UN Security Council: Briefing on the Middle East - Yemen

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

  • Peace, Rights and Security
Statement as delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 31 October 2016

Thank you Mr President. I also thank the Special Envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Humanitarian Coordinator Stephen O’Brien and WFP Regional Director Muhannad Hadi for their briefings and for their work in support of Yemen and its people.

It is now more than a year and a half since the attempt by Houthi forces to seize control of the Government of Yemen prompted the collapse of the political transition and the outbreak of the current conflict.

It is now clear that none of the parties can achieve their aims through military force.

Today’s briefers have underlined just how bad the situation on the ground has become. Tragically, as we have been saying for too long, Yemeni civilians are paying a heavy price for the ongoing hostilities.

More than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed.

Most Yemenis are now in need of humanitarian assistance.

Images of the more than 370,000 severely malnourished children remind us of the fragility of Yemen’s food supply.

Although UNVIM continues to play an essential role in managing food imports, a lack of port capacity means ships face long delays, further inflating the cost of food and fuel.

This, compounded by the increasingly serious risk of economic collapse threatens to put millions of Yemenis at risk of starvation.

The collapse of the public health system also means millions of Yemenis lack access to even the most basic medical services.

This medical crisis is compounded by the ban on commercial flights in and out of Sana’a, which prevents critically injured civilians from getting medical assistance elsewhere.

And we call for this ban to be lifted immediately.    

Mr President,

Both sides have also regularly fallen short of their obligations to protect civilians caught up in this conflict.

The Coalition’s airstrike against a funeral in Sana’a on 8 October was a shocking example of this failure.

It makes the reports over the weekend of airstrikes against a Houthi-held prison all the more disturbing.

Urgent steps are needed to provide accountability for these actions and to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.

We stress once again the need for all parties to fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

This conflict has created a conducive environment for terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIL to expand their influence and reach.

Recent attacks on shipping in the Bab-el-Mandeb have further demonstrated the emergence of other strategic threats from this conflict.

Ultimately it is only by ending hostilities that we can restore stability and end the suffering of the Yemeni people.

This needs to be our central focus and our most urgent priority.

In this regard, we are deeply disappointed at the failure to extend the recent ceasefire brokered by the UN Special Envoy.

An enduring ceasefire is a necessary step towards a more positive trajectory for Yemen. We urge all parties to agree to a sustained ceasefire as soon as possible.

For some time we have appeared frustratingly close to an agreement on how to end this conflict.

The key elements of a deal have been evident for some months, with the main points of contention concerning their sequencing.

The parties have been presented with a credible roadmap for security and political arrangements to end the conflict and resume an inclusive political transition. 

We recognise that this roadmap requires difficult concessions from all parties.

But flat out rejection is not acceptable.

The alternative, a further prolonging of the current bloody stalemate that can achieve little other than heaping further misery on the Yemeni people, and creating longer term problems for the country and region.

We urge leaders on both sides to put the interests of their people first and accept this roadmap as the basis for ending this tragic conflict, and to take it forward in a spirit of flexibility and compromise.  

History will not judge kindly those who seek to delay or derail these efforts. And neither should this Council.

In the coming weeks, this Council needs to focus on doing all it can to support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy and others to end the violence.

It must also send a clear signal to the Yemeni parties that the international community expects them to resume meaningful negotiations with each other towards achieving a sustainable end to the conflict, and that spoilers will not be tolerated.

We stand ready to work with Council members on anything that might be useful to add pressure on the parties to resolve this conflict.

Thank you.


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