Collective Punishment Visited on Yemenis as ‘Coup Leaders’ Steal State Resources, Says Permanent Representative
Heavy fighting in Yemen — notably around Sana’a, Taiz and the border with Saudi Arabia — was all the more tragic because a viable peace proposal was within reach of both parties to the conflict there, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy told the Security Council today, while pressing both sides to demonstrate the political courage needed to stop the nearly two-year-long war.
Special Envoy Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed recalled that during a meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister in Riyadh on 18 December 2016, senior officials from Oman, United Arab Emirates, United States and the United Kingdom had concluded with calls for a rapid cessation of hostilities. “We are committed to ensuring that the upcoming cessation of hostilities will be durable and provide real relief to the Yemeni people,” he said, adding that his office had completed preparations for a five-day planning meeting to develop a joint implementation plan.
Welcoming Yemen’s commitment to send representatives to the planning meeting, he said the Riyadh meeting had called for the parties to work urgently with him on the basis of proposals, adding that he would continue to consult with them in order to bring their views respective closer. The proposals were based on the outcomes of meetings in Kuwait, and were consistent with both the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and Security Council resolution 2216 (2015), offering a path back to an orderly transition, based on the national dialogue outcomes, he said.
He went on to state that, while Ansar Allah and the General People’s Congress had accepted the road map as a basis for consultations last November, their unwillingness to discuss security arrangements seriously did not help to advance peace. He expressed disappointment over their decision to appoint a parallel government, and urged President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to commit himself to consultations based on the proposals, since his repeated criticism of the road map would only slow Yemen’s progress towards ending the war.
“There is a clear path out of the violence,” he said, emphasizing that his proposals reflected the concerns and needs of both sides, and took Yemen’s political, security and social situations into consideration. They would provide a return to peace and the resumption of a peaceful transition, he said, calling on the parties to demonstrate the statesmanship to engage with him on the basis of the proposals. I hope Yemeni leaders will be able to see the impact that this tragedy has had on the country, make the bold decision to commit to a political solution and put an end to the senseless violence.”
Also briefing, Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that 18.8 million people — two thirds of the population — required humanitarian and protection assistance, and 2 million were internally displaced. People were perishing from hunger and restricted access had kept much-needed assistance from reaching them. The conflict was now the primary driver of the world’s largest food-security emergency, he said.
Gender-based violence had increased by more than 60 per cent since the start of the conflict, which would mean more rapes, forced marriages and violence against girls and women. Timely and unimpeded access for those in need was an obligation under international humanitarian law, he emphasized. Noting that the closure of Sana’a airport to commercial flights since August had kept thousands of Yemenis from seeking medical treatment abroad, and journalists from reporting on the ground, he called upon all parties to do their utmost, with the Saudi-led coalition, to re-open it.
Despite a collapsing economy, food insecurity and crumbling infrastructure, aid workers continued to reach those in need, he said. In 2016, humanitarian organizations had delivered assistance to 5.6 million Yemenis, provided treatment centres to deal with a cholera outbreak, and facilitated dialogue among the parties. For 2017, $2 billion was required to support efforts throughout the year, targeting 10 million of the most vulnerable people.
He asked the Council to call for an immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, and to use its influence over the parties to ensure that they respected international humanitarian law and provided access to civilian populations. It should also hold the parties accountable for breaching their obligations to protect civilians, facilitate increased importation of essential supplies, demand the resumption of commercial flights to Sana’a and facilitate lines of credit that would enable traders and Yemenis to purchase food. The Government, for its part, should use some of the newly printed currency to ensure that civil servants were paid.
Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany (Yemen) expressed readiness to work with the Secretary-General in seeking a solution to the conflict. Since the Houthi coup, the Government had rejected bullying and supported national dialogue, he said, emphasizing that upholding international resolutions would end the coup and restore peace. For its own part, Yemen was committed to peace and did not support efforts to legitimize the coup, he said, recalling that Sana’a had accepted the Special Envoy’s plan on the de-escalation committee in December 2016, while the coup leaders had rejected it.
A collective punishment was now being exerted against Yemenis, with coup leaders stealing State resources, he said. Nonetheless, Yemen had successfully transferred funds to Sana’a with the aim of paying the salaries of civil servants, he said, urging the Council to pressure the coup leaders so as to ensure the success in that regard. Expressing concern about the recruitment of children, as well as indiscriminate attacks by the Houthis, he stressed that arbitrary detentions and the pillaging of national resources also caused suffering. The Council would meet on 27 January to discuss the final report by the Panel of Experts for the Sanctions Committee on Yemen, he said.
Emphasizing that the Houthis depended on violence to reach their objectives, he highlighted victories in areas liberated by the armed forces, saying efforts were also being made to stop attacks on ships. Closing the airport had been necessary to maintain security, he added. Voicing a firm belief in the serious work needed to restore peace in Yemen, with the Secretary-General’s help, he called upon all United Nations agencies to return to Aden, the interim capital, and thanked Saudi Arabia and all partners helping his country.
Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay) expressed support for ending the conflict and resuming negotiations. Condemning indiscriminate attacks, he said stability depended on commitment on the part of regional stakeholders and those with influence over the parties. There was no room for double standards, he said, emphasizing that if air strikes were condemned in Syria, they should also be condemned in Yemen.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 3:58 p.m.