The authorities of the United Arab Emirates are preparing on Sunday to welcome Pope Francis with great pomp and circumstance.
Just before flying to Abu Dhabi, the Supreme Pontiff urged the parties involved in the war against Yemen to “urgently promote compliance with the agreements reached” for a truce in Hodeida (West), which is essential for the delivery of international aid.
“I am deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The population is exhausted by the long conflict and many children are suffering from hunger (…). The cry of these children and their parents rises before God,” the Argentine pope said.
Pope Francis is scheduled to have a private meeting on Monday with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed ben Zayed Al-Nahyane, a strong man from the Emirates and involved in massacres in neighbouring Yemen.
After Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday called on Pope Francis to use his visit to raise the issue of human rights violations in Yemen, where Abu Dhabi forces are militarily intervening alongside Saudi Arabia, and the repression of opponents on the territory of the Emirates.
“Despite its claims about tolerance, the UAE government has shown no real interest in improving its record,” said Sarah Leah
Whitson, HRW Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
In Yemen, a truce between the resigning government, supported by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and Yemeni forces (army + Ansarullah) was difficult to achieve by the UN in December in Sweden. The mercenaries of the Saudi-Emirati coalition have so far repeatedly violated this agreement. It applies to the port city of Hodeida, through which most imports and humanitarian aid to Yemen pass.
The Saudi-EU war against Yemen has left some 155,000 people dead and more than 60,000 wounded since March 2015.
Human rights groups claim that the number of deaths is much higher, with some citing a figure five times higher.