The situation in the Middle East - Security Council, 8966th meeting
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01:43:33
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Georgraphic Subject
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The situation in the Middle East.

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Houthis Still Obstructing Efforts Towards Peace, Key Representative Says, Reaffirming Country’s Commitment to Political Settlement

Following weeks of a military escalation that has stretched beyond Yemen’s borders into the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the senior United Nations mediator, stressing that the conflict could spiral out of control, described plans for a new, multitrack framework aimed at moving the warring parties closer to a political settlement, as he briefed the Security Council today.

“It should be obvious to everyone just how high the stakes have become,” said Hans Grundberg, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, as he recounted weeks of spiking clashes. Those included increased attacks by Ansar Allah — also known as the Houthis — on targets outside Yemen. Noting that the conflict risks spiralling out of control unless serious efforts are urgently undertaken, he also cited an alarming increase in airstrikes on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in the cities of Sana’a and Hudaydah. Further, the past month has seen severe shortages of fuel and oil derivatives, notably in areas controlled by Ansar Allah, putting unprecedented strain on the everyday lives of people.

However, a “way out of this war” still exists, he said, outlining his work on a framework plan to move the parties towards an inclusive political settlement — while also continuing to explore options to fast-track de-escalation. “Through this process, the warring sides’ interests can be addressed within the context of a broader Yemeni agenda along the three tracks of political, security and economic matters,” he said. As part of those efforts, he would begin a series of structured bilateral consultations aimed at informing and refining the framework, engaging with the warring parties, political parties, representatives of civil society and Yemeni experts, among others.

Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, echoed the Special Envoy’s concerns about the last six weeks of sharp and dangerous escalation. More than 650 civilian casualties were reported in January, by far the highest toll in at least three years. “The war is finding people in their homes, schools, mosques, hospitals and other places where civilians should be protected,” he said, also voicing concern over the intensification of cross-border attacks.

Meanwhile, he said, dwindling funding remains the humanitarian community’s largest obstacle in Yemen. By the end of January, nearly two thirds of major United Nations aid programmes in the country had been scaled back or closed, and some 8 million people who began receiving limited food rations from the World Food Programme (WFP) in December are likely to stop getting food all together by March. In addition, programmes to combat gender-based violence and promote reproductive health are on the chopping block. Describing those cuts as unprecedented, he urged donors to give generously at the upcoming pledging event for Yemen on 16 March. “We cannot let the aid operation in Yemen fall apart,” he stressed.

Also briefing the Council was Ferit Hoxha (Albania), who spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2140 (2014) on Yemen sanctions. He provided an update of the Committee’s recent activities, which included a presentation by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict and a discussion on the body’s practices and procedures. During the period under review, the Committee designated one individual on the 2140 sanctions list, approved the designation of three individuals and concluded the process of considering a delisting request.

As Council members took the floor, many urged Yemen’s warring parties to urgently halt their fire and end all violence. Several condemned recent attacks by Ansar Allah, or the Houthis, on civilian facilities across the region. Some delegates went further still, describing the United Nations efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement as insufficient and warning against the continued appeasement of the Houthis, a group that refuses to engage cooperatively with the Special Envoy and his team.

The representative of Norway voiced concern over the serious military escalation in Yemen, calling on the parties to exercise restraint and rapidly de-escalate military activities. “A nationwide ceasefire and a turn towards political dialogue is the only path forward to bring peace and security to the people of Yemen,” she stressed, urging all parties to prioritize the needs and interests of the Yemeni people.

The representative of the United States, denouncing attacks by Houthi militias, reiterated his delegation’s support to Saudi Arabia. Despite the Council’s condemnation, he noted that the Houthis continue to control the compound formerly used as the United States embassy. Urging all parties to de-escalate and participate in a United Nations-led peace process, he also called on them to cooperate with the Special Envoy.

China’s representative, echoing calls for an urgent de-escalation, condemned recent attacks on civilian facilities across the region and expressed support for efforts by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to safeguard their citizens. In that regard, he welcomed new plans outlined by the Special Envoy and called on all parties to cooperate with his office without preconditions. “Insisting on a military option will only hurt everyone,” he stressed, while expressing support for efforts to ensure the international community can provide humanitarian support in a more consistent and predictable manner.

However, the representative of the United Arab Emirates emphasized that today’s briefings only confirm the continued failure of the political process under the leadership of the United Nations. “After the United Arab Emirates’ civilian infrastructure was subjected to terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of innocent civilians, we can only ask Mr. Grundberg: When will the appeasement of this terrorist group end?” Reaffirming her country’s sovereign right to protect its territory and people, she called for more pressure on the Houthis in the form of additional sanctions, cutting off funding sources and imposing a maritime interdiction with enhanced enforcement.

Yemen’s representative said that while his Government continues to engage with the Special Envoy, the Houthis have refused to meet with him, obstructing efforts towards peace. Spotlighting Iran’s interference in Yemen and across the region, he said that country has violated the Council-imposed arms embargo, hijacked a United Arab Emirates-flagged cargo ship and used ballistic missiles and drones to attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Against that backdrop, he echoed calls on the global community to impose more pressure — including sanctions — and to support Yemen through more streamlined donor funding.

Also speaking were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Mexico, Gabon, India, France, Albania, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Ireland and the Russian Federation.

The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 4:50 p.m.