New York

02 November 2018

Secretary-General's remarks at press encounter on Yemen

Good afternoon.  Allow me a clear message about the situation in Yemen – the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. 

This is not a natural disaster.  It is man-made. 

Yemen today stands on a precipice. 

On the humanitarian side, the situation is desperate.  We must do all we can to prevent the already dire conditions from deteriorating into the worst famine we have seen in decades. 

But on the political side, there are signs of hope. 

We must do all we can to maximize the chances for success.

The international community has a real opportunity to halt the senseless cycle of violence and to prevent an imminent catastrophe. 

The time to act is now.

Over the last several months, military escalation and a severe, rapid economic crisis have made an unbearable situation even worse. 

International humanitarian law has been flouted repeatedly.

Last week, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, warned the Security Council that Yemen is closer to famine than ever. 

The UN and our partners are already feeding 8 million people in Yemen. 

Without urgent action, up to 14 million people – fully half the population – could be at risk in the coming months.  To avert imminent catastrophe, several steps are urgently required. 

First, violence must stop everywhere – with an immediate halt around critical infrastructure and densely populated areas.  I welcome the strong, constructive engagement from many Member States in recent days joining their voices to the UN’s repeated appeals for a cessation of hostilities and supporting my Special Envoy’s efforts. 

Second, commercial and humanitarian imports of food, fuel and other essentials must be allowed to enter Yemen without restrictions.  Roads must remain open, so life-saving goods can reach communities across the country everywhere.

Third, the Yemeni economy must be supported.  This includes taking critical steps to stabilize the exchange rate and to pay salaries and pensions. 

Fourth, international funding must increase now so that humanitarian agencies can expand their reach as necessary.

At the same time, it is essential that the Yemeni parties engage in good faith and without pre-conditions with my Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, to reach a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict. 

The urgency of the humanitarian crisis leaves no room for complacency. 

I welcome recent announcements by Yemeni parties expressing readiness to resume consultations. 

There is now an opportunity for peace in Yemen.  This building wave of momentum must be seized.

I urge the parties to overcome obstacles and to resolve still existing differences through dialogue at

UN-facilitated consultations later this month. 

I call on all Member States and other stakeholders to maintain this momentum to move towards an end to the conflict. 

We must do all we can now to end human suffering and avoid the worst humanitarian crisis in the world from getting even worse.

Thank you.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. Obviously, this momentum recently started when the United States announced a... like a new position on the peace process in Yemen, so do you think this should be reflected in the Security Council? Because Mr. Griffiths' last attempt to bring parties together did not go well, so how can you avoid the same result this time, with this momentum?

Secretary-General:  We see more and more countries very actively engaged in creating the conditions, or helping to create the conditions, for the parties to understand the need not only of a cessation of hostilities, but to engage in serious political discussions. And obviously, there are moments in which it makes sense to seize the Security Council to obtain the support that is needed for that. I leave that to the members of the Security Council. My objective is to strongly appeal to the parties to the conflict to understand that there is an opportunity that must be seized, and to say that the humanitarian situation is so dire that if that doesn't happen, we must have indeed next year a situation of famine that is unprecedented in the last decades.

Spokesman:  Edie?

Question:  Thank you very much, Mr Secretary-General.  The Saudi-led coalition said today it bombed an airbase adjacent to Sana'a Airport, allegedly being used by Houthi rebels to launch drone and ballistic missile attacks, and there has been intensive fighting in Hodeidah Province.  Are you concerned that recent calls from senior US officials, yourself, and others for a halt to fighting are unleashing intensified coalition attacks, possibly ahead of any kind of a cessation of hostilities?  And what is your message to the coalition in response to these latest attacks?

Secretary-General:  I think that it is very important that no missiles or other forms of aggression are sent against Saudi Arabia, and it's very important to stop bombing in urban areas, and it's very important to preserve basic infrastructure, and obviously, Hodeidah is part of that basic infrastructure. These are our priorities as an immediate step in a cessation of hostilities, and I hope that the parties will understand the need to... all of them, the appeal is to all of them... embark in the cessation of hostilities, sooner rather than later, immediately in our opinion, in order to allow for the political process to start. Obviously, we are not yet there. That is why we are appealing for the kind of military action that is taking place from both sides to end.

Spokesman:  Great. Thank you very much.

Correspondent:  A follow-up on a ceasefire: Without a total ceasefire, especially to get this Saudi coalition on the ground to come ahead... Without you forcing the Saudi coalition to stop this bombing, I don't think there can be any peace.

Secretary-General:  Well, we are not in a political debate. Our role is to appeal [to] the parties for a cessation of hostilities. This appeal is now echoed by many very important countries around the world, by the international community as a whole. The consequences of going on with this war will be terrible for the Yemeni people. I must say I'm hopeful that the voice of reason will prevail.  Thank you very much.