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China, Russia abstain as UN Security Council adopts resolution condemning Houthi attacks

Attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels have caused major disruptions to shipping in the Red Sea.
Chinese ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023.

NEW YORK — The United Nations Security Council voted on Wednesday in favor of a US resolution that condemns attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on ships in the Red Sea.

The resolution passed with 11 yes votes, zero votes against and four abstentions from Russia, China, Algeria and Mozambique. Algeria, the newest council member from the Arab world, is seen as close to China and Russia and will serve on the council through 2025. In addition to condemning the attacks, the resolution demands the release of the crew of the Galaxy Leader ship, who were taken hostage by the Houthis in November. The resolution additionally notes the rights of UN member states to defend their vessels from attacks under international law. The text was drafted by the United States and Japan. 

The vote took place after the council rejected amendments proposed by Russia. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said Russia objects to language in the resolution, which he said equated protection of commercial ships with self-defense. Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia of "playing politics" by proposing amendments at the last minute. Russia abstained in the final vote.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been attacking ships in the Red Sea for years but have escalated the attacks since the start of the Gaza war, targeting ships they claim are linked to Israel.

The US has repeatedly warned the Houthis against attacking ships and engaged in defensive actions against the attacks, but has failed to stop them from continuing. On Tuesday, US Central Command said the US and British navies downed 21 missiles and drones launched by Houthi forces in another attack.

The Houthi attacks have severely impacted global shipping and traffic via the Suez Canal. Major shipping companies such as Denmark’s Maersk are avoiding the waterway until further notice. International Monetary Fund figures show that cargo transports through the Suez Canal were down 35% in the first week of 2024, compared to the same period last year, Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday.