Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 18, 2021
Thank you, Madam President, and thank you to our briefers.
As the briefers noted this morning, the United States is preparing to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts, alongside the United Nations and others, to achieve a ceasefire and end the war in Yemen. As we do so, I want to be clear that we will fully support the Special Envoy’s efforts to bring all parties to consensus on the basis of the elements that he outlined this morning, and our goal will remain a unified, stable Yemen, free from foreign influence.
To underline the priority that the United States places on ending the conflict and responding to the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, President Biden did name Timothy Lenderking as the U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen, as has been noted by the briefers and many of my Council colleagues this morning. I want to express my gratitude for the welcome that many of you have given to the news of this appointment. I think that welcome reflects that Special Envoy Lenderking’s depth of expertise on Yemen is well known and that expertise, I think, is already being put to good use, as he recently traveled to Riyadh to work with the Special Envoy and our partners there to chart a path toward peace.
In addition, in support of these diplomatic efforts, President Biden also announced just last week, as has been referenced, that the United States is ending our support for Saudi-led coalition offensive operations in Yemen, including the halting of relevant arms sales. Let me be clear though, that at the same time, we remain committed to helping our partners defend themselves from attacks, such as the Houthi attack that struck a civilian airliner at Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport on February 10. I also want to take this moment to recall the Houthis’ attempted assassination of the entire Yemeni cabinet on December , which tragically killed innocent civilians. These attacks, in our view, continue to demonstrate the Houthis’ unwillingness to join Special Envoy Griffiths’ process and it places the Houthis squarely at odds with the interests of the Yemeni people.
The United States is also gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen that we have heard so eloquently described this morning. In recognition of the dire humanitarian situation, and having heard warnings from you, Mark and Martin, and from other humanitarian groups, and from members of our own Congress, the Biden Administration has decided that the U.S. terrorist designations of Ansarallah could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel. And so, the administration revoked those designations, effective February 16, as has been mentioned. I want to be clear that that decision was taken because it reflects the priority we place on facilitating humanitarian assistance and the commercial import of critical commodities, such as food and fuel, in the face of this dire situation. It also reflects our emphasis on revitalizing diplomacy, again, alongside the UN and others, to end the war itself. We will continue to enforce existing UN and U.S. sanctions on certain members of Ansarallah, and we will closely monitor the group’s activities to assess whether additional actions are warranted.
As Mark has just briefed us, we too are concerned by the lack of funding for the humanitarian response, particularly at a time when more than 16 million Yemenis will face severe, acute food insecurity by June.
The United States was the largest humanitarian donor to the Yemen response last year, and we urge others to step forward and contribute funding to broaden the burden sharing and ensure the UN’s lifesaving programs can reach the millions of Yemenis in need. We strongly encourage all Member States to provide additional funds for the humanitarian response during the upcoming High-Level Pledging Event in March.
As noted, the United States remains deeply troubled by continued and unacceptable Houthi attacks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, including the recent attacks in Marib and Al-Jawf Governorates. We call on the Houthis to immediately cease all attacks, including those that damage civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, and to immediately halt the advance toward Marib, which, as we’ve heard, is only bringing more suffering to the Yemeni people.
While all other parties seem intent on finding a way to get to a peaceful solution to this horrible conflict, the Houthis’ military campaign continues unabated, as we have heard. We also note that more countries have reached the same conclusion we have: that the Houthis were singularly responsible for the horrendous attempt to assassinate the new Yemeni government with their attack on Aden airport on December 30. We urge the Houthis to stop these destabilizing and inflammatory actions and to demonstrate a true commitment to constructively engage in the Special Envoy’s efforts to achieve peace.
Likewise, we are very disappointed that the Houthis continue to delay the mission to assess the SAFER oil tanker. For nearly two years, they have continued to move the goalposts. The time has come for the Houthis to cease the excuses and the stalling. We urge other nations to press the Houthis to allow the assessment to move forward immediately.
Finally, I want to thank Ambassador King for the update she provided as Chair of the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee. The implementation of UN Security Council sanctions is an important tool to put pressure on those who are undermining peace and security in Yemen and to change their destabilizing behavior. To that end, all of us here, as has been mentioned, have an obligation to implement these sanctions, and the United States looks forward to working with other members of the Security Council this month to extend the asset freeze, the travel ban, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts for Yemen. We also look forward to the Panel’s reporting on their findings from its recent visit to Aden regarding the December 30 attack.
Let me end by saying, as President Biden has made clear, the United States is committed to finding an inclusive political solution to this horrible conflict. That means Yemenis of all backgrounds should be at the table in forging a common future for their country. We look forward to working with our partners around the world, including the UN and in this Council, to make that a reality.
Thank you very much, Madam President.