MNA – “Over years we have intensified our relations and cooperation with Iran,” says Peter Maurer, president of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Maurer made the remarks in an interview with the Mehr news agency during his visit to Tehran on March 9-11.
He talked with Iranian officials including Foreign Minister Zarif on the miserable humanitarian situation in the conflict-ridden countries, including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
For example, Maurer says the war on Yemen “has had an enormous impact on infrastructure, economy and the whole society.”
Maurer says his organization is tasked with giving feedback to all parties in conflict to prevent violation of international humanitarian law.
The work of the ICRC is based on the Geneva Conventions of 1949, their Additional Protocols, its Statutes – and those of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – and the resolutions of the International Conferences of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
The ICRC is an independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. It takes action in response to emergencies and at the same time promotes respect for international humanitarian law and its implementation in national law.
Maurer said his organization has no immediate corrective power but hopes that giving feedback to the parties involved in the conflicts contribute to mitigation of some of the worst impacts of the war in the region.
Inquired about the destructive effects of the war in Yemen, he said, “Firstly, let me say that we have expressed concerns with regard to the impacts of the warfare in Yemen on the civilian population. The war has been ongoing and the dynamics of the battles has had an enormous impact on infrastructure, economy and the whole society. Today Yemen is one of those conflicts were most and the highest percentage of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. More than two thirds of the Yemenis today need one or the other form of humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict.
“Secondly, because of the situation since last summer ICRC has doubled its humanitarian assistance to Yemen, so that today as one of the top five operations of ICRC worldwide we have a big program on health, on cholera response, and on water waste management which is also important because of the fight against cholera. We are assisting people to have minimal services. Yemen has become a critical operation of the ICRC.
“Thirdly, we are in contact with all those involved in the conflict in Yemen with the coalition forces, with the Ansarullah, and with different armed actors in Yemen and we engage on a daily basis with them in giving feedback when we think that their military operation is in violation of international humanitarian law. This does not mean that we have an immediate corrective power but we hope that this contribute to mitigation of some of the worst impacts.
“Fourthly, our main concern is that hospitals and medical facilities have been affected by the warfare and have been destroyed. Today, Yemen is one of the places where only 30 to 40 percent maximum of the medical infrastructure existing before the conflict is still functioning, so this is indicating the seriousness of the situation.
“And lastly ICRC is an independent mutual and impartial organization and our way of working is that we give feedback in confident and private dialogue to all parties in the conflict on our findings and we do not transmit any reports to the UN system.”
In September last year, Maurer travelled to the occupied territories to discuss the humanitarian concerns with Israeli officials by talking about the negative impacts of settlements in the West Bank and calling on the Israeli side to respect the Palestinian rights.
“As you know we have been active in Israeli and the occupied Palestinian territories and on the West bank as well as Gaza for many decades now, and if we look at the humanitarian problem in Gaza as well as the West Bank many are related to what we call the policy of settlement at large which means disruption of the economy and limitation for Palestinians to exert economic activities, difficulty to have certain basic materials delivered to Palestinian villages in the West Bank, difficulty for some goods to enter some parts of the Palestinian territory and this has led the ICRC to highlight the issue of settlement not as the only reason for the problem but as the key reason which causes humanitarian problems for the Palestinian population,” the top-ranking ICRC official explained.
He further said that “let me also highlight that I have not only been in Israel talking to Israeli authorities, I have also spoken in Gaza to Hamas and I have spoken in Ramallah to the Palestinian authorities. ICRC is in contact with all the authorities in Israel and Palestine in order to facilitate a situation where there is a better space for humanitarian for basic services to be delivered to the respective populations. With regard to the Palestinian refugees, ICRC is not the first to address because United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is the specific agency dealing with the Palestinian refugees. Our concern is first and foremost the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza and responding to the needs in the West Bank and Gaza as well as to Palestinian detainees in Israel.”
“Again UNRWA is a part of the United Nations, and the United Nations, the first and foremost, in our view has a political mandate and it is also important that the United Nations is part of finding a political solution which we applaud but which is not what our core preoccupation is at the present moment.”
Commenting on his recent trip to Iraq, he said, “Because I’m coming from Iraq also let me also say that ICRC as you may know has its second largest operation after Syria today in Iraq and we are convinced today that we will continue to work quite strongly in Iraq and we believe that despite the recent new developments in Iraq, the humanitarian situation still needs our attention. We need to increase the support for those who are returning to their homes. In Iraq we need as well to continue to work in places of detention and we will certainly work on missing people who are missing in big numbers.”
“Finally let me just say that I’m concluding now very fruitful visit to Iran, I met with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and not surprisingly Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been at the center of a very productive meeting with the minister. Over years we have intensified our relations and cooperation with Iran and our exchanges. I’m happy with this positive relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and we will continue in the future on many of the conflict hotspots in the world in particular regions.”
Interview by Maryam Khormayee