Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 28, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you to our briefers for your updates and for your teams’ continued and resolute efforts to help resolve these daunting crises.
Martin, I want to thank you once again, publicly, for all of your efforts you have directed toward achieving a political solution, and stress our support for your work for the Joint Declaration. We recommit to supporting you and your efforts in this complex endeavor. And I also want to acknowledge that you, too, are on the frontline, and without your efforts this coronavirus would even be harder to contain.
And I’m going to echo what everybody has said today in their briefings and those of us in the chamber, that Yemen is still a country at war. And now I think they are fighting yet another war, and this is COVID-19.
It is important the parties de-escalate the tensions on the ground and recommit to a UN-mediated political settlement. Cross-border Houthi attacks undermine efforts toward a settlement that can only serve to prolong the conflict – and the suffering of the Yemeni people. And as Mark has stated today, that this is leaving millions of the Yemeni people without the proper healthcare, clean water, or sanitation – which is crucial to preventing the spread of this virus.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, I want to stress that despite some initial improvements, the Houthis’ level of interference and hardened positions earlier this month remain unacceptable and even more unconscionable with COVID-19 spreading throughout Yemen. Before COVID, the UN declared Yemen the most needy place on earth. Twenty-four million people depend on aid to survive.
The Houthis can and they must do better, especially on moving forward with biometric registration for the World Food Program’s operations, approving all pending sub-agreements, allowing independent needs assessments, respecting independent procurement and asset management in accordance with donor regulations, and facilitating freedom of movement and humanitarian access for aid workers.
We deeply remain concerned by the spread of COVID-19 in Yemen, and by the fact that cases are vastly under reported, particularly in Houthi-controlled areas. The lack of transparency has resulted in [fewer] testing kit supplies which has then resulted in not having an accurate count of just exactly the effect of the virus. This virus has clearly shifted to widespread community transmission, and many Yemenis are dying as a result. Humanitarian and healthcare workers are vulnerable, lacking personal protection equipment that protect them from the disease, and it remains absolutely imperative that all parties facilitate their efforts and not target these healthcare workers.
On July the 15, Secretary Pompeo announced an additional $208 million in new humanitarian and health assistance to bolster our ongoing global COVID-19 response efforts, including more than [$12.6 million] to support COVID-19 response efforts to help refugees, vulnerable migrants, internally displaced persons, and host communities in Yemen. Over the past 20 years, the United States has provided nearly $4 billion in total assistance for Yemen’s long-term development, including nearly $132 million for health programs.
In light of the observations offered by our briefers today, the United States expresses its full support for the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as those belonging to other marginalized groups and minority communities in Yemen. We are especially grateful for today’s briefing as an example of how we can implement the UN Security Council Resolution 2475 in a concrete way, including by inviting briefers addressing persons with disabilities. We call on all parties to the conflict, particularly the Houthis, to respect the rights of all members of Yemeni society.
Finally, I want to draw the Council’s attention to the events of June 28, when U.S. and partner forces interdicted a vessel off the coast of Yemen containing Iranian arms bound for the Houthis. The vessel’s illicit cargo included 200 RPGs, more than 1,700 AK rifles, 21 surface-to-air and land-attack missiles, several anti-tank missiles, and other advanced weapons and missiles. Yemen does not need more arms. Iran must stop its effort to arm the Houthis, which only prolongs the conflict.