Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Yemen

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 15, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. This month I’d like to start with a special thank you to our briefers. To Special Envoy Griffiths, thank you for your work to end the war in Yemen. You have spent over three years working to bring the parties together to end this conflict and improve the humanitarian situation. Martin, the United States appreciates its close cooperation with you and we look forward to continuing this cooperation as you take up your new role. As this is also Under-Secretary-General Lowcock’s last scheduled briefing to the Security Council, we wish to offer our most sincere thanks to you, Mark, for shining a light on the world’s most difficult, challenging corners. On Yemen and beyond, over the past three and half years you have stood up for humanity, given voice to those most in need, and spurred this Council to action. We wish you the very best in your next chapter. To our civil society briefer, Ms. Najiba al-Najar, thank you for your work advocating for women and young people’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding efforts.

Over the past year, Special Envoy Griffiths has negotiated a proposal that would ease restrictions at Hudaydah Port and Sana’a Airport – a key Houthi demand – establish a ceasefire, and begin inclusive political talks. The Saudi and Yemeni governments have expressed their willingness to commit to this proposal. By contrast, the Houthis have refused to engage meaningfully on a ceasefire or take steps to resolve this nearly seven-year conflict. They refuse to even discuss the question of a ceasefire with Special Envoy Griffiths. Instead, the Houthis proceed with their devastating offensive on Marib.

On June 6, the Houthis callously struck a gasoline station, killing 21 Yemenis, including a young girl who was burned beyond recognition. We condemn these and other egregious actions by the Houthis, who continue to inflict lasting and irreversible damage on the Yemeni people. Each day the Houthis keep up their offensive in Marib, they ignore this Council’s calls for them to stop the violence and enter negotiations.

Houthi intransigence is not the only impediment to lasting peace in Yemen. We call on the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council to put the interests of the Yemeni people first and resolve their differences. Time is of the essence – the people of Yemen need a unified government that can provide services and exert leadership through this time of crisis. The government and the Southern Transitional Council are restarting negotiations on implementing the Riyadh Agreement, and we hope these negotiations will bear fruit. We wish to thank the Saudi government for its continued facilitation of these discussions.

Meanwhile, Yemen remains one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies, with an estimated 20.7 million people, or 66 percent of the population, in need of humanitarian assistance this year. There is only one way to permanently address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen – a lasting ceasefire and inclusive political solution. But until then, the international community – especially our partners in the Gulf – must step up to fund the humanitarian response without delay. We urge all parties to permit the free flow of both commercial and humanitarian commodities through the Red Sea ports. Otherwise, conditions for the 70 percent of Yemen’s population living in Houthi-controlled areas are certain to deteriorate.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Safer oil tanker. As we heard earlier this month, the risks of a catastrophic spill or explosion grow daily. Yet there has been no significant progress since the Council’s last dedicated meeting on the issue almost a year ago. The Houthis have ignored the Council’s renewed call for action earlier this month and continue to obstruct a UN assessment while lives and livelihoods hang in the balance. We call on the Houthis to allow the UN unconditional and safe access to conduct the assessment and initial repair mission without further delay. The responsibility for this impending humanitarian, economic, and environmental disaster lies with the Houthis and with the Houthis alone.

Turning to the upcoming mandate renewal for the UN Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement, I want to note the Mission’s important role in monitoring the implementation of the governorate-wide ceasefire agreed to in Stockholm in December 2018. Despite the significant challenges over the past year, the ceasefire and the UNMHA Mission has contributed to: an overall reduction of violence across the governorate; the safety and partial functioning of the Red Sea ports, enabling the receiving and offloading of vessels; and conditions that permit some economic activity and humanitarian access. We look forward to UNMHA’s renewal.

Thank you, Mr. President.