8578th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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18-Jul-2019 02:07:30
Hodeidah ceasefire holding but faster progress key to stopping Yemen from sliding into regional war, deepening humanitarian crisis, speakers tell Security Council at 8578th meeting.

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While a ceasefire in the key Yemeni port city of Hodeidah is holding, faster progress is needed to fully implement the 2018 Stockholm Agreement between the Government and the Houthi militia, the Security Council heard today, as briefers warned of the risks of the country being dragged into a regional conflict and a deterioration of a humanitarian crisis that is already the worst in the world.

“We are facing a crucial moment for the destiny of the war and we need to think of the realities and opportunities which now define our chances of making a move on peace,” said Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen. Speaking via videoconference from Amman, he said a two-day meeting between Government and Houthi representatives aboard a United Nations ship on the Red Sea - led by the Head of the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) - was a “notable success”. He conveyed widespread dismay, however, at death sentences imposed in Houthi-controlled Sana’a on 30 individuals listed to be part of a prisoner exchange. He also expressed alarm at Houthi attacks directed at Saudi Arabia, adding: “It’s not in the interest of Yemen to be dragged into a regional war.”

Addressing the humanitarian crisis, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that since June, 120,000 more people have fled their homes, bringing total displacement in 2019 so far to more than 300,000 people on top of the millions forced to flee in previous years. Humanitarian agencies meanwhile reported 375 incidents in April and May when aid was blocked or delayed, mostly in Houthi-held areas. The militia, also known as Ansar Allah, has also delayed a United Nations assessment of a decaying oil tanker that threatens to spill 1.1 million barrels of oil into the Red Sea.

David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), updated the Council on its decision on 20 June to partially suspend aid deliveries to Sana’a due to the diversion of shipments. He said he was assured this morning that an agreement with Ansar Allah authorities is within reach. On the wider crisis, he said more than two thirds of Yemen’s population – 20 million people – now live in a state of food insecurity. The WFP hopes to scale up efforts to reach 12 million people by August. “But I must say, we are reaching the point where no amount of money in the world will truly alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. We cannot give up. We owe them nothing less,” he said.

In the ensuing debate, delegates urged the parties to swiftly implement the Stockholm Agreement in full, thus paving the way for a political process to end a conflict dating back to 2015. They also called for the death sentences in Sana’a to be revoked, condemned Houthi attacks into Saudi Arabia and appealed to Member States to make good on pledges to fund the ongoing humanitarian response.

Several speakers also welcomed the Council’s unanimous decision on 15 July, through resolution 2481 (2019), to extend the mandate of UNMHA until 15 January 2020. (See Press Release SC/13881.)

The representative of the United Kingdom, the main sponsor of Council resolutions on Yemen, proposed that the 15-member body meet in private to discuss concrete answers to the current situation in Yemen, which risks a perfect storm. These answers do not necessarily lie within the Council, she said, stressing the need to seek them from the wider United Nations system.

The representative of Kuwait, lamenting that seven months have elapsed since the Stockholm Agreement, recalled three Council resolutions that reiterate the need for its full implementation. Welcoming the resumption of the meetings of the Redeployment Coordination Committee after five months of suspension, he stressed that there is no military solution to the conflict. He also recommended the biometric registration of beneficiaries to avoid manipulation of food assistance by the Houthi militia.

The representative of the United States called for Iran to stop supplying the Houthis with weapons and technology used in attacks on Saudi Arabia. On the dire humanitarian situation, he said the United States remains seriously concerned about the growing risk of famine. It is heartening that the WFP was able to salvage some of the wheat stored at the Red Sea Mills, he said, adding that there is no excuse for obstructing United Nations humanitarian assistance.

Focusing on the humanitarian situation, the representative of the Dominican Republic – who noted that 500,000 new cases of cholera have been reported this year – said humanitarian principles must be upheld. “We cannot allow hunger to be turned into a weapon of war,” he said, adding that civilian areas, including agricultural lands, must urgently be cleared of land mines and improvised explosive devices.

The speaker for China said that under the good offices of the United Nations, the parties should continue dialogue and consultations. The Special Envoy, UNMHA and the Redeployment Coordination Committee should strengthen dialogue and collaboration, and the Council should maintain unity and support the political process. Emphasizing the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Yemen, he said China supports enhanced dialogue among regional actors to create favourable conditions for advancing the political process.

Taking the floor at the end of the debate, Yemen’s representative emphasized the Government’s commitment to implement the Stockholm Agreement in full and its rejection of any attempt to manipulate its interpretation or to justify the practices of the Houthi militia. He said the Iranian regime is supporting the militia, showing a manifest will to perpetrate the war and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. This is a challenge to the international community, he said, calling on the Council to ensure that the Iranian regime answers for its actions. Stressing that the situation in Yemen is not just a humanitarian crisis, he added the international community must support peace efforts, end the 2015 coup d’état, restore State institutions and support the Government, which is working hard to provide services, relaunch the economy and restore normal life. He went on to say that the Houthi militia continue to divert and steal food assistance, including from the WFP, and that it is responsible for the WFP’s decision to partially suspend operations in areas under its control.

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

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