8441st Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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09-Jan-2019 01:53:45
Amid humanitarian crisis, Yemen advancing towards peace as ceasefire in Hodeidah, key ports holds, Special Envoy tells Security Council at 8441st meeting.

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Amid a languishing humanitarian crisis in Yemen and many hurdles to overcome, gradual and tentative progress has moved the nation along on a path towards peace, officials told the Security Council today, providing updates on fresh achievements in reducing hostilities.

Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, speaking via video-teleconference from Amman, Jordan, provided an update on implementing Security Council resolution 2451 (2018), adopted in December 2018 to express support for recent talks between the Government and the Houthis that culminated in the Stockholm Agreement on security concerns in the city of Hodeidah and key ports, a prisoner exchange and the situation in Taiz. By its provisions, the Council also authorized the Secretary-General to dispatch a monitoring mission to ensure prompt implementation of the Stockholm Agreement. (See Press Release SC/13643.)

“I am under no illusion that these are very sensitive and challenging days for both parties and for Yemen as a whole,” he said, describing Stockholm as “just a start” and highlighting a need to sustain momentum for the political process to advance and to convene another round of consultations soon.

Equally essential is building on the momentum gained in Stockholm, he said, sharing findings from the Secretary-General’s latest report on the status of implementing resolution 2451 (2018), contained in document S/2019/11. Both sides have largely adhered to the ceasefire in Hodeidah Governorate that began on 18 December 2018, with a significant decrease in hostilities. The rapid deployment of a United Nations advance monitoring team in Hodeidah, led by Major General Patrick Cammaert of the Netherlands, is a clear signal of the international community’s desire to turn the Stockholm Agreement into facts on the ground. He also welcomed steps taken towards establishing a joint committee for Taiz that hopefully will meet soon to agree on a peaceful way forward. On the exchange of prisoners, he said work is underway, in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to finalize a list of names ahead of a meeting on 14 January in Amman.

Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, summarizing the current situation, said the Stockholm Agreement and resolution 2451 (2018) have already had an impact on the ground. Reports from aid agencies in Hodeidah indicate that civilians are “a little less afraid” of air strikes or getting caught in the crossfire as they go about their daily lives.

“The important progress we have seen on the political track deserves our full and continuing support,” he said. “But, it does not of itself feed a single starving child. Millions of Yemenis are looking to us for assistance and protection and we need to see more and faster progress on all the humanitarian elements of your resolution to make any practical difference to their lives.”

Reflecting these dire conditions, he said, the 2019 humanitarian response plan will cost almost double the 2018 amount, with half of an expected $4 billion requirement to be slated for emergency food aid. At risk are more than 24 million Yemenis needing assistance, almost 80 per cent of the population, including 10 million people who are “one step away from famine”. Millions are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable than a year ago and only half of all health facilities are functioning. Hundreds of thousands fell sick in 2018 due to poor sanitation and diseases such as cholera.

Even though aid agencies are now scaling up efforts to meet these needs, he said, only 15 million people in need will be reached if funding is available. As such, he expected more generous contributions at a forthcoming pledging conference in Geneva in February. Highlighting the humanitarian provisions of resolution 2451 (2018), he said that in addition to establishing sustainable funding, efforts must also target economic development and broadening access for aid deliveries.

Providing a snapshot of recent developments, Yemen’s representative conveyed the Government’s ongoing support of resolution 2451 (2018) and the Stockholm Agreement. Yet, since the ceasefire began, the Houthi militia have violated its provisions, he said, urging the Council to condemn these violations and take necessary measures to punish perpetrators.

Council members shared a range of grave concerns, from the dire humanitarian situation to an urgent need to build trust among the Government and the Houthis. South Africa’s representative said all parties must agree on confidence-building measures to breach the trust deficit that exists, noting that during the reporting period, both sides made statements about allegations of ceasefire violations. “We hope that the spirit of trust and resolve shown by the parties in Stockholm will build the foundation for the next round of negotiations that will lead to a framework for a political solution to the conflict,” he said.

Regarding the humanitarian situation, many members highlighted that 80 per cent of the population remained dependent on critical aid, with some calling for more robust contributions to the 2019 response plan and targeted efforts to boost sustainable economic development. Many also commended gains made in Stockholm and on the ground, with some offering suggestions to trigger further advances. For its part, the Council will need to closely follow progress, said the United Kingdom’s representative. As the pen holder on Yemen, the United Kingdom will take forward work on a technical resolution regarding the United Nations team supporting implementation of the Hodeidah ceasefire, she added.

Some members emphasized that the Council must remain united in its support for ongoing talks and efforts led by the Special Envoy. “We should move the ball forward,” Indonesia’s delegate said, stressing that the Council must also take immediate action, particularly regarding the dire humanitarian situation. Agreeing, France’s delegate applauded the “real breakthrough” the Stockholm talks represent, urging parties to engage in further dialogue to strengthen mutual trust. Meanwhile, the Council’s immediate priority is to ensure that the observation mission has an appropriate mandate.

Also delivering statements today were representatives of China, Russian Federation, Peru, Kuwait, Germany, Equatorial Guinea, Belgium, Poland, United States, Côte d’Ivoire and the Dominican Republic.

The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 11:55 a.m.

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