8323rd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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02-Aug-2018 01:45:44
With 22 million people requiring aid in Yemen, Special Envoy calls for political consultations in Geneva, as delegates advocate continued Security Council unity at 8323rd meeting.

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The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Yemen told the Security Council today that he plans to invite parties to the conflict in that country to Geneva on 6 September for consultations on a potential framework for talks, confidence‑building measures and plans for moving the peace process forward.

With the Council united on the situation in Yemen — where 22 million people rely on humanitarian assistance to survive, amid escalating violence in the strategic port city of Hodeidah — Martin Griffiths said the focus must remain on achieving a political solution to a conflict that broke out in 2015.

“I ask for the Council’s support,” he said, emphasizing that his decision is based on the advice received from Yemenis “from all quarters” since his appointment earlier this year. An end to the war cannot come too soon for the people of Yemen, he said, stressing that, without such success, millions more will require humanitarian assistance.

Surveying the situation, he reported progress on a potential United Nations role in Hodeidah, the main gateway for humanitarian aid into Yemen. Expressing concern that the area could be a flashpoint, he said he would seriously consider any offer of de-escalation — including a unilateral offer by Houthi combatants to suspend attacks on Red Sea shipping.

John Ging, Director of Operations of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said three out of four Yemenis need humanitarian assistance or protection. “The humanitarian situation is shocking both in scale and severity,” he said, urging all parties to seize the current opportunity for dialogue and to work with the Special Envoy.

He noted, however, that no contingency plan exists that could protect civilians from dire humanitarian consequences if the conflict in Hodeidah escalates, where the capacity of the international response would quickly be overwhelmed. Hodeidah and nearby Saleef are the lifeline for most food and fuel imports needed by millions of Yemenis daily to survive, he stated.

In the ensuing debate, Council members took turns voicing support for the Special Envoy’s efforts and emphasizing that there can only be a political solution to the conflict. They also expressed concern over reported attacks on 31 July in Hodeidah in the vicinity of a fish market and a hospital.

The representative of Kuwait, where negotiations among the parties took place two years ago, said a political solution not underpinned by the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, the National Dialogue outcomes and Council resolution 2216 (2015) will only prolong the crisis. Missile attacks on neighbouring countries, threats against maritime routes and the use of civilians as human shields cannot be accepted, he stressed.

“There appears to be a window of opportunity that should be seized to restart serious talks,” said Ethiopia’s delegate. The issue of Hodeidah should be prioritized as a first step towards the resumption of political dialogue. Attacks against oil tankers passing through the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb are unacceptable, she asserted, and will have serious implications for the safety and security of commercial ships.

The representative of the United States told the Special Envoy that the Council is united in its support for his efforts. Welcoming his proposal for talks in Geneva, she said the United States looked forward to a positive response from the parties. Noting that the Panel of Experts established pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014) confirmed that Iran is supplying the Houthis, she said the warring sides must understand the seriousness of the situation, and that the port of Hodeidah must stay open for humanitarian assistance.

Yemen’s representative underscored the support of his Government and the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen for the Special Envoy’s efforts. Emphasizing the desire for a durable peace, he encouraged the international community to exert pressure on the Houthi militia and reject its hijacking of civilian institutions. Regarding claims of an explosion near a Hodeidah hospital, he said the Arab coalition has stated it did not carry out military operations in that area and that an investigation will be made.

On the political process, he said United Nations efforts must respect the legitimacy of the Yemeni State. To do otherwise would prejudice international norms and enable the militia to pursue their agenda against the will of the Yemeni people. A successful political solution — the best and least costly option — would remain elusive without a focus on the humanitarian suffering.

Also speaking were representatives of France, Peru, Russian Federation, Sweden, Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Netherlands, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and 4:48 p.m.
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