8642nd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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17-Oct-2019 01:55:47
Amid ‘positive indications’, warring parties in Yemen must stop hostilities, restart talks to end world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Special Envoy tells Security Council at 8642nd meeting.

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With signs of hope appearing on the horizon in Yemen, warring parties must cease hostilities, facilitate food and fuel distribution and relaunch talks aimed at ending the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis, United Nations officials said today as they briefed the Security Council on recent developments.

“Today we have some positive indications,” said Martin Griffiths, the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, referring to military and political shifts on the part of both the Government and the various factions challenging it since 2015. Among those fragile signs of hope, he cited the parties’ stronger willingness to engage, progress in facilitating the movement of much‑needed oil supplies and a tenuous calm in the southern city of Aden. Meanwhile, talks continue in Saudi Arabia and there are encouraging signs that an agreement will be reached to resolve an impasse between the Government and the Southern Transitional Council.

Welcoming a visible reduction in air strikes since the beginning of October, he also hailed the release of 290 detainees by the Houthi movement — formally known as Ansar Allah — and invited the parties to meet with the United Nations to accelerate all elements of the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement. However, he cautioned that such progress remains fragile, requiring diligent care, and that the country’s humanitarian situation is still dire. “Let’s be under no illusion about the challenges and the difficulties ahead,” he stressed.

Echoing those concerns, Mark Lowcock, Under‑Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, declared: “With more than 30 active front lines, we can only hope that recent steps towards de‑escalation will continue.” September was the deadliest month for civilians so far in 2019, with reports of 388 killed or injured due to conflict. Recounting gruesome instances of shelling and bombing casualties, he said humanitarian access remains limited due in part to restrictions imposed by Ansar Allah. Citing some progress, he said programmes that had been suspended due to clashes have resumed, but still face difficulties. More support is also needed to bridge shortfalls in humanitarian funding.

As Council members took the floor, Germany’s delegate was among those who welcomed recent dialogues, prisoner releases and ceasefire announcements as signs of hope. To sustain the fragile momentum, however, he called for a broader dialogue involving civil society, including women and youth. Emphasizing that all parties must abide by their obligations under human rights law, he demanded an end to impunity for abuses and stressed that the protection of civilians must be a priority. In addition, he joined other delegates in calling on the Houthis to grant international inspectors access to a beached oil tanker in the Red Sea in order to prevent a possible environmental disaster.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire joined other speakers in voicing grave concern about the humanitarian crisis, citing recent warnings by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that Yemen may soon become the world’s poorest nation. Pointing out that the country’s poverty rate has already risen from 47 per cent in 2014 to 75 per cent in 2019, he called on the belligerents to fully implement the Stockholm Agreement and its component Hodeidah Agreement, ensure unhindered humanitarian access and accelerate both the release of prisoners and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

Indonesia’s representative expressed hope that the recent de‑escalations will create room for the parties to enhance confidence and build trust. Noting that Hodeidah remains the “centre of gravity” in Yemen — serving as the main corridor for humanitarian assistance as well as a source of port revenue for the Yemeni people — he called for the implementation of all the Hodeidah Agreement’s technical modalities and welcomed the activation of a tripartite Ceasefire Enhancement and De‑escalation Mechanism to prevent security incidents in the city. “A resumption of peace talks should be the main priority before the end of the year,” he added.

The representative of Yemen, meanwhile, said his Government is working hard to end the suffering of the Yemeni people, which resulted from an unjust war imposed by Houthi militias. Expressing support for prisoner and detainee exchange efforts, he went on to outline the Government’s efforts to stabilize the economic situation including by transferring fuel to all areas in need — even those controlled by militias — if overseen by the United Nations. He also urged Council members to exert more pressure on the Houthis currently blocking inspections of oil vessels, warning of a possible environmental disaster four times larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Also speaking were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Kuwait, United States, France, Dominican Republic, Russian Federation, Peru, China, Belgium, Poland, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa.

The meeting began at 10:00 a.m. and ended at 11:56 a.m.

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