The Conflict in Yemen May Spiral Out of Control - Warnings in the Security Council


Wed, 16-02-2022 03:38 PM, Aden

New York (South24) 

After weeks of military escalation that extended beyond the borders of Yemen to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the United Nations envoy to Yemen warned, in a speech to the UN Security Council, yesterday, that the conflict in Yemen may get out of control and announced a framework of a new multi-track approach which aims to bring the warring parties closer to a political settlement.

Recounting weeks of violent clashes, Hans Grundberg the UN Special Envoy for Yemen said: “It should be obvious to everyone just how high the stakes have become,” said Grundberg, as he recounted weeks of spiking clashes. Those included increased attacks by the [Houthis] on targets outside Yemen. Noting that the conflict risks spiralling out of control unless serious efforts are urgently undertaken, he also cited an alarming increase in airstrikes on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in the cities of Sana’a and Hudaydah."

Grundberg said he is "outlining his work on a framework plan to move the parties towards an inclusive political settlement — while also continuing to explore options to fast-track de-escalation." "Through this process, the warring sides’ interests can be addressed within the context of a broader Yemeni agenda along the three tracks of political, security and economic matters,” he said. As part of those efforts, he would begin a series of structured bilateral consultations aimed at informing and refining the framework, engaging with the warring parties, political parties, representatives of civil society and Yemeni experts, among others.

For his part, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the war in Yemen — and the wider crisis it has unleashed — continues to threaten millions of lives. Echoing the Special Envoy’s concerns about the last six weeks of sharp and dangerous escalation, he said more than 650 civilian casualties were reported in January — by far highest toll in at least three years.

Meanwhile, Griffiths considered dwindling funding remains the humanitarian community’s largest obstacle in Yemen. By the end of January, nearly two thirds of major United Nations aid programmes in the country had been scaled back or closed, and some 8 million people who began receiving limited food rations from the World Food Programme (WFP) in December are likely to stop getting food all together by March. He described these cuts as unprecedented, he urged donors to give generously at the upcoming pledging event for Yemen on 16 March. “We cannot let the aid operation in Yemen fall apart,” he stressed.

Agreement to transfer "Safer" oil

Martin Griffiths also announced "recent progress in efforts to resolve the issue of the Safer oil tanker issue, including a preliminary agreement on a UN coordinated proposal to shift the oil onboard the vessel to another ship represents a potential first step towards mitigating the grave environmental and humanitarian threat posed by the vessel.

Ten days ago, the United Nations indicated that positive discussions between Yemeni government officials and Houthi rebels witnessed the two sides' keenness to find an emergency solution to avoid a catastrophic leak, according to AFP.

UN media said many in the Security Council had urged the warring parties in Yemen to urgently cease their fire and end all violence. Many condemned the recent attacks by the Houthi group on civilian installations across the region. Some delegates went even further, calling UN efforts to negotiate a peace settlement insufficient and warning against the continued appeasement of the Houthis, a group that refuses to engage cooperatively with the Special Envoy and his team.

The representative of the United States, denounced the "attacks by Houthi militias, reiterated his delegation’s support to Saudi Arabia. Despite the Council’s condemnation, he noted that the Houthis continue to control the compound formally used as the United States embassy. Urging all parties to de-escalate and participate in a United Nations-led peace process, he also called on them to cooperate with the Special Envoy."

The representative of China called "all parties in Yemen for an urgent and immediate ceasefire and end all violence, condemned recent attacks on civilian facilities across the region and expressed support efforts by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to safeguard their citizens. In that regard, he welcomed new plans outlined by the Special Envoy and called on all parties to cooperate with his office without preconditions."

Continued failure

However, the delegate of the United Arab Emirates emphasized that the briefings that were made today only "confirm the continued failure of the political process under the leadership of the United Nations."

"After the UAE's civilian infrastructure was subjected to terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of innocent civilians, we can only ask Mr. Grundberg: When will the appeasement of this terrorist group end?" Reaffirming her country’s sovereign right to protect its territory and people, she called for more pressure on the Houthis in the form of additional sanctions, cutting off funding sources and imposing a maritime interdiction with enhanced enforcement.

Yemen’s representative said that "while his Government continues to engage with the Special Envoy, the Houthis have refused to meet with him, obstructing efforts towards peace. Spotlighting Iran’s interference in Yemen and across the region, he said that country has violated the Council-imposed arms embargo, hijacked a United Arab Emirates-flagged cargo ship and used ballistic missiles and drones to attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."

For his part, said the Russian delegate, Dmitry A. Polyanskiy, "The fresh escalation of violence presents a threat to regional security, he said, urging all parties to respect international humanitarian law. The Russian Federation will continue to actively urge the parties to adopt an approach of compromise, he added. Recognizing the United Nations and the Special Envoy’s central role in the process, he expressed support for efforts to draft a road map for a settlement based on the principles of including the voices of all Yemeni stakeholders." 

South24 Center, UN media
Photo: UN Envoy Grundberg speaking to the Security Council, 16 February 2022 (UN)

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