Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 10, 2021
Thank you, Madam President, and thank you to our briefers for your remarks. Special Envoy Grundberg, we warmly welcome you to the Security Council and look forward to working with you and your team. Today I’d like to discuss three aspects of the conflict in Yemen: the Houthi attacks that are undermining peace efforts, the country’s dire humanitarian needs, and addressing the underlying economic drivers of the conflict.
As we underscored last month, the international consensus is clear: the violence in Yemen must stop, a broad and inclusive political process must resume, and we need to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. The appointment of Special Envoy Grundberg can help lend new momentum to these efforts. But the parties must engage seriously with the Special Envoy, and without preconditions. The parties must choose to lay down their arms, and sit across the table from other Yemenis, and discuss what Yemen will look like after the war.
Sadly, the Houthis continue to undermine these efforts. On August 29, a drone and missile attack on Al-Anad Airbase killed at least 30 people. That strike bore all the hallmarks of a Houthi attack. Two days later, on August 31, the Houthis executed yet another drone attack against the commercial airport in Abha, Saudi Arabia, which wounded eight civilians. The United States strongly condemns these attacks.
But these are only the latest attacks by a group that claims to want peace. In 2021 alone, the Houthis have launched more than 240 attacks into Saudi Arabia, endangering civilians throughout the country, including the 70,000 American citizens who reside there. The Houthis also continue their prolonged, unnecessary, and dangerous stalling of negotiations with the UN over the assessment and repair of the SAFER oil tanker. The environmental, the public health, the economic risks that are associated with SAFER are too grave and too expansive to be used as a political bargaining chip. These are all the provocations that perpetuate the conflict and that are undermining our collective efforts to facilitate a path towards peace for Yemen.
Madam President, as our briefers have detailed, millions of Yemenis suffer from the effects of conflict. The dire humanitarian situation includes, as we’ve heard, starvation, abuse of children and women, and the rampant spread of disease – including COVID-19. The United States urges the international community to contribute to the UN’s humanitarian response plan for Yemen. As part of the U.S. effort, the United States has provided 151,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to Yemen. And we want to thank UNICEF and the WHO for working with the Yemeni government to distribute these lifesaving vaccines.
Finally, Madam President, we need to address the underlying economic drivers that leave so many Yemenis unable to meet their basic needs. We urge Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni government, and the Houthis to take steps to ensure fuel is adequately imported and distributed throughout Yemen at fair prices. We also want to welcome the IMF’s recent allocation of $665 million in Special Drawing Rights to Yemen, which presents an opportunity to start reversing the decline in Yemen’s economy.
While this work is important and is needed, only a durable peace agreement can begin to help reverse the dire humanitarian crisis, which is the result of seven years of war, and the erosion of the economy and basic services.
Madam President, let me end by saying despite the dire situation, the United States believes we have reason to be hopeful. The Yemeni people want peace and an end to the ravages of war. The Houthis and other parties to the conflict still have the opportunity to change their behavior, engage seriously with Special Envoy Grundberg, and create a brighter future for Yemen. We call on them to choose this path, the path of peace and hope.
Thank you, Madam President.