International Community Must Pressure Houthi Militias to End Daily Violations, Respect Truce Agreement, Permanent Representative Says
Buoyed by the endurance of a truce in Yemen that expires in three weeks, yet concerned with the country’s deepening humanitarian crisis, the United Nations top official for the country told the Security Council he would push to extend and bolster the truce as speakers stressed the importance of opening roads around the city of Taïz and ensuring adequate funding of United Nations humanitarian programmes.
“The truce represents the best opportunity for peace in Yemen in years and we should encourage and support the parties to make the most of this opportunity for the benefit of Yemen as a whole,” said Hans Grundberg, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen. Expanding the United Nations-brokered truce agreement between the Government of Yemen and Houthi rebels, which began on 2 April, would provide time and opportunity to start serious talks on the economy and security tracks; address priority issues, such as revenues and the payment of salaries; and begin the process towards a ceasefire.
The truce has allowed the continued flow of fuel products into the Hudaydah port, which, despite fuel price hikes, has helped avoid disruptions in essential public services, such as clean water, health care, electricity and transportation, he said. While commercial flights are now flying into and out of Sana’a international airport, many roads in Taïz remain closed.
While the truce has led to a sharp drop in civilian casualties, he said his office continues to receive reports about direct and indirect fire, drone attacks and reconnaissance overflights inside Yemen. Last week, he convened the third meeting of the Military Coordination Committee during which the parties discussed the formation of a Joint Coordination Room aimed at de-escalating incidents at the operational level.
Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the truce is a landmark step forward, but it is not enough to stop what the United Nations fears is coming. “Humanitarian needs across the country — including risk of famine in some areas — could rise sharply in the coming weeks and months. The international community must act quickly and decisively to stop this,” she urged.
Hunger is worse than ever, yet the World Food Programme (WFP) was forced to cut rations for millions of people several weeks ago as it and other aid agencies are dangerously underresourced, she said, adding: “The Yemen response plan has so far received just over $1.1 billion — or 27 per cent of what it needs. This is the sharpest year-on-year decrease of any United Nations-coordinated plan in the world”. The $3 billion economic support package announced by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, once disbursed, has the potential to stabilize the economic freefall that is fuelling the rise in hunger and other needs.
Council members welcomed the reduction in violence thanks to the truce, yet voiced concern over the plight of civilians and the continued closure of roads in Taïz obstructing the entry of vital humanitarian aid.
The representative of Norway said it is crucial at this fragile moment to build trust and work towards a framework for a multi-track peace process in Yemen aimed at further benefitting the Yemeni people, including the reopening of roads in and around Taïz, and welcomed the Special Envoy’s updated proposal in that regard. While the truce has positively impacted the everyday lives of civilians, the international community must not be complacent, she said, noting that according to the WFP more than 2 million Yemeni children under five years of age need treatment for acute malnutrition.
The representative of China, echoing the call to open the roads in Taïz as soon as possible, urged all donors to help bridge WFP’s funding shortfall. He also voiced concern about the FSO Safer in the Red Sea and called on the international community to support the United Nations fundraising campaign aimed at addressing the funding gap of $20 million to avert a major global environmental disaster.
Albania’s delegate said all parties must fully implement the truce and lead the country towards a nationwide ceasefire and permanent peace. Regretting that Taïz remains sieged and its people are suffering, he said if the Houthis believe in peace, they must do more, also calling on the group to immediately release all detainees.
The speaker for the United Arab Emirates, said the Houthi militia must stop their escalation, including launching drones and missiles at civilian areas, and realize that they cannot control and govern Yemen unlawfully. Measures to protect civilians must be prioritized, he said, commending the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre for removing nearly 350,000 explosive remnants of the war so far through the “Masam” project. Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a $400 million financial package for development projects falls under the $3 billion support from Saudi Arabia and his country, including $2 billion as a Saudi-Emirati deposit in the Central Bank of Yemen in Aden.
The representative of Yemen, welcoming the generous support by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, said that, to end the conflict and alleviate suffering, the Presidential Leadership Council and Yemeni Government have sought to support regional and international efforts to achieve a lasting, comprehensive peace. Despite the Houthi militia’s daily violations on all fronts, including the creation of new military sites, weapons trafficking and bombing of civilian and other areas, the Yemeni Government has demonstrated flexibility and has reacted favourably to all humanitarian actions. He pointed to the reopening of the Sana’a airport, the resumption of commercial flights and oil being brought into the Hudaydah port. All provisions of the truce must be implemented, including the lifting of the siege of Taïz before discussing any other issues, he said, also urging the international community to exert pressure on the Houthis to respond favourably to peace efforts, respect the truce, release detainees and end the recruitment of child soldiers.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, India, Gabon, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Mexico, France, Ireland and Brazil.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 11:44 a.m.