Kuwait

26 May 2016

Note to Correspondents: Statement by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed

I wanted to meet you today in order to update you on the latest developments in the talks. It has been a long week of sessions, in which we discussed a wide range of issues. Some sessions were promising and others tense. In spite of all of the challenges we are facing, the United Nations remains deeply committed to finding a peaceful solution.

As you know, I visited Doha on Sunday, to take part in the 16th Doha Forum and participate in several meetings on Yemen. I was honoured to join a meeting between the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, His Excellency President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar. The Secretary-General told them that peace negotiations were rarely smooth and there was a need for commitment and perseverance by all sides. The Secretary-General said that, in parallel to the peace talks, all parties needed to redouble their efforts to provide and facilitate unhindered humanitarian access to alleviate the appalling living conditions of millions of Yemeni citizens.  President Hadi reaffirmed his government’s readiness to work for peace and overcome the obstacles on the path to a peaceful solution. The Emir expressed his country’s eagerness to support the Yemeni talks to achieve a sustainable peace. During the meeting, I highlighted the need to provide a conducive environment by strengthening the commitment from all sides to the Cessation of Hostilities and by undertaking measure to build confidence between the parties.

The efforts of the leadership of Kuwait, Qatar and the UN Secretary-General had a positive impact and led to the return of the Government of Yemen’s delegation to the joint sessions. On Monday, a joint plenary session was held in which the leaders of both delegations renewed their commitment to dialogue to reach a political agreement, that is acceptable by all.     

I convened a number of bilateral meetings with the delegations over the past few days. We discussed specifically the details and mechanisms of withdrawal, handover of weapons, resumption of political dialogue, restoration of state institutions and other matters that will be included in a comprehensive agreement. The discussions also covered the importance of guarantees and reassurances to ensure the implementation of an agreement.

At this juncture of the talks, the parties have started to address specific and sensitive matters in detail based on the agreed reference points. It was agreed that the prisoners’ committee will continue to work separately. The committee was reinforced by human rights experts from both sides. Yesterday, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) came to Kuwait at the invitation of my office. They met bilaterally with the delegations to brief them on the roles and guidelines for prisoners release and exchange processes in war zones and the mechanisms of ICRC’s work in this area.

Yesterday, I briefed the Security Council in a closed-session through video conference. During the session, I gave an overview of the talks, the preliminary understandings reached and I explained the compromises and solutions that are currently being considered.  I also gave a summary of the support needed by my Office in order to facilitate the implementation of a peace agreement including support for interim security arrangements.

The representatives of Ansarullah and the General People’s Congress (GPC) in the De-escalation and Coordination Committee (DCC), have returned to their duties after a one-day suspension. The DCC continues to work with dedication, are we are working with the team to provide additional technical support. 

In brief, the talks are ongoing, the international support is stronger than ever and the United Nations is determined to achieve a lasting peace and to solidify any agreement reached.    

Economic Situation
The ongoing conflict has destroyed the country’s economic infrastructure and severely disrupted the functioning of state institutions, causing the suffering of many civilians. Failure to address the issue will lead to further deterioration of the economic situation. Last week witnessed a sharp devaluation of the Yemeni Riyal and an alarming decline of the resources and liquidity held by the country’s treasury. The continuation of this trend will lead to a rapid increase in inflation and negatively affect the humanitarian and social situation. In this regard, I proposed to the parties the creation of an “Economic Task Force” in the near future. The committee would enlist the support of economic experts in order to manage the situation and take the necessary measures to save the economy. As an urgent first step, I call on the Yemeni parties and the international community to support the Social Welfare Fund.  The fund would include direct financial support to the most affected segments of society, inject liquidity into the country, ease the pressure on the Central Bank, and help alleviate suffering.     

The cessation of hostilities has led to a direct reduction in violence and allowed humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to most areas in Yemen. The delivery of aid, basic medical services, pharmaceutical supplies and drinking water have increased over the last few weeks.  UN agencies, in coordination with their partners, are working on providing literacy and math classes for children.

The parties must assume their responsibility towards the nation. We are at a dangerous crossroads. One path leads us to stability. If the parties do not provide the required concessions, the situation on the ground would significantly worsen. As we are approaching Ramadan, we hope that the parties will undertake tangible steps towards alleviating the economic suffering of the people, the release of prisoners and detainees, and the implementation of the cessation of hostilities.         

I am increasingly asked how long will the talks last. There is no time limit and we will stay as long as it takes.  The crisis in Yemen has to end as soon as possible; as soon as possible. We urge the participants in the talks to re-double their efforts to reach a peace agreement.  It takes time to end conflict.  A sustainable and inclusive agreement cannot be rushed.  It is now up to the parties to decide. 
I want to take this opportunity to thank again the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah al Ahmed al Jaber Al-Sabah, for Kuwait’s role in hosting the talks. I also applaud the efforts of the international community who consistently demonstrate unprecedented unity and endless support for the efforts of the UN.

Yemen is at a critical stage. The economy is in tatters, its infrastructure ruined, and the country’s social fabric is disintegrating. The situation on the ground is dire but there is hope emanating from Kuwait. Only a political settlement will restore hope. The participants in the talks are the only ones who can change the situation in Yemen.