Security Council

The situation in the Middle East - Security Council…

The situation in the Middle East - Security Council, 9110th meeting

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The situation in the Middle East
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Encouraged by the extension of a truce in Yemen until 2 October, the United Nations top official for the country told the Security Council today that he aims for an expanded agreement that would lead to a durable ceasefire and resumption of a Yemeni-led political process as speakers voiced their concerns about the ongoing humanitarian crises and the blocking of roads to Taiz.

“We all need to remind ourselves that failure to reach an agreement to extend the truce would lead to renewed cycles of escalation and violence, with predictable and devastating consequences for Yemen’s population.  Yemen urgently needs to avoid this scenario,” said Hans Grundberg, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, calling on the parties to “make the choice to build the necessary confidence to avoid a return to war and to begin to build a lasting peace”.

After four and a half months, he said the truce — which was extended two weeks ago — is holding broadly in military terms, fuel products are flowing through the port of Hudaydah, and passenger and commercial flights are being transported through Sana’a international airport.  Despite a significant decline in civilian casualties, the increase in children killed — which now make up about 40 per cent of reported civilian deaths due to the war — is worrisome.  He said his efforts focus primarily on opening roads in Taiz and other governorates — essential for the people of Taiz, the wider population and the economy.  Thanking the Council and the Governments of Saudi Arabia and Oman for their support, he said the international community has a joint responsibility to help Yemen take decisive steps toward peace and he is counting on its backing to implement, extend and expand the truce.  “We need to end the conflict, not merely manage it,” he said.

Ghada Mudawi, Acting Director of the Operations and Advocacy Division of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said she hoped the truce extension would lead to an expanded agreement and rapid progress in reopening roads around Taiz, putting an end to the movement restrictions long suffered by civilians and aid workers.  Despite decreased fighting, more than 150 civilians have been killed since the truce began and the international community must be clear-eyed on its limitations, she said, stressing that the truce alone cannot be expected to resolve the humanitarian crisis, including the risk of famine threatening some areas.

Pointing to major economic challenges, including an exchange rate worse than before the truce and a precarious food supply chain, she said in July commercial food imports — a lifeline for feeding the population — fell for the fourth month in a row.  And while aid agencies reach 11 million people across the country every month, they often face serious constraints and dangerous working conditions.  Having received an additional $431 million from the United States, the United Nations response plan in Yemen is now 41 per cent funded, leading to increased food provisions, yet funding gaps in water, sanitation and shelter remain a challenge.  Voicing ongoing concern over the humanitarian outlook, she called for strengthening the economy, and support for the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen, humanitarian access and closing funding gaps to prevent further catastrophe and reduce suffering.

Council members welcomed the two-month extension of the truce, yet echoed the Special Envoy’s concerns over the ongoing humanitarian crisis, including food insecurity, and the blockades of roads in Taiz, urging a return to dialogue to broker a lasting, peaceful settlement of the conflict.  Several condemned the 23 July shelling in Taiz which killed a child and injured 10 more.

The representative of France urged the parties to hold in-depth discussions, under United Nations auspices, stressing that a vital political agreement is the only way to end the conflict.  Gravely concerned by the dire security and humanitarian situation, she called for full humanitarian access to all people in need and the immediate unconditional release of United Nations and aid personnel detained by the Houthis.

Kenya’s delegate cautioned against using the truce as an opportunity to reconfigure or strengthen military postures to influence future negotiations, calling for genuine efforts to create a foundation for lasting peace.  The truce alone is not enough to address the humanitarian crisis.  Pragmatic approaches that can adequately equip humanitarian action programmes with necessary resources are key.  Meanwhile, national and local actors in Yemen must give aid workers unhindered access, in line with international humanitarian law, he said, stressing that intimidation and incitement against aid agencies must stop.

The speaker for Brazil said the truce must be expanded to address issues, such as the regular payment of government salaries, as the Special Envoy helps parties reach a comprehensive and sustainable political settlement.  The meaningful participation of all groups in Yemeni society, including people with disabilities, youth and women, is vital for the peace process.  While humanitarian assistance is fundamental, it cannot be sustained without progress towards economic stability, he said, urging the parties to refrain from measures that might deepen economic fragmentation and to work towards re-establishing national economic institutions and structures.

The United Arab Emirates’ representative said extending the truce offers the Houthis an opportunity to cooperate with international efforts to reach a permanent solution and end their daily violations of the truce in the governorates of Hudaydah, Taiz, Al-Dhalea, Hajjah, Saada, Al-Jawf, and Marib.  He noted that the Presidential Leadership Council’s efforts to preserve the truce and its gains have helped reduce violence and alleviate human suffering, and that his Government and partners, especially Saudi Arabia, are providing economic and humanitarian support to Yemen in various fields.

On that point, the representative of Yemen highlighted that the Presidential Leadership Council is working on reforms to manage resources and enhance assistance from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to support citizens and promote law enforcement.  Committed to the truce, the Government of Yemen will continue to work towards a comprehensive ceasefire to end the conflict and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.  However, Houthi militias have proven they are not serious and are reneging on their truce commitments, laying siege to cities — including Taiz, where the lives of 4 million people are threatened — and looting incomes.  How many civilians must die before the war is ended and their crimes are held accountable, he asked, calling on the Council to review how it deals with Houthi militias and bring real pressure to bear on them.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Ghana, Russian Federation, India, United States, Albania, Mexico, Gabon, Ireland, Norway and China.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:42 a.m.

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