8424th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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14-Dec-2018 02:05:53
Swift action key to implementing new accords, Special Envoy for Yemen, Emergency Relief Coordinator stress in briefing Security Council at 8424th meeting.

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Reporting on the newly reached agreement to demilitarize ports in Yemen, United Nations officials urged the Security Council today to take swift action to ensure full implementation of the accord in order to relieve the dire humanitarian situation in the war-torn country.

“Verification is the key to building trust,” said Martin Griffiths, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen. “I personally hope that this Council will play a part in keeping international attention on the minutiae of implementation.”

Briefing via video-teleconference from Amman, Jordan, he described the agreement reached in Stockholm, Sweden, this week between the parties to the conflict in Yemen, saying it requires mutual withdrawal of forces from Hodeida city and its ports and a governorate-wide ceasefire to allow desperately needed humanitarian assistance to flow in.

Noting that the United Nations has been afforded a lead role in the agreements on the ports, he expects that the Security Council will weigh in on the requirement to establish a compliance-monitoring regime. “A robust and competent monitoring regime is not just essential, it is urgently needed,” he emphasized.

He went on to report that the parties have also reached an understanding to ease the situation in the large urban centre of Taizz, with the prospect of opening humanitarian corridors, reducing fighting in the governorate, deploying demining operations and facilitating the release of prisoners. Acknowledging that the agreements are time-limited and focused on humanitarian relief, he stressed, however, that they also represent a long-delayed turnaround in the diplomatic impasse. The parties have agreed to discuss a political route forward on the basis of the framework submitted by the Office of the Special Envoy in January, he noted. “No longer can Yemen be considered a forgotten war,” he said. “Now we can begin to hope for a track that will lead to its early resolution.”

Joining the Special Envoy in the briefing was Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, who also urged swift action to implement the agreements. While things might start to get better thanks to the progress made in Sweden, “the people I meet see no tangible improvement yet”, he said, noting that more than 20 million Yemenis are now food-insecure and nearly a quarter of a million literally on the brink of starvation. Relieving that situation requires the opening of all ports, easing entry and movement restrictions, protecting humanitarian supplies and facilitating the performance of aid workers in doing their jobs, he stressed.

Highlighting the need for billions of dollars in external support for the Government’s 2019 budget, he said that year’s humanitarian response plan for Yemen requests $4 billion, about half of it for emergency food assistance. He encouraged all parties to continue to engage seriously in implementing the agreements reached in Sweden, stressing that the measures are a package, not a menu.

Following the briefings, Council members welcomed the Stockholm Agreement and thanked all those who helped to bring them about, commenting that the Council’s united support for the effort has been crucial and must be maintained to ensure implementation, including through establishment of the monitoring regime. While expressing hope that the agreements will help to relieve the suffering, most speakers also acknowledged that they are a humanitarian stop-gap requiring follow-up negotiations for a Yemeni-led political solution under United Nations auspices.

In that context, the Russian Federation’s representative praised the “almost ideal” unity exhibited by the five permanent Council members in helping the Special Envoy at a critical moment, while acknowledging that much remains unresolved.

Kuwait’s representative expressed the hope that consensual Council efforts on the way forward will form the bedrock of future political agreements to restore lasting peace to its neighbourly country.

Yemen’s representative declared: “We come today filled with great hope,” thanking all who facilitated the agreements. He cautioned, however, that the Houthi militia have not abided by previous accords, estimating that some 75 have been signed since the beginning of the conflict. In fact, the Government had looked forward to further confidence-building measures and to the opening of Sana’a airport, but the “intransigence of the Houthis, supported by the Iranians”, foiled that effort, he said. A Government priority now is to revive the economy while continuing the pursuit of peaceful means to restore legitimate State institutions and political processes affected by the coup d’état, he added. “We are ready to go all the way to bring peace to Yemen.”

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

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:11 p.m.

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