The situation in the Middle East (Yemen) - Security Council, 8797th meeting

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15-Jun-2021 02:10:34
Negotiated political settlement only way to end war, ‘turn the tide’ in Yemen, Special Envoy tells Security Council.

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Intensive diplomatic efforts by the United Nations and other partners to broker a ceasefire and restart a political process in Yemen have failed to produce tangible progress, the United Nations mediator for that country said today, describing a five-year dearth of direct talks between warring parties as “a shocker”.

“What has been most frustrating during my time […] has been the absence of comprehensive peace talks,” said Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, during his briefing to the Security Council, adding that he had emphasized time and again the primacy of a political process to negotiate the core political and security issues needed to end the war.

The last time the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, or the Houthis, sat down to discuss the sticking issues was in Kuwait in 2016, he said. “Only a negotiated political settlement can truly turn the tide in Yemen,” he said, arguing that a mediator is not responsible for the war nor for the peace, despite the common assumption to the contrary. Rather, the mediator’s privilege is to present to the parties the ways the war can end, he stressed.

He said that for the past year and a half, he has conducted rounds of shuttle diplomacy with the parties, and the United Nations has offered different solutions to bridge their positions, including his four-point plan for a nationwide ceasefire, opening Sana’a airport, lifting restrictions on shipping through the Hudaydah ports and restarting a political process.

Unfortunately, none of these suggestions have been accepted by the parties, the Special Envoy reported, explaining that Ansar Allah is demanding a stand-alone agreement on the Hudaydah ports and Sana’a airport as a precondition for the ceasefire and the launch of the political process, while the Government is insisting these issues be agreed to and implemented as a package.

Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, re-emphasized the five key priority areas to mitigate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, namely, the protection of civilians, humanitarian access, funding for the aid operation, support for the economy, and the need for a political solution.

On the issue of protecting civilians, he said that on average, at least five civilians are being killed or injured by hostilities in Yemen every single day. He called on the warring parties to spare civilians and civilian objects in military operations.

On humanitarian access, he said greater efforts are needed to facilitate future assessments, allow aid workers to travel without undue restrictions, and agree on standard operating procedures to fast track project approvals, visas and other routine processes. The humanitarian response plan is now 43 per cent funded, up from 15 per cent at the start of March, he said, expressing hope that the upcoming event in September offers an opportunity for donors to increase their support. Yemen averted a major famine in 2018 and 2019 and could avoid it again this year. “But two brushes with mass famine in three years is not a success — even if the worst was avoided,” he said. “It is a failure.”

Warning that Yemen’s economy has collapsed as a result of the conflict, he emphasized that the two fastest ways to help the economy are to free up commercial imports and bolster the exchange rate. A nationwide ceasefire would give Yemenis a break from the violence and create space for more political engagement, he said, declaring: “War has solved nothing. Try something different. Give peace a chance.”

Today’s briefing was the last scheduled public meeting for both Mr. Griffiths and Mr. Lowcock in their current capacities, as the former will soon replace the latter.

Also addressing the Council was Najiba Al Naggar, founding member and Programmes Manager of SOS Center for Youth Capabilities Development, who highlighted the importance of women’s political engagement in Yemen. She noted that 80 per cent of first responders are women and they provide life-saving humanitarian assistance even when the international community has been unable to reach communities desperately in need.

Yemeni women negotiate local ceasefires, successfully call on warring parties to open humanitarian corridors, and drive the peace agenda in their communities. They do this “against the odds, challenging gender norms, and with far too little backing and resources from national and international actors,” she said. Despite their critical role, women have been excluded from formal, meaningful roles in the United Nations-led peace process and from the new Government, she pointed out, calling on the Organization and Yemeni authorities to do more to ensure women’s direct participation as set out in resolution 1325 (2000).

Yemen’s representative welcomed recent efforts by the United Nations, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Oman to end the conflict, stressing that the Government has positively engaged with all proposals, extended all political and diplomatic efforts and offered compromises “one after the other” to reach sustained peace and end Yemeni suffering. The Houthi militias have responded, however, with brutal attacks on civilian targets in the city of Marib and in Saudi Arabia. This escalation reflects not only the terrorism and criminality of these militias, but also their allegiance to the Iranian regime, which seeks to foment crisis in the region, he said.

Council members joined forces in their support for the Special Envoy’s mediation efforts, repeating calls for a ceasefire, condemning the recent missile and drone attacks in Marib, as well as continued Houthi cross-border missile and drone strikes against Saudi Arabia. Several members also reiterated concerns about the environmental and humanitarian threat posed by the Safer oil tanker moored off the Houthi-controlled oil terminal in the Red Sea.

China’s delegate said that it is “truly harrowing” to see the suffering in Yemen, a major birthplace of Arab civilization, calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities to facilitate the peace process in Yemen. He expressed support for the efforts of Gulf countries to ease tension in the region.

Kenya’s representative said that the recent explosion in Abyan that claimed six troops belonging to the Southern Transitional Council is a stark warning of a possible surge in terrorism, stressing the need to remain acutely alert to these emerging threats and undertake pre-emptive measures. “Otherwise, Yemen could become a net exporter of terrorism and violent extremism to the region and across the Gulf of Aden to the Horn of Africa and beyond,” she warned.

Ireland’s delegate was among the speakers who called for greater participation of women in the peace process. She said to Ms. Al Naggar that “Yemen needs women like you at the table, both in the peace talks and Government,” expressing regret that women are not represented in the current Government. The full, equal and meaningful participation of women can unlock new, inclusive paths to peace, she said.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Mexico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Viet Nam, Tunisia, United States, Norway, India, Niger, France and Estonia.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:12 p.m.

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