Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Yemen

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 15, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, also, to our briefers for their insights.

Martin, we appreciate your update on the prisoner release agreement. This is an important achievement made possible by your tireless efforts, together with those of the International Committee of the Red Cross. We very much hope to hear more positive updates on the parties’ implementation of these commitments in the coming days and weeks.

Despite the promise this agreement holds, I am deeply concerned that progress on the political front is stalled because of the Houthis’ failure to uphold their commitments. Their continued offensive on Marib demonstrates they are not interested in a political process, and only want more years of war for the people of Yemen. Marib is home to many of Yemen’s internally displaced people and has become a refuge for Yemenis fleeing fighting throughout the war. The Houthis’ assault on this refuge is deeply concerning, and we call on the Houthis to cease this action immediately.

We are also extremely concerned about the recent intensified fighting in Hudaydah and offer our condolences for the lives lost.

Only a political solution will bring stability, peace, and prosperity back to Yemen. Yet, sadly, the Houthis have been content throughout this conflict to lose tens of thousands of fighters on the battlefield.

Of course, the Houthis’ are not doing it alone. Iran’s continued exports of weapons to the Houthis in contravention of the arms embargo have been extensively documented, including by the Secretary-General’s most recent report on Resolution 2231. Iran’s role in this conflict, which defies UN Security Council sanctions, is serving no other purpose than to worsen this humanitarian tragedy and prolong the suffering of millions. This horrible destabilizing situation has persisted for years. If Council Members truly seek a mediated settlement to this conflict, then they must join the United States and others in calling on Iran to cease all support for the Houthis immediately. As the world tries its best to end this war, Iran’s provision of lethal aid and training to the Houthis is doing nothing but ensuring endless war. It must stop now.

I would also like to speak further about the Safer tanker, which – despite the concerted efforts of Martin and his team – continues to threaten the Red Sea and the people of Yemen with catastrophic consequences – including severely reducing the import of commercial food and humanitarian aid; lasting environmental damage; and economic degradation.

Last month, during the General Assembly’s High-Level Week, this Council’s five permanent members plus Germany, Sweden, and Kuwait called on the Houthis to “urgently facilitate unconditional and safe access for UN experts to conduct an assessment and repair mission.” This Council, too, has been calling on, urging, pressing, and admonishing the Houthis to do this for months.

And still, the Houthis stall. They set out new demands, conditions, and obstacles for the UN’s experts – those who possess the expertise and resources to avoid a serious disaster. That the Houthis are willing to risk catastrophe for millions of Yemenis – who rely so heavily on food, fuel, and other goods imported through Red Sea ports – to gain political leverage demonstrates the cynicism and heartlessness of the Houthi’s leadership.

And why would anyone expect any differently, given how the Houthis continue to obstruct international humanitarian assistance to Yemenis desperately in need? The Houthis’ recent shutdown of the Sana’a international airport obstructed movement of lifesaving humanitarian supplies and essential personnel that are required in the most densely populated areas of Yemen. These Houthi actions halted the import of 2.4 million doses of oral polio vaccine for their own areas, as well as more than 200 metric tons of COVID-19-related medical supplies.

A temporary re-opening of the airport is not a sustainable reprieve. We urge the Houthis to end their brinksmanship and reopen the airport to UN flights on a permanent basis. This Houthi obstruction is unconscionable, particularly as Yemenis face the additional threats of rising prices and food insecurity. We cannot and should not be silent in the face of such unprecedented intransigence.

With famine a realistic prospect in Yemen in the event of prolonged food import disruption, we encourage all donors to provide resources for ongoing and emerging needs now. All parties to the conflict – especially the Houthis – must enable actors to implement critical life-saving programs.

I would also like to take a moment today to express our gratitude to our partners in Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the Government of the Republic of Yemen – particularly the Sultan of Oman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia – for helping the United States facilitate the release of two U.S. citizens in Yemen and the return of the remains of another U.S. citizen. The Trump Administration has made bringing home Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas a top priority, and we will never waiver in our commitment to them and their families.

I thank the countries who have joined the United States in supporting the World Food Program, as it plays a critical role in Yemen, providing 13 million people in the country with emergency food assistance and 1.1 million children and women with nutritional support. The World Food Programme urgently needs further assistance to continue its lifesaving efforts. The U.S. provides 43% of the World Food Programme’s budget and we are grateful for others stepping up.

Finally, in my previous remarks before the Council, I called on the Houthis to immediately release wrongfully-detained Yemeni citizen, Levi Salem Musa Merhavi. Levi’s health continues to decline in detention, where he remains wrongfully detained despite a Houthi, quote-unquote, court’s ordering his release in September 2019.

We call on the Houthis to respect religious freedom, stop oppressing Yemen’s Jewish population, and immediately release Mr. Merhavi.

Thank you, Mr. President.