8525th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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15-May-2019 02:26:31
Parties to Yemen conflict must set differences aside, move towards lasting political settlement, Special Envoy, other officials tell Security Council at 8525th meeting.

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With Yemen “at the crossroads between war and peace”, both sides of the conflict in that country must set aside their differences and move towards a lasting political settlement, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council today.

Outlining recent developments, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen said “change is a reality” as the first phase of the Hodeidah Agreement advances, notably with the redeployment of Ansar Allah movement fighters from the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa. The initial withdrawal will allow the United Nations to play a leading role in supporting the operation of those key ports, which receive vessels delivering badly needed supplies, he added.

“We were never expecting the implementation of this agreement to be easy,” he emphasized, recalling that the first concrete step towards implementation of the Hodeidah Agreement was taken with the Security Council’s swift and decisive support, under the stewardship of the United Nations Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA). “This moment is significant, but this is only the beginning,” he said. The parties are expected to deliver concrete actions under their Stockholm Agreement obligations, agreed in December 2018 as a road map to peace, he said, adding: “These beginnings must be protected from the threat of war. We must not allow it to take peace off the table.” Although the current ceasefire is generally holding in Hodeidah, conflict is intensifying in other parts of Yemen, he continued, pointing out that tangible progress on port operations will enable the concerned parties to look ahead to negotiations and facilitate resumption of the political transition.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), provided glimpses of the dire situation of Yemen’s children, warning that time is running out. With 360,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition and 2.5 million — or half of all children under the age of five — stunted, the country is spiralling perilously close to the brink, she warned.

She went on to recall that UNICEF and its humanitarian partners treated 345,000 severely malnourished children in 2018, “children whose mid-upper arm circumference is less than 11 centimetres — or three adult fingers in circumference”. Urging the Council to speak with one voice to protect Yemen’s children and stop grave violations against them, including recruitment by parties to the conflict, rampant violence, destroyed schools and civilian infrastructure, as well as malnourishment, she declared: “Fifteen million children in Yemen are asking you to save their lives. Please help them.”

Also briefing was the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who said that intensive discussions with authorities affiliated with Ansar Allah are progressing. In addition, one fifth of the 107 districts at risk of famine in 2018 no longer face that threat. However, serious challenges remain, he said, noting that the cholera outbreak has affected 300,000 people amid the looming risk of famine, with 10 million people relying on emergency food aid. Restrictions on movement are delaying humanitarian deliveries, and violence is raging in many areas, he added. Emphasizing that these challenges require strong, steady support, he noted that, although the 2019 United Nations response plan received only 6 per cent of the required resources in April, that figure climbed to 20 per cent today. “But, there is still a long way to go,” he stressed, calling for the full disbursement of the pledges they made at Geneva in February.

The Council also heard a briefing from the Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014) concerning sanctions imposed by the Security Council.

Council members agreed that there can be no military solution to the conflict, expressing strong support for a political process leading to lasting peace. They urged all parties to refrain from actions that could jeopardize that goal. Members also expressed concern about the humanitarian situation, including the cholera outbreak and food shortages, with many urging the parties to ensure prompt, unconditional delivery of aid to all those in need. Delegates also condemned yesterday’s drone attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, as well as persistent violence that continues to cause civilian casualties.

Echoing a common concern, Kuwait’s representative pointed out that not all elements of the Stockholm Agreement are being implemented, including the planned exchange of prisoners.

The representative of the United States emphasized that Iran must stop arming the Houthi fighters, adding that United Nations findings indicate that “these weapons have Iranian-designed characteristics”. Iran’s actions not only violate the arms embargo, they are fuelling the war, he said.

China’s representative underlined the need for the parties to put the interests of their people first and relaunch political talks in pursuit of a lasting and holistic solution to the conflict.

The Russian Federation’s representative emphasized that the strategic goal remains the launch of a fully fledged political process to discuss a solution. The window of opportunity is now open to implementing other aspects of the Stockholm Agreement, he said, stressing that impartial United Nations mediation is of extreme importance. It hinges on the good faith of the parties and on their wish to stabilize the situation, he said. Indeed, all countries of the region, including Iran and those in the Gulf, must cooperate for the sake of security throughout the Middle East, he stressed.

Yemen’s representative, emphasizing that implementation of the Stockholm Agreement must be built on trust, said the Houthis are attempting to implement measures through unilateral actions rather than through the United Nations. Indeed, their failure to build confidence means the existence of many puppets of Iran, he added. At the same time, the Government of Yemen has tried to halt the conflict while the Houthis continue to destabilize the country and the wider region, including through drone attacks.

Also delivering statements were representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Peru, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Equatorial Guinea, Dominican Republic and Indonesia.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 12:33 p.m.

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