9527th Meeting (PM)

Adopting Resolution 2722 (2024) by Recorded Vote, Security Council Demands Houthis Immediately Stop Attacks on Merchant, Commercial Vessels in Red Sea

United States, United Kingdom Reject Three Amendments By Russian Federation, including One Linking Attacks to Gaza Conflict

Following naval interception by the United States and United Kingdom of a barrage of missiles and drones fired from Houthi-controlled territory into the Red Sea on 9 January, the Security Council today adopted a resolution demanding that the Houthis immediately cease all attacks on merchant and commercial vessels.

Prior to the adoption, Vassily A. Nebenzia (Russian Federation) said that his country takes questions involving international shipping seriously, expressing concern over the situation in the Red Sea.  However, he noted that the United States and its allies preferred to choose a path of unilateral solutions to a problem by force, cobbling together a so-called “international coalition” to ensure security.  He stressed that the authors of the resolution are not trying to ensure security in the Red Sea but, rather, to legitimize the coalition’s actions in hindsight and achieve an open-ended blessing from the Council.

To redress this, he proposed three oral amendments, which the Council failed to adopt owing to an insufficient number of votes in favour, including negative votes cast by the United Kingdom and the United States.

The first would have added a new preambular paragraph underscoring that the text’s provisions should not be seen to create precedent or new norms of international law.  The second would have replaced language regarding the defence of vessels with that taking note of Member States’ rights in accordance with international law.  Both were rejected by a vote of 4 in favour (Algeria, China, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone) to 2 against (United Kingdom, United States), with 9 abstentions. The third — rejected along similar lines, except for Guyana voting in favour instead of abstaining — would have added language relating to the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking after these votes, Linda Thomas-Greenfield (United States) said that the Russian Federation’s text would have falsely suggested that the conflict in Gaza is cause for Houthi attacks, which would have emboldened the Houthis and legitimized their violations.  While regional dynamics — including Iran’s provision of advanced weapons — have contributed to the situation, what is at issue is the simple principle of upholding the freedom of navigation in waterways vital to the free flow of global commerce.  She added that it is long-established that States have the right to defend their merchants and vessels, observing that, while the Russian Federation had ample time to offer edits, it instead played politics.

She then stressed that her country worked closely with Japan to forge consensus around a strong resolution that, if adopted, would show that the Council is united on this issue.  It reflects the ideas put forth by numerous Council members, underscoring the organ’s support for navigational rights and freedoms for all vessels in the Red Sea.  Recalling that dozens of attacks since November 2023 have affected more than 40 countries, she reported that — less than 24 hours ago — the most complex attacks yet again attempted to interfere with safe transit in that waterway. However, while the Council must demand that the Houthis stop these attacks, it must also not overlook the fact that Iran has long enabled them. 

The Council then adopted resolution 2722 (2024) (to be issued as document S/RES/2722(2024)) by a vote of 11 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions (Algeria, China, Mozambique, Russian Federation).

By its terms, the Council demanded that the Houthis immediately release the Galaxy Leader and its crew and took note of Member States’ right, in accordance with international law, to defend their vessels from attacks — including those that undermine navigational rights and freedoms.  It also condemned the provision of materiel to the Houthis in violation of resolution 2216 (2015) and urged caution and restraint to avoid further escalation of the situation in the Red Sea and the broader region.  Additionally, the Council encouraged enhanced diplomatic efforts by all parties to this end, including continued support for dialogue and Yemen’s peace process.

Speaking after the vote, Yamazaki Kazuyuki (Japan), recalled that the Houthis continue to hold the Japanese-operated Galaxy Leader and its crew hostage.  Demanding that the group release the vessel and its crew immediately and unconditionally, he stressed that the Council must speak in a unified voice on this matter to protect maritime security and navigational rights in the Red Sea.  He welcomed the resolution’s adoption, stating that the text is a strong pronouncement that the Council cannot accept the Houthis’ irresponsible actions in the Red Sea. 

Mr. Nebenzia (Russian Federation) expressed regret that his delegation’s proposed amendments were not adopted, underscoring that today’s resolution cannot be seen to legitimize the actions of the so-called coalition of the United States and its satellites in the Red Sea.  Further, it cannot create a non-existent right for States to defend their ships from attacks.  Noting other serious implications for international law — along with an inappropriate reference to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — he expressed regret that no reference was made to the context for instability in the region:  the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Barbara Woodward (United Kingdom) condemned the Houthis’ illegal, unjustified attacks in the Red Sea.  On 9 January, the group attempted its largest attack yet, launching at least 21 missiles and drones towards international shipping lanes.  Such attacks cause a spike in food and energy prices, which will inevitably hit the poorest the hardest.  Recalling that, on 3 January, the United Kingdom joined 11 countries in a statement warning against further attacks, she said:  “We are using all diplomatic means possible to deter these attacks.”

Joonkook Hwang (Republic of Korea) said that, given the vital importance of free and safe navigation in the Red Sea, his delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution.  Attacks on commercial vessels are unjustifiable under any circumstances, and this resolution rightfully condemns the Houthi attacks and demands the immediate release of the Galaxy Leader and its crew.  The Republic of Korea also takes note of Member States’ right to defend their vessels in accordance with international law, he said, expressing hope that it will lead to a cessation of all military provocations in the Red Sea.

Zhang Jun (China), while recognizing the penholders’ efforts to improve the draft resolution based on changes proposed by other Council members, noted that certain revisions were not incorporated.  As a result, the text remains ambiguous on several key issues, and he expressed concern that it might not achieve its intended effect — or might even lead to negative consequences and further escalate regional tensions.  Stating that his delegation therefore had to abstain, he called on the Houthis to abide by the resolution and on relevant parties to play a constructive role to ease tensions in the Red Sea.

Michael Imran Kanu (Sierra Leone) said that his delegation voted in favour of the resolution in view of the principle of protecting navigational rights and the freedom of vessels of all Member States, as well as in recognition of the threats posed to seafarers.  He also pointed out that his delegation supported the unsuccessful amendments proposed by the Russian Federation because it believes, among other reasons, that there is a serious link between increasing attacks in the Red Sea and the situation in Gaza.

Pascale Christine Baeriswyl (Switzerland), thanking the United States and Japan for their efforts to find consensus within the Council, welcomed the inclusion of language regarding the threat that illicit acts against maritime navigation pose to the safety of seafarers specifically and the protection of civilians generally. Underscoring that the rights mentioned in operative paragraph 3 are linked to military measures to intercept attacks against merchant ships, she reaffirmed the importance of Council unity for maintaining international peace and security.

Samuel Zbogar (Slovenia), noting that his delegation voted in favour of the resolution, underscored the importance of freedom of navigation.  Expressing concern over the deteriorating situation in the Red Sea, he condemned the Houthis’ attacks on commercial vessels in a crucial waterway.  Such attacks undermine international maritime security and jeopardize critical flows of food, fuel and humanitarian assistance.  Further, “they risk dragging Yemen into a regional flare-up at a time when critical progress towards lasting peace appears within reach”, he warned.  However, he voiced regret that consensus was not achieved on the text.

Vanessa Frazier (Malta), who also voted in favour of the resolution, expressed concern over the maritime situation in the Red Sea.  The intensification of Houthi attacks — as seen on 9 January — must be condemned, she said, urging the militants to cease such actions and release the Galaxy Leader and its crew.  She added that this text lives up to the Council’s responsibility, also highlighting the importance of the Law of the Sea Convention.

Andrés Efren Montalvo Sosa (Ecuador) stressed that the Council must project its voice on important matters, such as the protection of freedom of navigation.  In the case at hand, stability and security in the Red Sea contribute to international peace and security, and there is a need to ensure humanitarian, commercial and food security for the region and wider world. Stressing that greater escalation in the region must be avoided, he encouraged all parties to intensify their diplomatic efforts to this end — including support for dialogue and the Yemeni peace process.

Amar Bendjama (Algeria) said that safeguarding navigation in the Red Sea is a crucial objective that transcends national borders.  However, he underscored that any military intervention in the region — particularly in Yemen — must be approached with maximum precaution, as it risks undermining UN efforts to appease tensions.  Further, the Council must not ignore the clear link between the Houthi attacks and the conflict in Gaza, or the emotions awoken in the Arab world by the massacres of innocent civilians.  That is why his delegation abstained, he said, declaring:  “We cannot associate ourselves with a text that ignores the 23,000 lives that have been lost over the last three months in Gaza”.

For information media. Not an official record.