The situation in the Middle East (Yemen)- Security Council, 9017th Meeting

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14-Apr-2022 01:41:44
Truce offers chance to steer Yemen in 'new direction', Special Representative tells Security Council, cautions parties against backslide into conflict.

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United Nations Relief Chief Says Civilian Casualties Fell to Lowest Level in Months, as Permanent Representative Calls Houthis ‘Tool’ of Iran

Hailing the announcement of a two-month nationwide truce between the parties to conflict in Yemen, top United Nations officials emphasized the importance of continued efforts to bring about an end to the once seemingly intractable crisis that has gripped the country for seven years.

Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, highlighted that “a brighter future” now looks within reach. The truce, forged on 2 April, is already alleviating humanitarian conditions, while hostilities have decreased and civilian casualties have dropped to the lowest reported level in months.

Moreover, he said the establishment of a new Presidential Leadership Council on 7 April and announcement of a $3 billion economic aid package during consultations convened by the Gulf Cooperation Council have further set Yemen on a positive course. The package includes a $2 billion deposit into the Central Bank to help stabilize the economy, an “extremely welcome” move that has prompted the rial to bounce back, meaning that food and other essential goods will soon become more affordable, he added.

Bolstering those gains, he said fuel ships are now able to dock in Hudaydah ports, alleviating shortages that have driven up food and health-care costs, while a United Nations proposal to move oil from the damaged Safer oil tanker moored in the Red Sea to a temporary location and replace the aged vessel has helped to address a looming environmental threat.

On the humanitarian front, he said the pledging conference in March raised $1.3 billion, although more funding is desperately needed. Aid agencies are seeking $4.3 billion to assist 17.3 million people across Yemen, he said, stressing that “allowing the aid operation to collapse would run directly counter to the positive momentum we are seeing.” In addition, access constraints have hampered humanitarian efforts and he called on all parties to do everything possible to address the issue.

Hans Grunberg, Special Representative for Yemen, told Council members that “there is light at the end of the tunnel” thanks to the agreement on a two-month, renewable truce. He contrasted conditions today to those just a few months prior, when the country faced a daunting escalation of military activities. He pointed to a “significant reduction in violence and civilian casualties”, fuel entering Hudaydah ports and preparations for civilian flights to resume from Sana’a airport, adding that progress has also been made on the exchange of detainees.

“The truce is a chance to steer Yemen in a new direction,” he told Council members, cautioning that challenges remain. “To consolidate this path, and to prevent a slide back into fighting, there needs to be progress on the political front as well”, he said.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates lauded the major developments. “This truce provides an opportunity to foster trust and build momentum towards a permanent ceasefire,” Brazil’s delegate affirmed. Drawing attention to reports of armed clashes around Marib and Taiz, he warned that “this is not a time for brinkmanship or irresponsibility […] the Yemeni people do not deserve to have their hopes dashed yet again.”

In a similar vein, the representative of the United Arab Emirates highlighted the consultations held by the Gulf Cooperation Council that produced a road map for peace. He expressed support for the Presidential Leadership Council and praised Saudi Arabia’s call for that body to commence negotiations with the Houthis, under the auspices of the United Nations. The Houthis, he said, must “seize this valuable opportunity” and engage in efforts to bring peace to Yemen.

The United States delegate meanwhile took the opportunity to flag the deleterious impact of the Russian Federation’s “war of choice” in Ukraine on rising wheat prices in Yemen, compounding the already acute humanitarian crisis, a point refuted by her counterpart from the Russian Federation, who said Western Governments must recognize their own role in causing food and financial market movements.

Several delegates commended efforts to resolve issues around the Safer tanker, with Kenya’s delegate pointing out that an oil spill would not only destroy the fragile ecosystem in the Horn of Africa but also the livelihoods of those who depend on the blue economy. He called on all stakeholders to urgently fund and launch the proposed operation.

Offering the national perspective, Yemen’s representative agreed that the creation of the Presidential Leadership Council — with its broad and inclusive membership — confirms the Government’s commitment to working for the good of all Yemenis. He blamed the Houthis for continuing to reject calls to come to the negotiating table, preferring to remain a “tool in the hands of Iran”.

He assured that the Government seeks to maintain the truce, despite flagrant violations seen in governorates where the Houthis continue to target civilians. He called on the Security Council to play its role as a moral authority and bring pressure to bear on the Houthis to commit to the terms of the truce.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Ghana, China, India, Gabon, Norway, Albania and Mexico.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:44 p.m.

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