8672nd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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22-Nov-2019 01:40:42
Special Envoy stresses need to maintain crucial momentum in Yemen, as he reports positive steps during briefing to Security Council at 8672nd meeting.

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Parties to the conflict in Yemen – still home to one of the world’s most brutal conflicts and its worst humanitarian crisis – have reached several key compromise agreements, which has led to a dramatic drop in the tempo of war, the senior United Nations official in the country reported today, as he urged the Security Council to do everything possible to sustain that crucial momentum.

Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, briefed the 15-member Council by video-teleconference from Amman, Jordan, on recent developments, saying they include an 80 per cent drop in the number of air strikes in some areas. The parties, with mediation by Saudi Arabia and support from international partners, arrived at compromise agreements on the situation in Yemen’s southern governorates, de-escalation of hostilities and economic challenges, he added.

“These are none of them small issues, and reaching compromise has been no small achievement,” he continued, emphasizing that what is needed now is leadership, concessions and inclusion. He stressed the importance of prioritizing forbearance over entitlement. Outlining positive strides, he cited the Riyadh Agreement signed on 5 November by the Government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council, saying it averted the very real and frightening risk of State break-up.

He went on to note that, for the first time since the conflict began, Yemenis saw several 48-hour periods without any air strikes. The cessation of missile and drone strikes against Saudi Arabia, announced by the Houthi side on 20 September, held for a second month. He said there was a new agreement on oil tax revenues – which is finally allowing fuel ships to enter the port city of Hodeidah. He also called upon Yemen’s leaders to address outstanding challenges and rebuild the country’s economic and social fabric.

Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, also provided updates, reporting that Yemen remains the world’s largest humanitarian operation. Attacks continue to devastate civilians, with recent strikes damaging a market, a hospital, fishing boats and homes. Mines and other explosives maim and injure civilians, while migrants and asylum seekers arriving in the country face appalling levels of abuse, she said.

Expressing concern that humanitarian movement and many civil society projects in areas under Houthi control remain blocked or delayed, she also cited cases of violence against aid workers and of looting relief supplies. She pointed out, however, that the overall number of casualties declined in October, expressing hope that the trend will continue and that the parties will abide by their obligations under international law.

Taking the floor, many Council members applauded the signing of the Riyadh Agreement and the restoration of State unity in southern Yemen, with several calling for speedy efforts to build on that momentum and push forward a broader political agreement. Some delegates hailed the resumed flow of much-needed fuel to Hodeidah, while urging the parties to implement other elements of the 2018 Stockholm Agreement.

Delegates also underlined the crucial role played by the United Nations Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMSHA), as others expressed grave concern that the Houthis have still not granted international inspectors access to Safer, the decaying oil tanker in the Red Sea, which, some warned, could cause an “unprecedented environmental and humanitarian catastrophe”.

The United Kingdom’s representative called for integrating the Riyadh Agreement into a broader ceasefire accord, urging the Council to stand ready in support of a wider process.

Echoing that sentiment, the representative of the United States emphasized that implementation of the Riyadh Agreement should not impede efforts towards a broader political agreement.

South Africa’s representative underlined the importance of implementing key elements of the Stockholm Agreement, including provisions relating to swapping of prisoners and to resolving the status of local security forces.

Kuwait’s representative hailed the resumed delivery of humanitarian assistance in Hodeidah, noting that his country has pledged $600 million to Yemen since the conflict began. He also welcomed the range of positive recent developments, as well as Saudi Arabia’s mediation role, expressing hope that the Riyadh Agreement will help pave the way for a comprehensive political resolution of the conflict.

Yemen’s representative said his country’s Government remains committed to peace through dialogue. Applauding Saudi Arabia’s central role in mediating the Riyadh Agreement, he said the accord will help disrupt the Houthi-Iran plot in Yemen and create a united anti-terrorism front. He noted, however, the lack of progress in implementing the Stockholm Agreement, calling for greater pressure on spoilers while warning that permitting delays only plays into the hands of the “coup masters”. Calling for strong condemnation of Houthi actions, he emphasized that their violations demonstrate that the faction is neither ready for peace nor serious about ending the suffering it has imposed on Yemen’s people.

Also speaking were representatives of the Russian Federation, France, Peru, Dominican Republic, China, Indonesia, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, Equatorial Guinea and Belgium.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:43 a.m.

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