Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Yemen

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the UN
New York City
July 18, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you to our briefers today for your remarks and for the tireless effort of your teams.

Progress on the UN-led political process is vitally important, but it faces obstacles both within Yemen, and from outside forces. This Council has seen regional escalation by Iran, and we are alarmed by the recent uptick in Houthi attacks, especially on Saudi civilian airports. We must do everything we can to prevent these attacks from undermining hard-earned progress on the UN-led political track in Yemen. We urge the parties to undertake de-escalatory measures to demonstrate commitment to a Yemeni-led political resolution.

As part of this de-escalation, we call on the Houthis to immediately cease UAV, rocket, and other attacks against their fellow citizens and neighbors. Iran must cease supplying the Houthis with the weapons and the technology used in those attacks.

Since December, this Council has urged the government of Yemen and the Houthis to demonstrate their commitment to a political settlement by taking good faith measures to de-escalate tensions and redeploying from Hudaydah as agreed in Sweden.

We are encouraged by progress at the recent RCC meeting, and see it as proof of what can be achieved when the parties work in good faith with Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and RCC Chair Lieutenant General Michael Lollesgaard. Yet harder work lies ahead, as we have heard here today, and the parties must make good on their commitments. This means implementing redeployments and reaching consensus on the contentious issue of Local Security Forces, while continuing to exercise restraint so that fighting does not threaten the ceasefire. We welcome the recent meeting between President Hadi and Special Envoy Griffiths; we hope this paves the way for further collaboration and towards finding a political solution to this conflict.

The United States expresses our disappointment over recent reports that Houthi authorities sentenced 30 activists to death in Sana’a, and reminds the Houthis of their commitment to an exchange of prisoners and detainees, per the Stockholm agreement. Tangible progress on the exchange of prisoners would indicate the seriousness of the parties to build confidence towards an agreement to end the conflict.

And as the sobering briefings today reminded us, the humanitarian situation in Yemen is dire. The United States remains seriously concerned about the increasing risk of famine in Yemen, particularly, as we have heard today, among vulnerable populations. We were heartened to learn that the World Food Program (WFP) was able to salvage a portion of the wheat stored at the Red Sea Mills, which they recently reached despite obstacles placed by the Houthis. We commend the WFP’s efforts in this regard.

We’re also closely monitoring negotiations between the WFP and the Houthis to enable the full resumption of food aid. While the Houthis delay their cooperation with the WFP, the Yemeni people continue to suffer. We hope for a resolution that prioritizes the needs of vulnerable Yemenis and we condemn Houthi efforts to undermine humanitarian activities through the diversion of aid.
We must ensure that humanitarian assistance continues to effectively reach the millions in need. There is no excuse for the obstruction of UN humanitarian assistance in Yemen. The United States remains one of the largest humanitarian contributors in Yemen, and we join the call today for all donors to step up assistance in Yemen, and to fulfill their financial commitments pledged in Geneva in February.

The United States supports the UN efforts to uphold the integrity of its humanitarian assistance programs to ensure that life-saving aid directly reaches those in need. Those who seek to defraud and divert such assistance are in violation of internationally recognized humanitarian principles, and are directly and intentionally contributing to Yemen’s dire humanitarian crisis.

We continue to encourage all parties to respect the humanitarian principles of independence, neutrality, and impartiality to avoid creating a more precarious situation for vulnerable populations in Yemen.

Thank you, Mr. President.