Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on Yemen

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 16, 2021


Let me start by thanking Special Envoy Griffiths and Under-Secretary-General Lowcock, for your briefings. We are also grateful for Ms. Shawky’s insight from the field. We thank you – and all of the aid workers you represent here today – for the critical, lifesaving work you do under the most difficult and desperate of circumstances.

I started out my first full day as U.S. Ambassador to the UN hearing from humanitarian NGOs working on the ground in Yemen. I am committed to ensuring that we as a Council hear from those voices in the field, particularly the voices of women.

For our part, the United States is stepping up our diplomacy to end the war. Special Envoy Lenderking recently met key leaders in Saudi Arabia, Oman, the Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Jordan.

He has met multiple times with the Republic of Yemen Government’s Foreign Minister and other key stakeholders, including our European counterparts.

The United States is working tirelessly, in full coordination with Special Envoy Griffiths, to create the conditions for the parties to reach a ceasefire and a negotiated end to the conflict. One that incorporates the perspectives and the experiences of the Yemeni people.

First and foremost, all parties to this conflict must stop fighting. Peace is the only path forward. All parties understand the steps necessary to move forward toward a comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire and political talks, and we call on them now to execute these steps.

But there can be no ceasefire and no peace in Yemen if the Houthis continue their daily attacks against the Yemeni people, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region.

Unfortunately, Houthi attacks have continued unabated since December, when they attempted to assassinate the new Yemeni cabinet. And today, the Houthi offensive in Marib is taking the lives of more Yemeni men, women, and children. They are also cruelly detaining innocent people. We grieve the lives lost in the fire on March 7 at a migrant facility in Sana’a, which we heard from all of our speakers on. Dozens of migrants subjected to inhumane conditions by the Houthis were needlessly killed.

The death and violence must stop. We call on the Houthis to accept an immediate, comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire and to cease all attacks. In the meantime, we will continue to hold Houthi leadership to account.

The Houthis are now threatening irreversible catastrophe delaying the UN’s assessment and initial repair of the Safer oil tanker. It is well past time for the Houthis to quit stalling.

If they delay further, they could devastate not just the environment, but the lives and livelihoods of an estimated four million people. We urge other nations to continue to press the Houthis to allow the assessment to move forward immediately.

We also commend the Security Council’s decision to designate Sultan Zabin under the UN sanctions regime for overseeing and carrying out detentions, torture, and sexual violence against politically active women who opposed the Houthis.

We will continue to work with the Yemen sanctions committee to identify individuals and entities who meet the designation criteria.

Finally, as we redouble our efforts to end this war, we cannot ignore Yemen’s worsening humanitarian disaster. As Mark reminded us, more than 14 million Yemeni people are on the brink of starvation. This includes 2.3 million children under the age of five. WFP Executive Director David Beasley told us last week during the signature event of our presidency, the open debate on conflict and food security, that while we’re sitting here, a child dies there every minute and a quarter. That is hell on earth. These numbers are, frankly, almost too difficult to imagine.

So, I would like to end with a call – a plea, in fact – for funding a massive, and worthy, humanitarian response, that we just heard about from our three speakers. During the March 1 High-Level Pledging Event, Secretary Blinken announced over $190 million in additional U.S. humanitarian assistance, bringing the total of U.S. financial assistance for Yemen to more than $350 million so far this fiscal year.

Unfortunately, the overall international fundraising effort of this conference fell significantly short. We ask that regional donors in particular contribute additional funding, and we encourage those who did make generous pledges to fulfill their commitments promptly.

The United States is committing to doing its part, both to provide aid and to help address the obstacles standing in the way of humanitarian assistance. But we can’t do it alone. We urge all parties in both the north and south of Yemen to open the gates, allow the unfettered importation and distribution of fuel, and to let the neutral, life-saving humanitarians in. Not doing this means more deaths and, I dare say, more blood on their hands.

As Ms. Shawky so shockingly described, millions of Yemeni people remain in dire need. For them, the words that we say here in the Council can only go so far. The important thing is that we act, and we act now, as we have heard from all of our speakers today.

We all expressed to a number here on this screen our shock at the situation. We all called for an end to the violence, and we all declared our support for the Yemeni people. Let’s translate these statements into actions.

Thank you, very much.