The United Nations Security Council agreed to support special envoy Martin Griffiths in his mission to achieve peace between the legitimate government and Iran-backed Houthi militias. Meeting on Thursday, it also underscored the need for the Southern Transitional Council to return to the Riyadh Agreement.
The council described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as terrible due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, saying it support Griffiths' efforts to revive the negotiations between the government and Houthis.
It reiterated support for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a ceasefire in the country and expressed concern at fighting between the government and the Houthis and the slow pace of negotiations toward a ceasefire.
Members also called on the government and STC separatists “to deescalate military tensions” and engage in the Riyadh Agreement. They also called on the separatists “to reverse any actions challenging the legitimacy, sovereignty, unity or territorial integrity of Yemen.”
Griffiths urged Yemen’s warring sides to quickly resolve their differences over humanitarian and economic measures needed to move peace efforts forward and help the country counter the virus.
Yemen has so far reported 106 cases of the virus, including 15 deaths. The government and WHO have criticized the Houthis for their lack of transparency, as just two cases, including one death, have been recorded in territory under their control.
US Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, said that Washington "stands with the Yemeni people, who have suffered every imaginable hardship, and who are simply trying to survive in the midst of conflict, food insecurity, devastating floods, and now the spread of COVID-19."
"In light of these hardships, we welcome the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s extension of its unilateral ceasefire in support of the UN peace process and efforts to fight COVID-19," she added.
"The US strongly urges the Houthis to join the Government of Yemen in halting offensive operations in support of this ceasefire. This is so that all parties may focus their efforts on countering COVID-19 and working towards a lasting political resolution of the conflict," she continued.
"The Houthis must re-commit to de-escalation followed by resumption of talks directed toward a political solution. We urge the parties to the conflict to continue to review and provide meaningful feedback on the Special Envoy’s draft proposals, which represent the spirit of consensus required to move toward a lasting political settlement," Craft stated.
On the developments in southern Yemen, she expressed her concern over the STC's announcement of its so-called "self-administration." " Such actions from the STC will only distract from UN-led efforts to secure a nation-wide ceasefire and a political solution," she remarked.
"We are also concerned by reports of increasing STC interference in Central Bank of Yemen operations. All parties must continue to respect the government institutions underpinning Yemen’s political and economic stability. We call on the STC and the Republic of Yemen Government to re-engage in the political process provided under the Riyadh Agreement," she demanded.
Moreover, she expressed concern about the "limitations on humanitarian access in Houthi controlled areas. The Houthis’ deliberate interference with assistance operations – interference that is in flagrant defiance of humanitarian principles – continues to limit the ability of the UN and other humanitarian organizations to provide for the needs of the most vulnerable Yemenis."
"We acknowledge some steps taken by the Houthis in certain areas. These include the decision to lift the two percent levy on aid projects, sign NGO agreements, and approve key independent needs assessments. But further progress is critical, especially on biometric registration and ensuring humanitarian staff can implement and monitor their programs," Craft said.
"As we have said on previous occasions, the US again calls on the Houthis to allow UN inspection and maintenance of the Safer oil tanker. UN officials must have immediate access to the Safer in order to prevent an environmental catastrophe, which would have far-reaching effects in Yemen and around the Red Sea," she continued.
"We are grateful to Martin Griffiths for continuing to raise this issue in Sanaa. The Houthis must stop blocking a solution to this problem, and permit required assessments and repairs," she remarked.