza, follow weeks of disruptive rebel attacks on Red Sea ships and fueled fears that the Israel-Hamas war could expand in the region.

“The Secretary-General also appealed to all parties involved not to worsen the situation, in the interest of peace and stability in the Red Sea and the wider region,” said Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

Khaled Khiari, deputy secretary-general for the Middle East, later told the UN Security Council that “we are seeing the cycle of violence that poses a threat to political security with economic and humanitarian consequences in Yemen and the region”.

“These developments in the Red Sea and the risk of increased tension in the region are worrying,” he said.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN described the joint US/UK attacks on Yemen’s Houthi rebels as “blatant armed aggression against another country”.

“These countries have carried out a mass attack on Yemen territory. I am not talking about an attack on a group within a country, but an attack on the people of the country as a whole. Aircraft, warships and submarines were used,” Vasily Nebenzya said of the action by the US and Britain, supported by allies.

However, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, warned that no country’s vessels are immune to the threat that Houthi rebels pose to ships in the Red Sea.

“Whether your ship sails under an American flag, or the flag of another country… all our ships are vulnerable,” she said. “Without Iranian support, contrary to their commitments, the Houthis will struggle to effectively locate and attack merchant ships.”

Barbara Woodward, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, said London had taken “limited, necessary and proper action in self-defence”. “This operation was carried out carefully to minimize the risk to civilians.”