Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Yemen (via VTC)

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 11, 2020


Thank you, Madam President. Thank you to the briefers, and colleagues, for your remarks today for this very important discussion.

Martin, last month you expressed cautious optimism following the prisoner exchange between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, and a reduction in fighting in and around Marib and Hudaydah. Thank you for what you are doing to resolve this tragic situation through diplomatic means.

Mark, your remarks about the devastating truth about hunger and famine were deeply moving. And as painful and disturbing as it is to hear them, you owe it to us, as you do with every briefing, to bring the truth home, so thank you for bringing the truth to the Council. This Council needs to take this to heart and do everything we can for the Yemeni people.

And David, your passionate plea for funds and laying out your vision, which can be achieved with international support, really holds each of us accountable. So, I hope, like Christoph said, that we each use our contacts to be able to bring in more funding for this very important cause.

These successes, due in no small part to your efforts, remind us that the United Nations and the actions of this Council have real-world impact. We must take from that renewed motivation to improve Yemeni lives and support movement toward an inclusive political resolution. Inspiration and political will are the right combination for success.

Unfortunately, the goodwill of the international community has not been matched by the Houthis, who continue to focus their efforts on prolonging the conflict and lashing out against Yemen’s neighbors.

The United States condemns the Houthis’ brazen attacks against Saudi Arabia on October 28 – attacks that included unmanned aerial vehicles launched toward Riyadh that posed a grave danger to the lives of many civilians, including U.S. citizens. The Houthis have now launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Saudi Arabia over the last several years.

The Houthis must be held accountable for their murderous conduct, as must their primary supporter, the Islamic Republic of Iran. I am reminded of the regime’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, sending out a preachy tweet on Sunday about the need for multilateralism and Iran’s record as a practitioner of “responsible diplomacy.” It is so ironic, and it would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. A diplomat using twitter to spread propaganda on a platform that his own people are forbidden to use to profess innocence, and claim that his government is fighting for peace.

Wherever there is violence, instability, and bloodshed in the region, Iran can be found fanning the flames. The regime fuels the Houthis’ violence, providing funds, weapons, training, and encouragement. It is Tehran that is intent upon undermining the work of Special Envoy Griffiths and this Council by making a political solution to this conflict less achievable.

Just weeks ago, the Iranian regime dispatched a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hassan Irloo, to Sana’a, where Irloo called himself Iran’s “ambassador” to the Houthis. These acts demonstrate that Iran and the Houthis are not serious about a political resolution to the conflict in Yemen.

We once again call on Iran to halt its support for terror, to end its destabilizing actions across the region, and to respect the human rights and needs of all its people, its own people.

On the humanitarian front, David, thank you for this powerful and sobering update on Yemen’s food insecurity. I congratulate you, as we all have done today, and the World Food Program, for a well-deserved and well-earned recognition by the Nobel Committee. The United States is a proud supporter of WFP’s global activities, providing more than 40 percent of its resources. Despite that generosity, the World Food Program urgently needs more nations to come to their aid in order to address the growing food security needs around the globe.

Mark, we share your concern that despite recent additional contributions, Yemen’s Humanitarian Response Plan remains woefully underfunded. As we have for months, the United States encourages all donors to provide resources immediately to help prevent further suffering.

In addition, all parties to the conflict must support the delivery of critical life-saving assistance. The Houthis must end their interference in humanitarian efforts right now and must take specific actions to show their readiness to cooperate.

Specifically, they must immediately permit the World Food Program to complete its biometric targeting and registration system across all districts; allow third-party monitoring; and provide travel authorizations to humanitarian staff.

As David mentioned, household food insecurity levels rose between May and September in areas where the World Food Program had to reduce its distributions due to Houthi obstruction. And just last week UNICEF announced that the acute malnutrition rates among children under the age of five were the highest rates among children ever recorded in certain parts of Yemen. The sinister political maneuvering that impedes humanitarian access must stop before a generation of Yemeni children suffer permanent developmental damage.

The United States also reiterates its call for the Houthis to release Yemeni citizen Levi Musa Merhavi from custody immediately. Mr. Merhavi 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 release Mr. Merhavi immediately.

Regarding the Safer tanker, it is unconscionable that month after month the reality remains the same: the Houthis continue to withhold final approval of the UN mission’s plan for an assessment and initial repairs of this corroding vessel. The United States reiterates the urgent need for the Houthis to cease exploiting the threat of environmental and economic disaster simply to gain political leverage. We must avoid a devastating ‘we told you so’ moment that can happen any day now. The Houthis need to take responsibility by providing their final agreement without further delay.

And as this harsh winter approaches, I quote my fellow Kentuckian, statesman Henry Clay: “The time will come when winter will ask you, what were you doing all summer?”

Thank you.