Briefing Security Council, Special Envoy Warns New Clashes in Yemen Risk Expanding Humanitarian Crisis, Violence, Stresses Need to Implement Stockholm Agreement
The fragmentation of Yemen is becoming a stronger and more pressing threat, the Security Council heard today, as the top United Nations official in the country cautioned that recent clashes risk further deepening the world’s leading humanitarian crisis and spreading violence to other southern governorates.
“There is no time to lose,” stressed Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, speaking via video teleconference from Amman, emphasizing that the targeting of civilians and acts of military provocation continue to deepen the divide among parties.
He condemned efforts of the Southern Transitional Council to take control of State institutions by force and deplored the harassment of Yemenis of northern origin in Aden, including through physical violence, forced displacement and denial of freedom of movement.
The Special Envoy emphasized the need to implement the Stockholm Agreement, noting also that, after months of negotiations, parties to the conflict are aware of what the other side is willing to accept. Negotiations on the implementation of the exchanges of prisoners remain ongoing, with delays prolonging the suffering of the detainees and their family members. He also welcomed efforts of Saudi Arabia to convene talks in Jeddah to prevent a further deterioration of the security situation in the south.
The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, said that events in Yemen over the past several weeks have shown just how volatile and unsustainable the war is. While there has been some progress in the delivery of food aid, humanitarian agencies continue to face severe restrictions, further complicated by a continuous stream of unofficial changes and new policies.
Currently, more than 100 humanitarian projects are awaiting agreement by Ansar Allah-affiliated authorities in the north, she continued. Yemen remains the world’s biggest humanitarian operation, but essential programmes are closing down due to a lack of funding. In the next few days, water and sanitation programmes will stop in four areas, leaving 300,000 displaced people at extreme risk of cholera. She urged donors to fulfil their pledge commitments.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed concern over the clashes in Aden, welcomed all de-escalation efforts and urged all parties to maintain reason and restraint.
The representative of Kuwait said the political and security situation in Yemen is mired in a stalemate in implementing the Stockholm Agreement and advancing a United Nations-sponsored dialogue. Progress lags on prisoner exchanges and parties are struggling to implement the Hodeidah Agreement.
Speakers also condemned attacks against civilians, with Peru’s delegate urging the Council to be consistent in ensuring the protection of Yemen’s people. He also expressed alarm over the high level of food insecurity, cholera outbreaks and a worsening economy.
The representative of the United States noted with concern the stoppage and reduction of aid programmes due to funding shortages, calling on all donors to enhance assistance.
Yemen’s representative said that the armed rebellion in Aden has undermined the stability, security and unity of his country and runs counter to the aim of the Arab coalition. He urged the United Arab Emirates to cease providing support to the militia and welcomed Saudi Arabia’s call on the militia to withdraw from civilian infrastructure and hand over their weapons. Yemen’s Government stresses the need to implement the Stockholm Agreement and expresses alarm over militias hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid. The decision by the Houthi militia to appoint an ambassador to Iran must be categorically condemned as it violates the Charter of the United Nations and contradicts Yemen’s sovereignty.
Also speaking today were representatives of Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire South Africa and China.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 11:28 a.m.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, speaking via video teleconference from Amman, said that the fragmentation of the country is becoming a stronger and more pressing threat. “There is no time to lose,” he stressed, cautioning that the “stakes have become too high for Yemen and [the] region”. This civil war has been a curse upon the people of Yemen. “Their lives are changed, damaged and destroyed sometimes for a generation,” he added. The various parties to the conflict share a sense of urgency to move forward on discussions to end the violence and move towards a political solution. Every single step discussed in the Chamber has been fought over, negotiated, stressed and delayed.
“Nothing comes easy in Yemen,” he continued, adding that Stockholm Agreement demonstrates how fragile such a commitment really is. Noting that food continues to move through the ports of Hodeidah, he also emphasized that the Hodeidah Agreement was not designed to set a precedent to address the underlying issues of the conflict. Following months of negotiations, parties to the conflict are well aware of what the other side is willing to accept. He welcomed the agreement that would facilitate access to the dilapidated Safer oil tanker. Negotiations on the implementation of the exchanges of prisoners and detainees remain ongoing, he continued, adding that civil society, particularly women groups, have actively advocated on the manner. The slowness of the negotiations is however prolonging the suffering of the detainees and their family members. He expressed hope that his proposal on the matter receives a positive response.
“I am frustrated” that there has been no tangible progress on various discussions, he said, also adding that implementation of the Stockholm Agreement cannot override the main intention to bring the conflict to an end. The targeting of civilians and acts of military provocation continue to deepen the divide among the parties and undermines efforts to bring an end to the conflict. He condemned efforts of the Southern Transitional Council to take control of State institutions by force. He also deplored the harassment of Yemenis of northern origin in Aden, such as through physical violence, forced displacement and denial of freedom of movement, including targeting Government officials. There is a grave and present risk to further damaging the social fabric and the spread of violence to other southern governorates. He welcomed the efforts by Saudi Arabia to hold a dialogue in Jeddah to prevent a further deterioration of the security situation in the south.
URSULA MUELLER, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that events in Yemen over the past several weeks have shown just how volatile and unsustainable the war is. Earlier in August, fighting in Aden between Government forces and forces affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council killed or injured at least 300 people. “For days, residents were trapped in their homes as clashes — including with heavy weapons — raged in densely populated neighbourhoods,” she emphasized. Last week, strikes on a family home in Hajjah killed 12 civilians, including six children. The week before, an attack on a market in Sa’ada killed and injured 40 people as they shopped for food. Eighteen children were among the victims.
While there has been some progress in the delivery of food aid, humanitarian agencies continue to face severe restrictions, she continued. Such obstacles are further complicated by a continuous stream of unofficial changes and new policies. Currently, more than 100 humanitarian projects are awaiting agreement by Ansar Allah-affiliated authorities in the north. In Government-controlled areas, official regulations are less heavy, but delays persist in getting humanitarian projects up and running. As tensions rose in Aden in early August, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), working with health authorities, vaccinated nearly 400,000 people against cholera. When clashes erupted the following week, more than 300 United Nations staff remained in Aden, “and they are staying there”. A regular flight also arrived in Aden on 19 August, bringing in additional humanitarian workers.
Yemen remains the world’s largest humanitarian operation, and essential programmes are closing down due to a lack of funding, she cautioned. In the next few days, water and sanitation programmes will stop in four areas, leaving 300,000 displaced people at extreme risk of cholera. The United Nations and its partners are uniquely placed to deliver positive results but require funds to do so. The economy is a key driver of humanitarian needs, she continued, adding that Yemen’s currency is again losing value. This means prices of food, fuel and other essential — almost all of which must be imported — will rise even higher for ordinary people. “Many people already cannot afford current prices,” she said.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said the political and security situations remain mired in a stalemate in implementing the Stockholm Agreement and advancing a United Nations-sponsored dialogue. As the suffocating blockade continues, progress lags on prisoner exchanges and parties are struggling to implement the Hodeidah Agreement. Welcoming the Special Envoy’s efforts and the proposal to enhance dialogue, he said the goal should be for the Government to exercise control over its territory. Condemning attacks against civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, he supported Riyadh in its efforts to restore its territorial integrity. The Houthis’ attacks violate international humanitarian law, he said, adding that the arms embargo must be fully implemented. The humanitarian crisis persists, and efforts must focus on restoring much-needed deliveries, he said, calling on all parties to cooperate with aid agencies.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) voiced concern about continued attacks on civilians and related infrastructure, calling on all parties to refrain from triggering new battle front lines and to halt such targeted violence. All parties must also work towards implementing the Stockholm Agreement, he said, commending recent talks about local security forces, revenue and governance. However, progress is sorely needed on prisoner‑exchange arrangements. Citing other concerns, he said three quarters of the population require aid and conditions are worsening, with rising displacement and deaths. Expressing full support for humanitarian actors, he said they must be protected. As such, he urged parties to do their utmost to ensure that measures are adopted with full respect for international humanitarian and human rights law. The only solution to the conflict is political, he said.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire) agreed, also sharing grave concerns about the current situation’s escalation and its dire humanitarian consequences. Commending recent actions to address these crises, he renewed a call for all parties to seek a solution and fully implement the Stockholm and Hodeidah accords. He also called for the urgent deployment of local security forces to the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa and for progress in prisoner exchange arrangements and in broadening humanitarian access. He further called on all parties in Yemen to ensure the protection of civilians, to end the recruitment of children into armed forces and to refrain from manipulating aid deliveries, which constitutes violation of international humanitarian law and Security Council resolution 2417 (2018). Expressing support for the Special Envoy, he remained encouraged by the critical work of the United Nations Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States), expressing concerns about ongoing violence exacerbating the humanitarian situation, encouraged parties to maintain the ceasefire, respect institutions and participate in dialogue. He further called on all parties to respect Yemen’s territorial integrity. Encouraged by talks between the Houthis and WFP, he said all humanitarian organizations must be able to do their jobs. Regretting to note the stoppage and reduction of aid programmes due to funding shortages, he called on all donors to enhance assistance, noting that the United States remains among the largest contributors.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) urged the parties to cease hostilities and fully implement the Stockholm Agreement, while calling on all sides to carry out their respective obligations under those accords. Welcoming steps aimed at de-escalating tensions, he urged the parties to commit to a political process and engage in an inclusive, Yemen-led dialogue to resolve differences. Describing recent developments in southern Yemen as deeply concerning, he encouraged regional actors to continue seeking a solution that will support the United Nations-mediated process as well as the Stockholm Agreement and called on countries of the region to prioritize dialogue. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he voiced concern about the large numbers of sick, starving and displaced people, stressing: “This unprecedented humanitarian crisis is a strong indicator of the human toll of continued military action and conflict in Yemen.” In that regard, he called on the parties to abide by their obligations under international law and de-escalate fighting across the country.
WU HAITAO (China) expressed deep concern over the clashes in Aden, welcoming all de-escalation efforts and urging parties to maintain reason and restraint. A political solution is the only way out of this conflict. All parties should resolve their differences on the basis of various Security Council resolutions and relevant agreements. The Council should continue to remain united and lend support to Yemen’s political process. China supports maintaining Yemen’s sovereignty, independence and unity. The United Nations must act as the main role of mediator. It is Yemen’s people who suffer the most in this war, he said, urging international community to step up its humanitarian assistance. Donor countries must strengthen coordination with the United Nations to make good on their pledge to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to people in need. China will continue to play its part in helping provide humanitarian aid to Yemen’s people.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that the clashes in Aden pose a real risk to further fragmenting Yemen’s institutions. The meeting proposed in Jeddah is timely, he added, expressing concern over a lack of implementing the Stockholm Agreement. This stalemate has diminished the momentum of the peace process. He underscored the importance of all parties in reaffirming commitment to the Stockholm Agreement. The Council must also be consistent in ensuring the protection of the civilians, he said, expressing concern over alarming levels of food insecurity, outbreaks of cholera and the worsening economy. All parties have a legal and moral duty to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, he reiterated.
ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen) said the current developments in his country complicate international efforts to achieve a political settlement to the conflict. It is important to respond to the aspirations of Yemen’s people. In Aden in recent days, State institutions were overcome by an armed rebellion, undermining the stability, security and unity of Yemen. This development runs counter to the aim of the Arab coalition and to bringing an end to the coup and Iran’s interference in Yemen. He called on the United Arab Emirates to cease support provided to this militia and welcomed the position of Saudi Arabia calling on the militia to withdraw from civilian infrastructure and hand over weapons pillaged from military bases. Yemen’s Government also welcomes the call of Saudi Arabia to holding a meeting in Jeddah. “Saudi Arabia is demonstrating good faith,” he said, condemning the support provided by the United Arab Emirates to the militia.
Sana'a underscores the need to implement the Stockholm Agreement, he continued, adding that it is essential in alleviating the suffering of his country’s people. Turning to the Safer oil tanker, he called for urgent measures to restrict the Houthi militia’s ability to prevent observers from reaching the ship. An environmental disaster there would harm the Gulf of Aden and the survival and livelihoods of those living in the surrounding areas. Militias have been hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid and terrorizing humanitarian workers. “We see violence used at aid distribution points and administrative and bureaucratic obstacles imposed by these militias,” he added. Condemning attacks that targeted Saudi Arabia, he rejected the Houthi militia appointing an ambassador to Iran. These events must be condemned as they violate the Charter of the United Nations and contradict Yemen’s sovereignty.