The top United Nations official in Yemen called for advancing “with purpose and resolve” towards a political solution to end the conflict, now in its fourth year, as Security Council delegates today cautioned that the 14 September attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia could spark a regional conflagration.
Such prospects would be “terrifying”, said the Special Envoy for Yemen, briefing the Council from Geneva. They would also run counter to the many conversations he has had with the parties. The fact that Ansar Allah has claimed responsibility for the assault is a sign that Yemen is moving away from peace, he said, noting that, with each day that the war persists, the greater the threat to regional stability. “We need to take a bold move,” he said.
In southern Yemen, he said Aden remains under the control of the Southern Transitional Council, while in neighbouring Abiyan, its forces face those of Yemen’s Government. In Shabwa, a shaky standoff has been achieved. Forces from other fronts have moved to support their respective sides, a “new and dangerous crisis” which, in turn, encourages military adventurism.
Regarding the other elements of the 2018 agreements reached in Sweden, he said no breakthroughs have been made on prisoners, while the complex military situation in Ta’izz has posed serious challenges to implementing the statement of understanding. He pressed Yemeni parties to resume an inclusive political process to end the fighting. “We must maintain the momentum,” he stressed.
Against that backdrop, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said “we seem no closer to the outcome we all say we want”. Two weeks ago, more than 100 people were killed in air strikes on a university-turned-prison in Dharmar Governorate, while on 13 September, shelling by Ansar Allah-affiliated forces in Hudaydah left 11 civilians dead, 7 of them children. In the south, clashes between the Government and Southern Transitional Council forces are undermining efforts to prevent and treat cholera and stave off extreme hunger.
Despite the Council’s repeated call for unimpeded humanitarian access, the operating environment for aid agencies has perhaps never been worse, he said. Those agencies reported 300 incidents that hindered aid delivery to 4.9 million people — most of them due to restrictions imposed by Ansar Allah authorities seeking to introduce regulations for international non-governmental organizations that would undermine humanitarian principles.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates broadly condemned the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, with the United Kingdom’s delegate calling them a clear violation of international law, the United States delegate stressing that Iran must stop arming the Houthis and the Russian Federation’s delegate saying it is too early to ascribe responsibility. He cited resolution 598 (1987), which calls for the development of a security and confidence-building architecture in the region, and pointed to the Russian notion of collective security in the Gulf area.
Many speakers called for a nationwide ceasefire, broadly welcoming the potential for talks hosted by Saudi Arabia in Jeddah to resolve the situation in Yemen’s south. Kuwait’s delegate, expressing concern over the latest developments in the south, said he looked forward to “the concerted efforts of Saudi Arabia to hold talks in Jeddah”. Others welcomed the 8-9 September joint meeting of the Redeployment Coordination Committee overseeing the agreement to demilitarize the port city of Hudaydah and drew attention to the newly activated joint operations centre as a sign of progress.
Offering the national perspective, Yemen’s representative condemned the drone attacks against the two Saudi Aramco facilities and underscored his country’s solidarity with Riyadh. The 8 August armed putsch in Aden and the southern governorates — waged by the so-called Southern Transitional Council and supported by the United Arab Emirates — underscores the need to engage in negotiations.
He pledged that Yemen will implement the Stockholm Agreement and recalled its flexibility in efforts to save that accord. The Houthi militia, on the other hand, have sought to undermine peace with arms and financing from Tehran. Iran has wreaked havoc in the region and its support for the putsch has placed Yemen in a disastrous situation. Ending the conflict means ending the putsch and returning the hijacked institutions to the State, he assured.
Also speaking today were representatives of Equatorial Guinea, Dominican Republic, Belgium, South Africa, France, Peru, China, Poland, Côte d'Ivoire, Germany and Indonesia.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 12:03 p.m.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, speaking via video-teleconference from Geneva, called for advancing “with purpose and resolve” towards a political solution to end the conflict. The 14 September attack on Aramco facilities in Saudi Arabia, which significantly disrupted oil production, has consequences well beyond the region, carrying the risk of dragging Yemen into a regional conflagration — a serious incident that makes the chances of a regional conflict much higher, with Yemen in some way linked.
“This is frankly terrifying,” he said, and runs completely counter to the many and detailed conversations he has had in favour of steps to be taken by the parties towards de-escalation. While it is unclear who was behind the attack, the fact that Ansar Allah has claimed responsibility is bad enough and a sure sign that Yemen is being moved away from peace. “We need to take a bold move,” he said, appealing to the collective conscience.
In the south, he said the city of Aden remains broadly under the control of the Southern Transitional Council, while in neighbouring Abiyan, its forces face those of Yemen’s Government. In Shabwa, a shaky stand-off has been achieved. Forces from other fronts have moved to support their respective sides in this “new and dangerous crisis” — moves which, in turn, destabilize those other fronts, encouraging new military adventurism. While encouraged by calls for peace from other groups in the southern governorates who do not want events in Aden to be repeated, the risk of further fragmentation is nevertheless real.
Indeed, the status of forces and their rearmament makes even the most optimistic observers cautious, he said, condemning the unacceptable efforts by the Southern Transitional Council to take control of State institutions by force. In Jeddah, meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is focused on mediating a solution and he welcomed the presence of delegations from Yemen’s Government and the Southern Transitional Council in that port city. Overall, developments in the south send a resounding message for an urgent end to the conflict, as it threatens to metastasize into an existential threat to Yemen itself.
Citing some progress, he said that the parties on 8 and 9 September held the sixth joint meeting of the Redeployment Coordination Committee on the Red Sea to discuss ceasefire enhancement, disengagement along the front lines and implementation of redeployments. In addition, the tripartite ceasefire and de‑escalation mechanism is now activated, and a joint operations centre has been up and running for a week, allowing for greater communication between the parties and with commanders on the ground to prevent military escalation. It is the first joint practical initiative since the Hudaydah Agreement was forged. He welcomed parties’ willingness to implement further measures, including regular tripartite meetings of liaison officers for specific front‑line locations in Hudaydah, citing the sustained reduction of violence as a major achievement of the Agreement.
Regarding other elements of the agreements reached in Sweden, he has seen no breakthroughs on prisoners and his proposal for the release of a first batch of prisoners was welcomed by one party, but not so by the other, which insisted instead that all prisoners everywhere be released “in one go”, an impractical suggestion, in part because the identification of prisoners in the fog of war is a desperately difficult task. While he had proposed that the first batch of prisoners be followed by others until the prisoners list was exhausted, he said “for now, this is not to be”. The complex military situation in Ta’izz also has posed serious challenges to efforts to implement the statement of understanding reached in Stockholm. He urged support for the local community and women’s groups that are active on the same issues in Ta’izz who will “light the way for the rest of us”, stressing that the main goal in Ta’izz is the opening of humanitarian corridors. In parallel to such efforts, Yemeni parties must resume an inclusive political process to reach a comprehensive solution to end the conflict. For his part, he will intensify his engagement with a wide range of Yemeni stakeholders in the coming weeks, aiming to start informal structured discussions with various stakeholders, including political party representatives, public figures and women.
MARK LOWCOCK, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that, despite numerous Council resolutions and statements, “we seem no closer to the outcome we all say we want”. Two weeks ago, more than 100 people were killed in air strikes on a university-turned-prison in Dharmar Governorate, while on 13 September, shelling by Ansar Allah-affiliated forces in Hudaydah left 11 civilians dead, seven of them children. A nationwide ceasefire, which he has long advocated, would immediately reduce people’s exposure to harm, he said, adding that all parties must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law. He drew attention to the latest report of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen established by the Human Rights Council in 2017, describing it as disturbing and expressing hope that that body’s mandate will be renewed.
He added that despite the Council’s repeated called for unimpeded humanitarian access, the operating environment for aid agencies has perhaps never been worse. Those agencies reported 300 incidents that hindered the delivery of assistance to 4.9 million people, with almost 90 per cent due to bureaucratic impediments and other kinds of interference. Most of those incidents were due to restrictions imposed by Ansar Allah authorities who are currently seeking to introduce new regulations for international non-governmental organizations that would undermine humanitarian principles, he said. Turning to the Safer floating oil storage and offloading terminal, he said a long-planned assessment of the vessel should have started on 27 April, but, as that date approached, Ansar Allah authorities raised several objections and the assessment team was sent home. Underscoring the risks posed by the tanker, he implored Member States to do all they can to allow the United Nations to address the issue as quickly as possible.
On the situation in the south of Yemen, he said clashes between the Government and forces allied with the Southern Transitional Council are undermining efforts to prevent and treat cholera and to stave off extreme hunger. He also voiced concern by Government delays in approving non-governmental organization projects that would help 1.6 million people. Coalition requirements are meanwhile slowing access by aid agencies to Government-held areas along the west coast via the Dhubab checkpoint. Underscoring the importance of adequate financing for humanitarian efforts, he announced that he received written confirmation today from Saudi Arabia authorities that they plan to transfer $500 million in a single payment on 25 September to his Office for the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. The United Arab Emirates has meanwhile allocated $200 million through his Office and the World Food Programme (WFP). Until there is more money in the bank, however, it will not be possible to reopen vaccination programmes, nutrition centres, cholera‑prevention work or other recently closed activities.
Yemen’s struggling economy is an issue that needs more attention, he said, recalling that the 2018 collapse in the value of the rial helped push the country to the brink of famine. Injections of foreign exchange helped to stabilize the currency, but a predictable and regular programme of such injections is needed going forward. News that Saudi Arabia released $90 million to the Central Bank last week is encouraging. He expressed concern at the potential impact of new Government regulations on commercial fuel imports, saying they could discourage critical import flows despite the presence of an effective United Nations inspection and monitoring mechanism. Stricter enforcement is already creating delays for commercial shipping, he said, with the Government and the coalition currently blocking 10 vessels bearing a total of 163,000 metric tons of fuel, or more than an average month of fuel imports. The impact on hundreds of thousands of families is already being felt, he said, urging the Government to introduce more flexible arrangements, as it did in April 2018 in the wake of fuel shortages, and calling on Ansar Allah to end interference in fuel markets.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) condemned the attacks on the Saudi Aramco oil facilities, calling them “reckless and despicable”, a clear violation of international law and a blatant effort to disrupt the global oil supply. Turning to the humanitarian situation in Yemen, she noted “that it’s not getting any better” and is, in fact, in grave danger of sliding backwards. She condemned all violence and the use of force and expressed support to Saudi Arabia efforts to hold talks in Jeddah. “Goods need to be able to move freely from Aden to the north of the country,” she stressed. The Special Envoy outlined the importance of implementing the inclusive political process which the United Kingdom continues to strongly support. In its 29 August presidential statement, the Council gave full backing to the Special Envoy to pave the way for the resumption of political talks, she recalled. The United Kingdom urges all parties to engage constructively and finalize outstanding negotiations to implement the Hudaydah Agreement. All parties must work with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies to get support to people who desperately need it. She welcomed Saudi Arabia’s pledge of $500 million for humanitarian efforts, urging all donors to consider whether they can make additional pledges in 2019.
KELLY CRAFT (United States) condemned the attacks on Aramco in the strongest possible terms. “We must all be clear-eyed about this event,” she said, adding: “Emerging information says that responsibility lies with Iran.” The use of force to express grievances will only further destabilize Yemen. Only an inclusive political settlement will guarantee that country’s stability and prosperity. She called on the Houthis to cease their attacks on civilians in Saudi Arabia and stressed that Iran must stop providing the Houthis weapons. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of this conflict, she emphasized, noting that nearly 80 per cent of the population needs humanitarian assistance. As one of the largest humanitarian contributors in Yemen, the United States welcomes the release of urgently needed funds by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Beyond funding constraints, humanitarian aid workers must be permitted access to people in need. Currency instability further worsens Yemen’s humanitarian access, she stressed.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) also condemned the attacks in Saudi Arabia, calling them a clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations. Nine months have lapsed since the entry into force of the Stockholm Agreement, he added. “We express our concern for the latest development in a number of areas in southern Yemen and look forward to the concerted efforts of Saudi Arabia to hold talks in Jeddah,” he said. On the humanitarian situation, he underscored that Yemenis are facing concerning levels of food scarcity and expressed concern over the possibility of a grave environmental crisis in the Red Sea. There are no military solutions to the crisis in Yemen, he stressed, urging all actors to implement the Stockholm Agreement and maintain the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) repudiated the attacks on the Saudi Aramco oil facilities which only further exacerbate tensions in the region and undermine efforts aimed at a peaceful solution. Expressing hope that all parties hold an “olive branch out to each other”, he expressed concern over the resurgence of attacks which continue to target security forces and civilians. To combat violent extremism, it is essential to have in place a credible Government. Almost 22 million people require humanitarian assistance in Yemen, he said, recalling that there is a “moral and legal” duty to allow aid workers to populations in need. He urged the Yemen Government and the Houthi movement to remain aware of the importance of implementing the Stockholm Agreement. All members of the Council must continue to support the mediation efforts of the Special Envoy and ensure that all stakeholders bring the necessary pressure on all actors so that a lasting solution can be found.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) expressed concern that parties are refusing to be flexible in their positions, reducing momentum required for the political process. He welcomed that the Redeployment Coordination Committee had met again, calling any step forward undone by offences by the parties. He condemned attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, as well as attacks against a detention centre in Dhamar. He urged parties to do their utmost to protect civilians and to reduce tensions. There can be no peace without justice. He called on parties to cooperate with the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts, drawing attention to the catastrophic humanitarian situation and urging key donors to make good on their pledges. He also called for unimpeded access for humanitarian workers, calling for a nationwide ceasefire.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) strongly condemned drone attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, notably oil facilities. On Hudaydah, he welcomed the recent meeting of the Redeployment Coordination Committee, citing the activation of the joint operations centre in that context. He pressed all parties to abide by the ceasefire, resolve outstanding disagreements and implement the Stockholm Agreement, especially concerning prisoners and Ta’izz. Noting that Belgium is a member of the core group that established the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen and supports extension of its mandate, he underscored the importance of action to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. He also welcomed the talks organized in Jeddah to find a solution to the situation in the south and called on all parties to participate in them. Drawing attention to the young victims of air attacks and ground combat, he called for the protection of children.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) condemned the attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities and called upon regional countries to de-escalate tensions that might damage security in the Gulf. Calling upon them to commit fully to implementing the Stockholm Agreement, he expressed support for dialogue and a cessation of hostilities, emphasizing that differences cannot be resolved by military means. He pressed the Council and countries in the region to spare no effort in support of the political process. Expressing extreme concern over the humanitarian crisis, he pointed out that the latest report of the Eminent Experts calls upon all parties to address the situation since 80 per cent of the people require assistance and protection. Such data demonstrate that Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, he said, stressing: “The Council has to pay more attention.”
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that the attacks on the Saudi Aramco refinery only worsen tensions and risk undermining efforts to end the conflict in Yemen. Given the disastrous humanitarian situation in the country, all parties must guarantee that international humanitarian law is upheld. They must ensure the protection of aid workers and guarantee their immediate and unhindered access to those in need. New restrictions could further compound the suffering of Yemen’s people. Fighting impunity is also essential to lasting peace, he said, calling on all parties to cooperate with international mechanisms for justice to be served. “Every day, it becomes more and more urgent to find solutions,” he said, stressing the need to resume political talks. Advances on the Hudaydah Agreement should not become a prerequisite of the resumption of political discussions. “We can no longer wait,” he added.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) underscored the “incredibly delicate nature” of the situation in Yemen underscored “by the fact that no party is willing to show any compromise”. He echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal to all stakeholders to mitigate tensions and find solutions in line with international law. All parties in this conflict have demonstrated their contempt of international law. He commended the joint statement issued recently by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, expressing hope that it “will help make use of diplomatic channels”. It is vital to promptly convene consultations in which all sectors of Yemen, including civil society can participate. “We are alarmed by the high levels of food insecurity and the worsening of economic indicators in the country,” he said. Disbursements are falling far short of promises made, he continued, welcoming the announcement by Saudi Arabia to disburse funds. The ports, airports and roads of Yemen must remain open and operational so that humanitarian aid can reach people in need.
WU HAITAO (China) condemned attacks on refinery facilities in Saudi Arabia and called upon all parties to refrain from all action that will flare tensions. China supports maintaining the sovereignty, independence and territorial unity of Yemen and has taken note of the recent joint statement from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledging efforts to ease tensions and enhance trust. The Yemeni parties should continue to hold dialogue and consultations on regional security and port revenues, and make progress on myriad issues, including the exchange of prisoners. Urging the international community to increase its assistance to populations in need, he said the United Nations must continue to play its role as the main avenue of good political offices.
PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland) called for expedited implementation of the remaining stages of the redeployment of forces from Hudaydah. Expressing deep concern over the surge in violence, particularly in the south, and the risk of further instability, she urged all parties to cease military operations, engage in dialogue to resolve their differences and meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. She went on to strongly condemn the drone attacks against two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Expressing deep alarm over the negative impact of underfunding the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan, she urged donors to swiftly disburse their pledges made at the Geneva conference.
GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d'Ivoire) expressed deep concern over the resurgence of fighting and condemned the attack against the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. The stalemate in discussions could lead to irreversible consequences for Yemen and the entire region. Resuming the political dialogue remains one of the major challenges. Comprehensively implementing the Stockholm Agreement and the Hudaydah Agreement remains a must, he said, stressing the importance of ensuring unimpeded and rapid access of humanitarian workers to Yemeni civilians in need. “It is imperative that all actors respect international humanitarian law,” he reiterated. Some 24 million people need urgent assistance, he continued, calling on all parties to contribute to the emergency appeal to help fund programmes that save lives. There is no military solution to the conflict in Yemen, he added.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) called on those responsible to immediately stop attacking oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and to demonstrate their commitment to the political process. Everyone must show restraint, he said, appealing to all stakeholders in the region to strive for de-escalation. Expressing concern about recent developments in the south, he welcomed Saudi Arabia’s invitation to concerned parties for talks in Jeddah. He emphasized that delays in implementing the Stockholm Agreement should not impede the Council from moving forward with the overall political process, given that the parties to that text agreed to continue consultations unconditionally. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said all parties, especially the biggest donors in the region, must fulfil their pledges to the Humanitarian Response Plan without delay. He urged all parties to refrain from interfering in humanitarian assistance. Emphasizing the danger of a potential oil spill, he called on all actors, including the Houthis, to allow the United Nations access to the Safer floating oil storage facility.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) noted that, with the humanitarian situation worsening, the lack of funding may force the closure of some relief programmes. The only way to reverse the situation is through a wide-scale ceasefire and a continued political process to end the conflict, he emphasized, urging donors to fulfil their pledges. He went on to express concern over continuous attacks by the Houthis and condemned the drone attacks against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Expressing support for that country’s efforts to hold the Jeddah dialogue intended to resolve the situation in southern Yemen, he also encouraged all parties to engage with the Joint Committee in monitoring and stabilizing the situation.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said Yemen is facing a serious humanitarian and political catastrophe. While a fragile ceasefire is taking place in Hudaydah, fighting has intensified in the south and he called on all parties in Aden to resolve their differences through negotiations, as growing tensions make it difficult to achieve a balanced political dialogue and only help terrorist groups. He called for a nationwide ceasefire and for confidence-building measures, welcoming the 7 September Redeployment Coordination Committee meeting with the expectation that negotiations will help advance implementation of the Stockholm Agreement. The withdrawal of forces from Hudaydah would not only help de-escalate tensions throughout the country, it would help unlock other elements of the Stockholm Agreement on prisoners and Ta’izz. He called for humanitarian assistance to be provided to all people, regardless of who controls which part of the territory. He expressed concern over drone strikes against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, warning that the situation could become a large-scale regional confrontation and cautioning against any pronouncements at this stage on who the perpetrators might be. In that context, he said resolution 598 (1987) requests the Secretary-General and regional States to develop a security and confidence‑building architecture in the region, and pointing to the Russian notion of collective security in the Gulf area, called on all interested parties to study that document.
ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen) condemned the drone attacks against the two Saudi Aramco facilities, affirming his country’s solidarity with Riyadh to fight attempts to undermine its security. The 8 August armed putsch in Aden and the southern governorates — waged by the so-called Southern Transitional Council and supported by the United Arab Emirates — underscores the need to stop attacks and engage in negotiations, he said, objecting to “external hands” gaining control over civilian infrastructure.
Describing the events, he said Southern Transitional Council military formations waged an uprising on 8 August, following an attempt in January 2018, attacking legitimate Government forces in Aden. Following that assault, Saudi Arabia undertook “Herculean” efforts to contain the crisis. On 20 August, Yemen was surprised by United Arab Emirates air strikes on its military troops in Aden, who then withdrew from the interim capital. There have been continued illegal air strikes in Aden and Abyan Governorates, in violation of the international coalition’s goals, he said, unequivocally condemning the arming of rebels and welcoming appeals for dialogue, notably by Saudi Arabia.
He also thanked Saudi Arabia for its support as his country seeks to regain control over all civilian and military assets, as well as its efforts to preserve the foundation of Yemen and uphold the interests of its people, recalling that the coalition’s goal is to end the putsch, and fight Iran’s interference in the affairs of both Yemen and the region. Citing resolution 2216 (2015), he pledged that Yemen will implement the Stockholm Agreement and recalled its flexibility in efforts to save that accord. The Houthi militia, which has duped the international community, has instead sought to undermine peace.
He said that, during the 8-9 September meeting of the Redeployment Coordination Committee, Yemen expressed grave concern over the shelling, incursions and ceasefire violations in various governorates, notably Hudadyah, for which Houthis are responsible. Those militias must uphold all provisions of the Stockholm and Hudaydah Agreements, notably to free prisoners and lift the blockade on Ta’izz. Yemen’s Government is working to pay all civil servants in all governorates and to ensure that fuel arrives legally in into the country so as to avoid shortages in local markets and any price manipulation. He urged the United Nations to force Houthi militias to stop impeding measures that aim to alleviate human suffering and ensure that sanctions are imposed so that Houthis cannot cause an oil crisis, stressing that merchants must not to violate Government directives. He objected to Houthi efforts to hinder an evaluation of the Safer tanker, which contains 1.14 billion gallons of crude oil, and deplored the international silence on that point. The Council should pressure the Houthis to allow the Group of Experts to assess the vessel so as to avoid a maritime catastrophe.
Stressing that Iran has wreaked havoc in the region — arming and financing Houthi militia, and striving under the Iranian Revolution flag to threaten security writ large — Iran’s support for the putsch has placed Yemen in a disastrous situation. He urged the Council to implement the Hudaydah Agreement, pledging that Yemen will do its utmost to facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations. “We will not impede their work,” he insisted. Indeed, ending the conflict means ending the putsch and returning the hijacked institutions to the State.