Conflict, Humanitarian Situation Worsens in Yemen, as Parties Reject Road Map, Cession-of-Hostilities Agreement, Senior Officials Tell Security Council

The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen told the Security Council today that he had presented the parties with a comprehensive road map to end the conflict, consistent with Security Council resolution 2216 (2015), the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism, and the Outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference.

Briefing the Council on the situation in Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that road map foresaw the creation of military and security committees which would supervise withdrawals and the handover of weapons in Sana'a, Hodeida and Taiz. Under that road map, a new Vice-President would be appointed and a Government of National Unity would be formed.

However, he informed the Council that he had been informed unofficially that the parties had rejected the proposal. It was time, he stressed, for those involved to realize that there could be no peace without concessions and no security without agreement. The road map proposed was widely supported by the international community.

He also noted that the conduct of the parties was contrary to the commitments made previously to engage fully and constructively in the United Nations-mediated peace process. He had called on the parties to recommit to the 10 April Terms and Conditions for the Cessation of Hostilities and had been able to gain a 72-hour pause. However, both sides had been involved in significant violations of that agreement.

He went on to say that there should also be a commitment from all parties, including the Government of Yemen and the Houthis-General People's Congress, to collaborate and ensure the continued functioning of the Central Bank and a rapid resumption of salaries throughout the country. However, the parties continued to embark on unilateral actions, including, among others, the recent request by the High Political Council established by the Houthis-General People's Congress for Abdel Aziz bin Habtou, the former Governor of Aden, to form a new government. The Council needed to give its full support of the peace plan and for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a release of detainees.

Briefing the Council on the humanitarian situation, Stephen O'Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the conflict had exacerbated and exponentially increased suffering there, particularly the 50 per cent of the Yemeni population who already suffered from dire and extreme poverty. Thousands of Yemenis had been killed, tens of thousands injured, more than 3 million had been forced to leave their homes and 7 million suffered from food insecurity. He reminded all parties that international humanitarian law was an obligation, not an option, stressing the need for effective, independent investigations into allegations of war crimes and the prosecution of suspects.

The fighting had prevented humanitarian workers from doing their work, he continued. With the economy in shambles, humanitarians did not have the capacity or the resources to provide services. Less than half of rudimentary health facilities remained functional, resulting in Yemenis dying every day. That included 10,000 children under the age of five who had died from preventable diseases since March 2015.

He called for renewal of the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism mandate, which, he emphasized, was working, having allowed over 190 commercial vessels to successfully offload supplies since May. He further called on the coalition and the local port authorities to ensure rapid and safe access for cleared vessels to reach the ports. In addition, he called for the coalition and the Government of Yemen to immediately resume commercial flights to and from Sana'a, which would allow for the evacuation of wounded civilians, among other purposes.

Muhannad Hadi, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, World Food Programme (WFP), said humanitarian needs were reaching a critical stage, while assistance was not keeping up. Hunger was an "epidemic" everywhere, with half of the country's 14 million people severely food insecure. The Programme had been forced to halve food rations since February. As the "ambassador for the voiceless" suffering in Yemen, he called for the support of the Council and the international community to save lives in Yemen. "Saving lives is doable; it is not mission impossible," he added.

Besides inadequate funding, he said there were challenges in gaining access for aid and in getting timely security clearances for deliveries. "The situation is beyond critical and intensely distressing," he commented, adding: "More efforts, resources and commitment are needed from the international community." The Yemen appeal had only been 34-per-cent funded against its requirements of $600 million for 2016. "An entire generation is crippled by hunger today in Yemen and we rely on the international community to support us in this challenging task of saving the people of Yemen."

In the ensuing debate, speakers condemned the 8 October attack on a funeral in Sana'a and asked that those responsible be held accountable. The representative of Uruguay called it a "terrorist attack" carried out by sophisticated aerial bombs that could not be acquired on the black market. Responsibility was borne by the one who pushed the button and by the one who supplied the weapons. Echoed by other speakers, he expressed his disappointment that the Council had not even been able to agree on a press statement.

Speakers also welcomed the Special Envoy's road map and urged parties to return to the negotiating table with the necessary flexibility and a spirit of compromise. They called on the parties to engage in an immediate cessation of hostilities and allow for unhindered access of humanitarian aid.

Towards that end, the representative of the United Kingdom announced his country was working on a draft resolution that included a call on parties to return to the cessation-of-hostilities agreement and to negotiations; bring about accountability; and allow for unhindered access for humanitarian aid.

The representative of Angola called upon the Houthis to stop their offensive and withdraw their forces from the capital. He also called on President Hadi to show a spirit of compromise. Expressing regret at the President's rejection of the road map, he condemned the proxy war being waged by regional Powers, pointing out that those supplying humanitarian assistance also supplied arms to the combatants.

Speaking in his national capacity, the representative of the Russian Federation, President of the Council for October, expressed surprise that the conflict in Yemen had not led to the same frenzy in the media and in the Council as had the situation in Syria. Noting a double standard, he also pointed out that the United Kingdom was a major supplier of weapons in the region, with sales of more than ?3 billion sterling. He questioned how a country with a clear material interest could be a pen holder for the Council's Yemen file. That status should be reviewed, he suggested.

The representative of Yemen said his country's Government had chosen peace as the only way to eradicate the criminal warlords and liberate the Yemeni people. His Government was ready to compromise, he said, but warned that the militias must withdraw from all cities, hand over their weapons and release prisoners. Anything less would support those groups and their coup. Yemen's sovereignty was represented in the Presidency and could not be compromised, he emphasized.

The representatives of Uruguay, Japan, Egypt, New Zealand, China, France, United States, Senegal, Spain, Malaysia, Ukraine and Venezuela also spoke.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:44 p.m.

Briefings

ISMAIL OULD CHEIKH AHMED, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, said what that country was witnessing today contravened the commitments made by the parties to the United Nations to peace. The security situation was dire and the humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate. The Grand Hall in Sana'a had witnessed an attack on 8 October during a funeral, which had left more than 140 dead and 550 injured. The Saudi-led coalition had taken responsibility for the attack and a rapid investigation had been conducted which recommended among other things a revision of the coalition's rules of engagement, he said, citing other incidents, as well.

The conduct of the parties was contrary to the commitments made previously to engage fully and constructively in the United Nations-mediated peace process, he continued. He had called on the parties to recommit to the 10 April Terms and Conditions for the Cessation of Hostilities and had been able to gain a 72-hour pause. However, both sides had been involved in significant violations of that agreement. He also voiced concern that international vessels off the coast of Yemen had come under fire from Houthi-controlled territories, including a vessel from the United Arab Emirates, as well as United States destroyers, which had reportedly fired on Houthi radar sites. In Southern Yemen, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the so-called Islamic State [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da'esh] continued attacks on State institutions and civilian targets.

The worsening humanitarian situation required far greater attention from the international community, he said. Furthermore, the economic situation threatened to create a far greater humanitarian crisis in the coming months. There should be a commitment from all parties, including the Government of Yemen, the Houthis-General People's Congress to collaborate and ensure the continued functioning of the Central Bank and a rapid resumption of salaries throughout the country. However, the parties continued to embark on unilateral actions. On 2 October, the High Political Council established by the Houthis-General People's Congress had asked Abdel Aziz bin Habtou, the former Governor of Aden, to form a new government. President Hadi's decision to replace the Governor of the Central Bank had created further economic uncertainty.

He said he had presented the parties with a comprehensive road map to end the conflict, consisted with Security Council resolution 2216 (2015), the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism, and the Outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference. That road map foresaw the creation of military and security committees which would supervise withdrawals and the handover of weapons in Sana'a, Hodeida and Taiz. Under the road map, a new Vice-President would be appointed and a Government of National Unity would be formed. Having been informed unofficially that the parties had rejected the road map, he said it was time for the parties to realize that there could be no peace without concessions and no security without agreement. The road map proposed was widely supported by the international community.

He asked the Council for its full support of the peace plan and for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a release of detainees. "And to the Yemenis, I say, the dawn of peace could be near, in case those responsible decide to prioritize national interest and start working on rebuilding a stable State, which guarantees the rights of all of its people without discrimination," he said.

STEPHEN O'BRIEN, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, echoed the Special Envoy's call for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen. The conflict had exacerbated and exponentially increased suffering there, particularly the 50 per cent of the Yemeni population who already suffered from dire and extreme poverty. Thousands of Yemenis had been killed, tens of thousands injured, more than 3 million had been forced to leave their homes and 7 million suffered from food insecurity. He reminded all parties that international humanitarian law was an obligation, not an option, stressing the need for effective, independent investigations into allegations of war crimes and the prosecution of suspects.

Having recently returned from visiting Aden, Sana'a and Hudaydah, he said: "I saw the desperation, fear and resignation in the deep-sunken eyes of people I met who have lost all hope." Currently, 80 per cent of the population was in need of some form of assistance. Humanitarian actors were being asked to fill the void left by the political vacuum. However, that was not a viable solution. In addition to death and destruction, the fighting had prevented humanitarian workers from doing their work. Armed Houthi and Seleh forces routinely intimidated, delayed and harassed humanitarians, threatening them or demanding diversion of aid to their fighters. "These are all unacceptable breaches of humanitarian law," he stated.

With the economy in shambles, humanitarians did not have the capacity or the resources to provide services, he continued. The joint appeal was less than half funded. To prevent the complete collapse of public institutions, he called upon anyone with any influence to ensure payment of salaries to health-care workers and other critical civil servants. Less than half of rudimentary health facilities remained functional, resulting in Yemenis dying every day. That included 10,000 children under the age of five who had died from preventable diseases since March 2015. Particularly at risk were migrants from the Horn of Africa and the more than 3 million internally displaced. He described the ravages of hunger and the risks of cholera, suspected cases of which were wide-spread.

He called for renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism, which, he emphasized, was working, having allowed over 190 commercial vessels to successfully offload supplies since May. However, because of a range of problems, including inefficiency and damage from air strikes, there were currently some 40 vessels waiting to offload cargo. He called on the coalition and the local port authorities to ensure rapid and safe access for cleared vessels to reach the ports and urged donors to support the rehabilitation of the damaged port infrastructure in Hudaydah. In addition, he called for the coalition and the Government of Yemen to immediately resume commercial flights to and from Sana'a, which would allow for students to pursue their studies abroad, as well as for the evacuation of wounded civilians, among other purposes.

Despite the challenges, he said, humanitarian partners were reaching 4.6 million people per month, with a steady increase in deliveries across the country. Partners had provided essential health services. The United Nations stood ready to do more, if only the access constraints could be eased and there was more financial support. That required coordination with the coalition, the myriad of local actors and others. The United Nations continued to negotiate access with all parties. Above all, he said: "It is time for the parties to out the Yemeni people first and reach a peaceful agreement."

MUHANNAD HADI, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, World Food Programme (WFP), said he had returned last week from a seven-day mission to Yemen, where his visits to Sana'a, the governorates of Hajjah and Hodeida had confirmed that humanitarian needs were reaching a critical stage, while assistance was not keeping up. Hunger was an "epidemic" everywhere, with half of the country's 14 million people severely food-insecure. He said that while his visit to health centres and a food-distribution facility in Hajjah had revealed acute malnutrition, WFP had been forced to halve food rations since February, and rising food prices put the middle class at risk, as well. He said that hehad seen destroyed crops on the road from Hajjah to Hodeidah.

Thanking donors who continued to support WFP, he said that, besides inadequate funding, there were challenges in gaining access for aid and in getting timely security clearances for deliveries. "The situation is beyond critical and intensely distressing," he commented, adding: "More efforts, resources and commitment are needed from the international community." The Yemen appeal had only been 34-per-cent funded against its requirements of $600 million for 2016, he noted. "An entire generation is crippled by hunger today in Yemen and we rely on the international community to support us in this challenging task of saving the people of Yemen."

Statements

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) voiced his concern at the intensification of the conflict and the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The multiple failures of the peace process was regrettable, he said, adding his support for the resumption of the negotiation process. The 8 October attack on a funeral in Sana'a was a terrorist attack, carried out with areal launched bombs fit to penetrate a bunker; those bombs could not be acquired on the black market. Responsibility was born by the one who pushed the button and by the one who supplied the weapons. The Council had not even been able to agree on a press statement. Those responsible should be held accountable. It was time for a ceasefire and a return to negotiations. Colombia had providing an exemplary model for peace, but for such a solution the courage was needed to extending one's hand to one's enemy.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that, with the sheer scale of the crisis, there could be no let-up in the Council's efforts. The violence must stop with an enduring cessation of hostilities. He called on the parties to implement an immediate sustainable ceasefire. The De-escalation and Coordination Committee was crucial for establishing trust and the parties should engage with it fully. The strike on 8 October was shocking and it was regrettable that the Council had been unable to agree on a press statement. There must be accountability for that attack. Efforts were needed to improve the humanitarian situation, he said, calling on the parties to improve humanitarian access. Welcoming the road map that showed clearly the steps to be taken towards a solution, he said he was disappointed by its rejection. He called on all parties to return to negations in a spirit of compromise. His country was working on a draft resolution that included a call on parties to return to the cessation-of-hostilities agreement and to negotiations; bring about accountability; and allow for unhindered access for humanitarian aid.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that civilians were the tragic victims of the failure to end the fighting and reach a political agreement. Commending the efforts of the United Nations and all humanitarian workers in the country, he noted that 12.6 million Yemenis were in need of basic humanitarian aid. Japan had announced its renewed commitment to support the United Nations and other international organizations financially in scaling up their operations, he said, adding that health and education were priority areas. The Government of Japan welcomed the Special Envoy's work in presenting the Government of Yemen and the Houthi-General People's Congress delegation with a road map to address security and political arrangements, although it was unclear whether that document was under serious consideration by the parties. The Security Council must call on them to resume negotiations immediately, to respect the cessation of hostilities and to allow humanitarian access, he emphasized.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said "red lines" that must not be crossed or breached in Yemen included acceptance of any entity that wished to hijack the legitimate Government's authority, any threats to freedom of navigation in the waters off Yemen and continuing attacks against the security of Saudi Arabia through the launch of missiles or the violation of borders. Emphasizing that Saudi Arabia's security was central to the security of the Arab and Muslim world, he said any attack on Mecca was deeply unacceptable, and called for a peaceful solution in Yemen based on Security Council the resolutions, and entailing a cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of Houthi forces and humanitarian access throughout the country. Egypt would continue to support United Nations efforts to reach a solution to the tragedy in Yemen, he stressed.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said it was clear that none of the parties in the conflict could achieve their aims through the use of military force. As the humanitarian situation had deteriorated immeasurably, he called for the lifting of the ban on commercial flights in and out of Sana'a, to allow for critical supplies to reach the suffering population. Ultimately, it was only through the ending of hostilities that stability could be restored. Expressing his deep disappointment with the failure to extend the recent ceasefire brokered by the United Nations Special Envoy, he urged all parties to agree to its restoration as soon as possible. "For some time we have appeared frustratingly close to an agreement on ending this conflict," he said, adding that New Zealand recognized the difficult concessions all parties would have to make in adhering to the road map presented by the Special Envoy.

WU HAITAO (China) stressed that political dialogue was the only way of achieving a solution in Yemen. He called for a cessation of hostilities as quickly as possible and voiced support to the mediation efforts of the Special Envoy, with the parties addressing all sensitive issues to reach an agreement. In addition, all parties must cooperate with humanitarian actors to relieve the suffering of the people.

FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France) condemned the 8 October attack and expressed deep concern over the humanitarian situation throughout the country. Unimpeded humanitarian access was critical. He expressed grave concern also over the failure of the recent cessation of hostilities and called on the parties to commit to a real cessation, emphasizing that only a negotiated solution would end the conflict. Each party must agree and abide by the road map. The international community, particularly the regional countries, must support its implementation and refrain from any actions that would deter it. He underlined his full support to the efforts of the Special Envoy and called for a united Security Council backing for those efforts.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said the parties must agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities, including an end to air strikes and a prompt return to political talks. Increasing military pressure would only prolong civilian suffering and Al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula would use that pressure to launch terrorist attacks, she cautioned. Strongly condemning the air strike of 8 October, she said the United States looked forward to further reporting on the investigation. She also strongly condemned Houthi cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia and attacks in Taiz that had killed civilians. She emphasized that a "humanitarian surge" was needed to address severe malnutrition, and all Member States should demand that the parties allow complete and unfettered access. She went on to state that the United States was concerned about the consequences of the decision to move the Central Bank and called upon the Government of Yemen to continue to pay salaries. The road map was balanced and addressed the concerns of both the Government and the Houthis, she said.

FODA� SECK (Senegal) expressed regret over the deteriorating situation in Yemen and reminded all parties that they had an obligation to protect civilians and to allow unhindered access for humanitarian assistance. Attacking holy sites in Saudi Arabia were a red line that could not be crossed. A political solution would only be possible on the basis of negotiations, he said, calling on the parties to resume talks and display some pragmatism. The international community should urgently support the humanitarian action plan, he emphasized, urging support for the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen so that port and flight activities could resume.

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said the latest proposed road map and cessation of hostilities constituted a viable path that should be embraced by all parties. Angola called upon the Houthis to stop their offensive and withdraw their forces from the capital, and on President Hadi to show a spirit of compromise. Expressing regret at the President's rejection of the road map, he condemned the proxy war being waged by regional Powers, pointing out that those supplying humanitarian assistance also supplied arms to the combatants. Angola called on all parties to work towards a permanent cessation of hostilities and to refrain from air strikes. They should engage positively with the Special Envoy, he said, emphasizing that outside meddling should also stop.

ROMA�N OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), noting the grave situation in Yemen, echoed the previous speaker's statement - "enough is enough" - and agreed that everything must be done to get adequate aid to those in need. Concerning the political collapse in the country, Spain pledged its full support for the Special Envoy's efforts for progress on the roadmap. However, he warned that the end of salary payments would further worsen the situation. Voicing support for all four points of the proposed resolution submitted by the United Kingdom, he called upon the Security Council to support the draft in a united manner.

SITI HAJJAR ADNIN (Malaysia), expressing deep concern over the humanitarian and political situation in Yemen, called on all parties to agree to a permanent ceasefire, urging them to open up the country's airspace for humanitarian flights. Condemning attacks on civilians, as well as those against Saudi Arabian territory, she called for accountability for any crimes committed during the conflict, urging all parties to abide by their obligations to protect children, including from recruitment by armed groups. Concurring fully with Under-Secretary-General O'Brien's assessment of the urgent need to end the conflict, she emphasized that the Security Council must send a clear signal to the parties on the need to end the fighting and return to the negotiating table. Malaysia fully supported the Special Envoy's efforts in that regard.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), also expressing concern over the situation, said it was critical to keep Yemen from humanitarian and political collapse, to prevent attacks on the waterways and to prevent the conflict from spreading to the wider region. Ukraine therefore supported negotiations for progress on the road map, leading to full implementation of Security Council resolutions on the situation, he said, calling upon all parties to return immediately to the negotiating table. As in Syria, there was no military solution to the conflict, he emphasized.

RAFAEL DARA�O RAMA�REZ CARREA�O (Venezuela), describing Yemen as a "silent" conflict within the Council, said there was an intense armed conflict going on in that country, in which schools and hospitals were targeted with sophisticated precision weapons, yet the Council remained passive. Negotiations based on Council resolution 2216 (2015) and the road map were needed, he said, adding that the Council could not continue to ignore the serious humanitarian violations, and must adopt a resolution on the humanitarian situation. A sustained cessation of hostilities was impossible without a political solution backed by the Council, and attacks on Saudi Arabia and on shipping off Yemen's coast must be condemned. The people of Yemen were the main losers as arms manufacturers profited scandalously, he said, pointing out that countries that had promoted the Arms Trade Treaty were now furthering the conflict in Yemen by selling sophisticated weapons to parties to the conflict.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation), Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity, expressing surprise that the conflict in Yemen had not led to the same frenzy in the media and in the Council as had the situation in Syria. There was clearly a double standard, he noted. Pointing out that the United Kingdom was a major supplier of weapons in the region, with sales of more than ?3 billion sterling, he asked how a country with a clear material interest could be a pen holder for the Council's Yemen file. That status should be reviewed, he suggested, noting that an announced draft resolution on Yemen, promised by the United Kingdom, had not been submitted. Would it include a no-fly zone, he asked. Expressing hope to see the road map on paper soon, he urged the parties to return to negotiations and hammer out the details, pointing out that road map mentioned nothing about withdrawing coalition forces or stopping air strikes.

KHALED HUSSEIN MOHAMED ALYEMANY (Yemen) said that two years after the coup, militias allied with the former President had looted resources and caused hunger and epidemics. The "coup party" had rejected positive interactions through peace negotiations and had targeted holy sites in Saudi Arabia. They had used Iranian missiles to attack vessel off Yemen's coast, but the Council had failed to issue a statement condemning that sponsoring State, he noted. The Government of Yemen had chosen peace as the only way to eradicate the criminal warlords and liberate the people, he said, adding that the Government was ready to compromise, while the coup plotters continued hostilities. Any idea that did not lead to the militias withdrawing from all cities, handing over their weapons and releasing prisoners, would reward them for the coup, he warned, emphasizing that Yemen's sovereignty was represented in the Presidency and could not be compromised.

Mr. O'BRIEN urged all to get behind the plan put forward by the Special Envoy, assuring delegates that a surge in aid delivery could take place if greater humanitarian access was secured. He expressed appreciation for the work of humanitarian workers on the ground.

Mr. HADI, saying he had spoken as the "ambassador for the voiceless" suffering in Yemen, called for the support of the Council and the international community to save lives in Yemen. "Saving lives is doable; it is not mission impossible," he added.

Source: United Nations.

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