Yemen - 8725th Security Council Meeting

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18-Feb-2020 01:56:24
Military escalation in Yemen threatens potential political progress, high-level United Nations officials warn Security Council.

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Houthi Militias Seek to Abort Peace Process, Says Permanent Representative, as Delegates Voice Concern over Humanitarian Situation

The recent military escalation in Yemen threatens any potential political progress and raises serious concerns over the gathering humanitarian crisis in that country, putting at risk millions of people in need, high-level United Nations officials told the Security Council today.

Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, briefed members by video-teleconference from Geneva, highlighting the increasingly dire conditions in the country over the past month, during which both parties to the conflict announced expansive military objectives.

He said that several previously quiet front lines have been drawn into the escalation, which may threaten the vulnerable port city of Hudaydah and challenge efforts to maintain calm by the United Nations Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA). Expressing alarm over the lack of progress in addressing the threat posed by the deteriorating condition of the oil tanker Safer, he warned that the potential rupture of that vessel could spill more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea, causing an environmental and economic catastrophe for Yemen and its neighbours.

Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, reported that hostilities in formerly quiet areas have displaced more than 35,000 people since mid-January, notably in Marib, Al-Jawf and Sana’a. As for the narrowing space for humanitarian work and serious problems in territory controlled by Ansar Allah — also known as the Houthi movement — he noted that approximately 40 per cent of projects undertaken by non‑governmental organizations were left unapproved in 2019. “The situation is unacceptable,” he emphasized, warning that preventing the world’s largest aid operation would be fatal for millions of people.

Yemen’s representative said that, despite hopes that the Stockholm Agreement would lead to the easing of humanitarian suffering caused by the reckless war waged by Iran-backed Houthi militias, nothing has been achieved and the conflict is becoming worse. He described Houthi crimes against the Yemeni people and their serious escalation against hospitals and mosques as an attempt to abort the peace process as the international community remained silent.

The Dominican Republic’s representative called for a genuine truce, urging all parties to respect international humanitarian law and refrain from attacking civilians and infrastructure.

China’s representative said that, although the escalation of military operations is worrying, the Houthis and the Government of Yemen should strive to implement the United Nations-led political process, as well as the Stockholm and Riyadh accords.

A number of delegates cited promising developments during a meeting of the parties in Amman, Jordan, between 10 and 16 February, when they agreed to an exchange of prisoners and to the first flights of a medical air bridge transporting 28 patients from Sana’a for medical assistance abroad.

Viet Nam’s representative noted that 250,000 Yemenis have died since 2015 — including 100,000 as a direct result of the hostilities and 130,000 from hunger and disease — and 4 million people are displaced.

Germany’s representative deplored reports of systematic sexual violence against women, especially in Houthi-controlled areas, emphasizing that such actions are unacceptable and must not go unpunished. Inhumane treatment of humanitarian personnel in those areas means there are now 8 million people in need who cannot be reached, he noted, emphasizing: “This is unacceptable.”

The representative of the United States cited continued interference by Iran, pointing to missile attacks from that country’s territory against Saudi Arabian oil facilities on 14 September 2019, as well as the interception and seizure of 358 Iranian missiles intended for Houthi fighters.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative warned that anti-Iran rhetoric is counterproductive, calling upon stakeholders to study recent proposals by his own country’s Government, as well as France and Iran to facilitate a genuinely global approach.

Several speakers expressed concern over the perilous situation of the oil tanker Safer, with Estonia’s the representative stressing that access to that vessel must be granted to prevent an environmental disaster.

Council members also heard from the Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014), who delivered a briefing on that body’s work.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, South Africa, Indonesia, France, Niger and Belgium.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:59 a.m.

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