8512nd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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15-Apr-2019 02:38:02
Parties to conflict in Yemen have accepted plan for redeployment of forces from Hodeidah port, Special Envoy tells Security Council at 8512nd meeting.

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The Government of Yemen and the Houthi militia forces fighting it have accepted a detailed plan for phase one of the redeployment of their respective forces from the vital port city of Hodeidah, as stipulated in the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy told the Security Council today.

“It has been a long and difficult process,” said Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy for Yemen, explaining that General Michael Lollesgaard, Chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee and Head of the United Nations Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), has been working non-stop towards an agreement on operational plans for the redeployment of forces in the port city, in accordance with the Stockholm Agreement.

Phase one requires the opposing forces to move out from the key ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Isa, and from critical infrastructure such as the Red Sea Mills, which hold enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month. He said that he will focus next on resolving outstanding issues related to phase two and the status of local security forces.

Despite the need to see tangible progress in Hodeidah before moving to focus on the political solution, “the larger battlefields should not be forgotten”, he emphasized, saying he intends to winnow down differences between the parties so that when they meet again, they can respond precisely about the nature of arrangements to end the conflict. “Let us move with all speed and with no hesitation towards the political solution that this Council has repeatedly asserted is the only solution,” he said.

Also briefing the Council was Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who warned of a catastrophe if fighting damages or cuts the main water source in Abs, which serves 200,000 people. He added that there is also the risk of displacing up to 400,000 more people if the fighting moves south to the Hodeidah boundary. He went on to state that humanitarian agencies are confronting an alarming resurgence in the cholera epidemic, with nearly 200,000 suspected cases reported so far in 2019 – three times more than during the same period in 2018.

“We remain keenly aware that a sustainable peace would be the most effective remedy for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” he said, adding: “Without peace, we will simply go on treating the symptoms of this crisis instead of addressing the cause.” Noting that the United Nations Yemen Response Plan has received only $276 million, or 10 per cent of the $2.6 billion announced during the February donors’ conference in Geneva, and only 6 per cent of the requirements, he warned that the relief operation is running out of money and urged donor countries to honour their pledges.

Virginia Gamba, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, reported that more than 3,000 children were verified as having been recruited and used from April 2013 until the end of 2018, adding that more than 7,500 children were killed and maimed, and over 800 cases of denial of humanitarian access to children were documented. “The impact of this conflict on children has been horrific,” she said, noting that all parties to the conflict have acted and reacted militarily to events, resulting in the use and abuse of children in multiple ways.

Muna Luqman, Chairperson of Food for Humanity, a civil society organization, said she is a survivor of the war in Yemen, explaining that her home in Taiz was partly demolished by an air strike directed by the Saudi-led coalition against a nearby school used by the Houthis as a military warehouse and prison. She went on to say that she mediated the evacuation of children from an orphanage stormed by Houthis seeking to position snipers. “Escaping death in Yemen is increasingly becoming difficult,” she said, noting that four months after the signing of the Stockholm Agreement, armed clashes continue in Hodeidah, more families are being displaced and people are deprived of food, medicine, fuel and electricity.

Many Council members expressed concern over the Stockholm Agreement’s non-implementation. The representative of the United States said that, while welcoming the fact that the Houthis finally agreed to the details of phase one, his delegation is closely watching if they will make good on their words.

The Russian Federation’s representative said there are chances for positive outcomes in Hodeidah and it is, therefore, counterproductive to attempt to marginalize one of the parties.

Germany’s representative said his country stands ready to host a possible subsequent round of negotiations, adding that they must include more women, unlike those in Stockholm, where only one woman was present.

The United Kingdom’s representative urged the parties to get the Stockholm Agreement implemented and to remove all obstacles to United Nations operations. “The stakes are too high” to let it fail, she emphasized.

Council members also reiterated their concern over the humanitarian crisis and the importance of ensuring access to areas in need. Poland’s representative said the recent cholera outbreak exacerbates the dire situation, cautioning that the effectiveness of financial support will be limited unless obstacles to humanitarian delivery are lifted.

Yemen’s representative said the Government has spared no effort to reach peace through many cycles of dialogue, but the armed Houthi militia, supported by Iran, rejected what was agreed in Stockholm more than four months ago. The Government, on the other hand, has demonstrated flexibility and patience in negotiations and intends to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need, he emphasized. The Houthis refuse passage even for medical supplies being delivered to areas under their control, where cholera is claiming lives, he added.

While the Government has withdrawn its forces and accepted phase one of the redeployment, the Houthis refuse to work with the Redeployment Coordination Committee, he said, adding that they are conducting mortar and drone attacks against venues where meetings are held. He emphasized the Government’s readiness to work with WFP to facilitate access to the Red Sea Mills, adding that it is also undertaking economic measures to address the plummeting value of the national currency, restore financial flows and pay the salaries of civil servants.

Also speaking today were representatives of Kuwait, Dominican Republic, France, China, Peru, Belgium, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Indonesia.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:42 p.m.

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