Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Meeting on Yemen, 15 September 2020
We thank Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) Under Secretary-General, Mark Lowcock, for their briefings.
South Africa reiterates its support to Special Envoy Griffiths in his quest for a peaceful solution to the situation in Yemen, amidst continuing violence and the persistent COVID-19 pandemic.
My delegation would like to reiterate that the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen, intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, is indistinguishably linked to the political impasse. As such my intervention will focus on these two elements, namely the humanitarian and the political situation.
On the humanitarian situation, South Africa continues to express concern regarding the devastating effect on the people of Yemen, in particular the women, children, the aged, internally displaced persons, and those with disabilities.
South Africa expresses concern that the humanitarian situation is now exacerbated by the suspension by the Houthis of all UN and humanitarian flights to Sanaa in response to the blocking by the coalition of commercial vessels in Hodeida, an entry point for more than 70% of Yemen’s imports of commercial goods and aid. We urge the parties to collaborate with the Office of the Special Envoy to seek an urgent solution to ensure the continued flow of commercial imports of fuel into Yemen through Hodeida port.
We note that the despite ongoing humanitarian assistance, over 20 million Yemenis are food insecure, of which nearly 10 million are acutely food insecure. The humanitarian situation in Yemen is extremely fragile and any disruption in the pipeline of critical supplies has the potential to bring millions of people closer to starvation and death. Currently only 24 per cent of humanitarian requirements have been funded in 2020 and UN agencies are now forced to reduce or close core programmes. We therefore call on international donors to adhere to their pledges made at the recent pledging conference to avoid Yemen slipping into famine.
South Africa also calls on all parties to the conflict to agree to a unified set of measures to counter the spread of COVID-19, improve the delivery of humanitarian aid and provide impetus to the overall political negotiations to end the war in Yemen and alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people.
We consistently highlight the importance for all parties to abide by their obligations and responsibilities under international humanitarian law and international human rights, and to take all measures necessary to end and prevent violations against civilians.
On the political impasse, South Africa is concerned about the recent drone strikes by the Houthis against targets at Saudi Arabia’s Abha International Airport, Najran and Riyadh. At the same time the escalating military tensions and continuing clashes in Yemen’s embattled Marib and neighbouring al-Jawf is also of concern.
We urge all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities in line with the Secretary-General’s global ceasefire call and UNSC Resolution 2532 (2020) and to agree on confidence building measures, such as the payment of civil servants, reopening of Sana’a airport and lifting of commercial import restrictions.
We reiterate our position that a military response is not a viable solution and call on all parties to approach the resumption of the political negotiations with a spirit of compromise, placing the interests of all Yemeni’s at the centre of a negotiated political settlement. We appeal to all parties to avoid the stance of gaining “absolute” positions.
South Africa calls on all parties to engage in good faith and without preconditions with Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in order to reach a comprehensive negotiated settlement to end the conflict, and that this be done in parallel to continued efforts to implement the Stockholm and Riyadh Agreements.
South Africa also urges the Houthis to adhere to their agreement to provide access to United Nations inspectors to access and assess the Safer Oil Tanker, to avoid a man-made disaster in the Red Sea. We furthermore wish that this looming threat will be dealt with on a purely technical basis, without politicisation.
In conclusion, Mr President,
South Africa reiterates that the only solution to the conflict in Yemen would be an inclusive Yemeni-led, Yemeni-owned, political settlement that will deliver on the hopes of the Yemeni people for a strong economic and political future. In this context we also call for the full and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of an inclusive political process.
I thank you.
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