8551st Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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17-Jun-2019 02:32:45
United Nations officials urge parties in Yemen to fulfill Stockholm, Hodeidah agreements, amid Security Council calls for opening of aid corridors at 8551st meeting.

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The “unwinnable” conflict in Yemen is worsening, with 20 million Yemenis lacking enough food and only marginal changes in power dynamics since fighting broke out in 2015, top United Nations officials warned the Security Council today, amid calls for parties to fully implement the Stockholm and Hodeidah Agreements designed to end the acute humanitarian crisis.

Briefing members on political and humanitarian developments, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) all underscored the direct impacts of the conflict on the 24 million people needing protection.

The Special Envoy reported that parties in Hodeidah have sustained the reduction in violence in the six months since the Stockholm Agreement entered into force, while the number of casualties also fell by 68 per cent in the following five months. Despite this progress, however, the military and political situation remains extremely fragile and he urged parties to take the necessary next steps to ensure the full implementation of the accord.

“More than any other issue, tangible progress on the exchange of prisoners would indicate the seriousness of the parties to build confidence in a significant humanitarian gesture of good faith,” he continued. With violence escalating across the country and attacks continuing against civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia — most recently Abha airport — “the risks to the political process have never looked more stark”, he observed.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, noting that 70,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2016, said fighting in this year alone has displaced 250,000 people; the number of incidents killing or injuring children more than tripled. But, the conflict itself has led to relatively few major shifts in control. Most Yemenis still live in areas controlled by Ansar Allah and their allies. “The war is not only brutal, it is unwinnable,” he said, warning that close to half a million people could die if the fighting lasts until 2022.

In April and May, access constraints prevented or delayed humanitarian assistance for more than 1.5 million people, he said, adding that Ansar Allah‑affiliated authorities obstructed 55 United Nations field missions. While $4.2 billion is needed to address the suffering, only $1.5 billion has been received, despite pledges made in Geneva in February. “People are almost certainly already dying as a result of these funding gaps.”

The World Food Programme Executive Director expressed alarm that food is being diverted in areas controlled by Ansar Allah. While WFP feeds more than 10 million people a month, “I cannot assure you that all the assistance is going to those who need it the most”, he said. Would-be beneficiaries in Sana’a reported not having received any food, even though the distribution list contained their thumbprints, as if they had. “Who took their food?”, he asked, recalling that he has requested authorities to honour their agreements.

However, if no assurances are given, WFP will begin a phased suspension of food assistance, most likely next week. This goes “against every fibre of our being,” he said, explaining that the agency’s humanitarian principles are compromised if it is not allowed to determine independently who most needs help. “Let us do our job,” he pleaded.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members condemned actions that block humanitarian aid, with the United Kingdom’s delegate stressing that those who hamper access are not only acting against the people of Yemen, but also the Council. Describing the statistics as shocking, she recalled that parties have a duty to redouble their cooperation with United Nations actors on the ground.

Council members also condemned the violence and urged parties to recommit to political agreements. The United States representative decried the recent Houthi attack against Abha airport, pressing Iran to stop supplying Houthi rebels with weapons. Pointing to strides made in implementing the Hodeidah Agreement, he called for greater efforts to address contentious issues. The Houthis must demonstrate that they are serious about the peace process by removing their troops as agreed in the Stockholm Agreement.

The Russian Federation’s delegate meanwhile cautioned that artificial anti‑Iranian sentiment could undermine collective diplomacy and derail gains made in Yemen. Emergency humanitarian assistance must be provided to the Yemeni population no matter who controls their territory, he stressed, adding that such efforts “cannot be a panacea”.

The representative of Kuwait, Council President for June, speaking in his national capacity, urged the Council to take action to end chronic obstructions of humanitarian access. Also expressing concern that no progress has been seen on the exchange of prisoners and detainees, he said there can be no military solution to the crisis.

Yemen’s representative said his Government has already demonstrated flexibility and commitment, notably by participating in all rounds of talks under United Nations auspices “even though we know that these militia groups do not believe in dialogue or talks”. The Houthis meanwhile stoke tensions to advance the goals of their Iranian puppet masters to destabilize Yemen, wreck its economy and the region. The Houthi rebels misinterpret and disrespect the Stockholm and Hodeidah Agreements and misappropriate life-saving aid.

“They want to sow discrimination and division within Yemeni society,” he said, cautioning the Council against sending ambiguous messages that can be twisted and misinterpreted. The Houthis continue to target women and children, while the international community shirks its responsibility. Their disregard for international decisions is further proof that they do not believe in peace.

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

The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 12:32 p.m.

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