Remarks by Ambassador Schulz in the UN Security Council VTC Meeting on Yemen, May 14, 2020

14.05.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

Mr. President, as our briefers have reminded us, Yemen is in an extremely dire situation right now. A combination of factors further complicates and exacerbates the crisis in Yemen. We have heard about all the places where fighting, unfortunately, continues to occur. We have heard about the upsurge in COVID-19 cases. We know that these numbers may not reflect the whole extent of the pandemic and its implications yet. We have taken note again of the fact that the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement has not made any progress.

All this leads to a pretty bleak picture. We can only hope that Yemen and the Yemeni people can overcome this on the basis of the suggestions made by our briefers this morning.

The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen must be respected. While we condemn the steps taken by the Southern Transitional Council, it is also a sign that we must not forget the situation in the south. The Declaration of Self Administration by the so-called Southern Transitional Council in the South has fueled unfortunate attention in the southern part of the country, and that deserves our full attention. The Riyadh Agreement, which lays the right basis for an inclusive political process in Yemen, needs to be implemented. Countries with influence on the parties need to step up their pressure wherever they can do so. But a continuation of the escalation itself would be a further blow to the political process, as embryonic as it may be.

Mr. President, the parties to the conflict need to agree on a country wide ceasefire, as Martin Griffiths reminded today, as part of a broader package that also needs to include confidence building measures and a serious and inclusive political process. From our point of view, this is without any alternative, and requires and deserves our full and active support.

We urge the Government of Yemen and the Houthis to agree to the Special Envoy’s latest proposals and engage constructively in the process to follow. We stress that all discussions have to be led on the basis of his proposals. We do not see any alternatives at this point in time. 

Five years into the conflict, the situation is worse than ever, and a pandemic must not lead to more suffering, more fighting and more deaths. Unfortunately, thus far, the conflict parties appear to seek individual gains from the situation at the expense of the Yemeni population. This is very unfortunate and has to stop.

Mr President, Martin Griffiths also has reminded us that women's rights activists in Yemen have shed light on the terrible consequences of this conflict for women and girls. Yemeni women have indeed repeatedly demonstrated their leadership by leading calls for a ceasefire, the release of prisoners and assisting civilians. All this highlights once again what we have been discussing here many times in the Council that women must be at the forefront of efforts to bring about and sustain peace.

Mr President, a word on the humanitarian situation: Even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yemen was characterized as one of the countries most affected by humanitarian challenges. By many accounts, Yemen actually has been qualified as the worst humanitarian crisis in the entire world. Now, this is further exacerbated and complicated by the current COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions. The country is critically under-equipped to face a highly contagious disease like COIVD-19, while at the same time dealing with recurring outbreaks of cholera and other diseases. Many health facilities have been destroyed. We said this before the outbreak of COVID-19, but it's all the more important now that all parties must fully adhere to international humanitarian law and human rights law and protect the vulnerable in these difficult circumstances.

We also need complete transparency on the spread of the pandemic because this is crucial for an effective and efficient response. We call on all parties to cooperate in dealing with the pandemic over military and political frontlines. And we must do everything to jointly prevent the situation in Yemen from becoming even more catastrophic. We have heard about the many restrictions when it comes to humanitarain assistance that OCHA reminded us of. The restrictions on humanitarian assistance must be lifted immediately. We need tangible milestones with regards to the so-called “seven asks” that we need to achieve, so that humanitarian partners can provide lifesaving assistance in Yemen and facilitate an effective response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In particular, full access into and within Yemen for international aid workers, medicine and medical supplies must be ensured and access granted to those in need. As we know, Yemen imports nearly everything. So it is critical that not only humanitarian aid, but also essential commercial goods are allowed to enter the country without cost-driving delays.

We have heard about the stigmatization of migrants and refugees related to COVID-19 in the briefings. This is absolutely unacceptable and we have to constructively work together to minimize the risks for the vulnerable population, especially for displaced persons, who are at an even higher risk.

We very much welcome the pledging conference at the beginning of June. Funding the largest humanitarian operation in the world has always been a challenge, but funding for increased needs due to COVID-19 must not affect the funding of existing lifesaving programs. Germany remains committed to its support to the humanitarian operation in Yemen and will continue to provide substantial funding.

Before concluding, Mr. President, I have one question to Martin Griffith and to OCHA. How can the Security Council and each member further increase the pressure on the parties to respond positively to the proposals you put on the table? This seems to be a key question to us. If you have any ideas or suggestions, we'll be very interested to learn about this. To OCHA: You talked about the pledging conference at the beginning of June being obviously an important milestone. We heard about your ideas about this. But if you could maybe further elaborate on your strategic goals for that particular conference, it would be extremely helpful.

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