Yemen - 8745th Security Council Meeting

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12-Mar-2020 01:47:37
Escalating violence threatens quest for political resolution of conflict in Yemen, senior officials Warn Security Council.

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Houthis Continue to Target Hospitals, Refugee Camps with Military Support from Iran, Says Permanent Representative

The recent escalation of violence in Yemen is jeopardizing the quest for a political solution to the conflict in that country and inflicting significant harm on civilians, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council today.

Martin Griffiths, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, said the country is at a critical juncture, emphasizing that thousands of families displaced by the fighting need shelter and assistance. The escalating violence could trigger conflicts elsewhere, creating a new cycle of violence leading to devastating humanitarian and political consequences, he warned.

Crucial humanitarian measures must not be politicized, he continued, appealing to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint. The parties to the conflict bear a responsibility to ease the impact of war on civilians, he stressed, urging them to work on exchanging prisoners, opening and securing access to roads, and ensuring that public sector salaries are paid. He also called for reopening the airport in Sana’a, the capital, to commercial flights.

In similar vein, Ramesh Rajasingham, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ad Interim, declared: “This is dangerous territory.” Although civilian casualties in 2019 fell by one third from the 2018 figures, children now account for 1 in 4 civilian casualties — up from 1 in 5 in 2018, he added. Further, more than half of all civilian casualties now occur in family homes, up from 40 per cent in 2018. Civilian casualties are rising again in 2020, he said, noting that 187 people were killed or wounded in February alone — a 20 per cent increase since January.

Turning to humanitarian assistance, he said restrictions in the north have become untenable and a new approach is needed. The Government of Yemen has left approvals for 44 humanitarian projects pending, he added, noting that shifting Government demands have again stalled a multi-sector needs assessment in the south. Furthermore, 30 major programmes will shrink or start to close by the end of April without additional funds, he cautioned. He went on to state that Yemen’s currency, the rial, remains far below its pre-crisis value. Recalling that the currency’s rapid depreciation was a key factor pushing Yemen towards famine in 2018, he called for injections of foreign exchange to strengthen the rial.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates agreed that a political solution is the only way to resolve the crisis. Most speakers also expressed concern over the grave humanitarian crisis that continues to unfold, with many calling for an immediate ceasefire and for the parties to facilitate the delivery of aid to those in need.

Tunisia’s representative said the renewed military escalation threatens the political track, exacerbates the humanitarian situation and deepens the people’s suffering. Calling for the redoubling of humanitarian relief, he welcomed the convening of a donor conference for Yemen, to be held next month in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He went on to emphasize that an immediate and unconditional freeze on military operations, followed by de-escalation and a transitional period, will ensure Yemen’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

Indonesia’s representative cautioned that the current escalation impedes humanitarian efforts and may prompt a return to the elevated levels of civilian casualties seen in 2018. He also reiterated calls for access to the deserted oil tanker Safer — moored at the port of Hudaydah — before it is too late to avert an environmental disaster for Yemen and the wider region.

The Dominican Republic’s representative also remarked on the escalating hostilities, warning that the fighting could jeopardize hard-won political headway and has had a devastating effect on civilians. A national ceasefire is urgently needed, and issues of justice and accountability cannot be ignored, he stressed. He also called attention to unprecedented swarms of locusts in Yemen’s desert areas.

However, the representative of the United States warned that her country will suspend assistance to Houthi-controlled areas by the end of March, except for certain critical life-saving programmes.

Germany’s representative said it is “incomprehensible” that leaders in Sana’a treat humanitarian workers in a manner that calls into question the entire aid operation in the north. He called upon all parties to stop harassing humanitarian staff, facilitate unhindered access, lift bureaucratic restrictions and implement project agreements without delay.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative stressed that the conflict in Yemen — like any other in the Middle East — cannot be resolved by trying to find scapegoats. The situation is close to the point of no return, he warned, pointing out that, each day, the war not only increases the cost of post-conflict recovery, but also plays into the hands of terrorist groups as they capitalize on the chaos.

Yemen’s representative said that the Houthis continue to obstruct United Nations peace efforts, adding that the recent military escalation is a sign that they were never serious about peace. They also continue to target hospitals and refugee camps in many parts of the country, restrict the movement of the United Nations Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) and to target observation posts in that port city. Iran continues to supply the Houthis with military support while encouraging them to obstruct United Nations efforts, he said, warning that the situation could deteriorate further without international support. He went on to call for renewed pressure on the Houthis to grant a United Nations technical team access to the deserted oil tanker Safer, which holds 1 million barrels of crude oil and represents a potential environmental disaster.

Earlier, delegates noted that today marks the last day for Ambassador Karen Pierce (United Kingdom) in the Security Council Chamber, commending her service while wishing her well in her future endeavours.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, France, Niger, Estonia, South Africa, Viet Nam, Belgium and China.

The meeting began at 10:17 a.m. and ended at 12:03 p.m.

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