Briefing of Martin Griffiths, Un Special Envoy for Yemen, to the Security Council

UN Photo/Manuel Elia

15 May 2019

Briefing of Martin Griffiths, Un Special Envoy for Yemen, to the Security Council

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. President for giving me the opportunity to brief this Council.

Today, of course, I am very pleased to report to the Council on progress in the implementation of the Hudaydah agreement.

Between 11 and 14 May, Ansar Allah have undertaken an initial redeployment of forces from the ports of Al-Hudaydah, Saleef and Ras Issa under United Nations monitoring. My colleague, General Michael Lollesgaard and his team from the UN Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement were there at each of the three ports to monitor and verify these redeployments, and his mission confirmed that Ansar Allah was fully compliant throughout the withdrawal and that they were very cooperative. The military forces of Ansar Allah have now left those three ports.

I would like to congratulate General Michael Lollesgard and his team for this achievement, and express my gratitude to them for remaining steadfast in support of the Hudaydah agreement.

This progress will allow the United Nations to play the “leading role” given to it in supporting the Yemen Red Sea Ports Corporation in management and inspections at the ports, including enhanced monitoring by the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism.Inspectors being ready to deploy.

The UN is also ready to help improve the productivity and efficiency of Hudaydah port. UNDP indeed is sending a team to the port to install lights to help ships berth safely; repair facilities, upgrade the berths; and demine the outer perimeter of the port facility, and in addition, and I thought I’d might mention that starting this Saturday, UNDP will be supporting 4,000 people in Hudaydah on public works. So there are signs of a new beginning in Hudaydah and change, I’d like to think Mr. President, in Hudaydah is now a reality.  

Mr. President,

As I have said to this Council many times since December, since that agreement was made in Sweden, we never expected the implementation of this agreement to be easy. And it hasn’t been. But with the continuous commitment of the parties and the Coalition, the swift and decisive support of this Council and the stewardship of General Michael’s mission, UNMHA, we have seen the first concrete step towards the implementation of the Hudaydah Agreement.

I am grateful to Abdel Malik Al-Houthi for his commitment and to Ansar Allah for following through on their promises. It shows their seriousness and commitment to implement what was agreed in Stockholm. And my appreciation goes to them for being the first to redeploy their forces as originally agreed. This is most welcome.

I should also add, and I’m sure we will hear later, that the Government of Yemen has been consistent in affirming its commitment to redeploy as agreed, as negotiated firstly in the Phase One of redeployment, and this is also most welcome.  I had the opportunity to meet the Permanent Representative of Yemen yesterday, we discussed exactly this commitment which is clear and unequivocal. I’m grateful to President Hadi for his continued leadership. I know he is personally committed to the full implementation of the Hudaydah agreement and has often insisted, in particular, on the prime importance of the redeployments.      

Mr. President,

This moment is significant and it’s worth cherishing such moments, which are not as frequent as we would hope, but this is of course only the beginning. These redeployments must be followed, and I’m sure will be followed by concrete actions of the parties to deliver on their obligations under the Stockholm Agreement. We would like the parties to ensure that the momentum that we now begin to see is maintained by implementing subsequent steps of the mutual redeployments, verified, monitored by the parties, and by ensuring the support that we need in the UN to increase our role in the ports. If these measures do not go forward, the Hudaydah agreement will remain in a precarious situation as we have seen in the months of this year.

So I call on both parties to agree on the operational plan for Phase Two, which General Michael is negotiating, so that we can continue to see movements in Hudaydah. And once an agreement there has been finalized and the implementation of the rest of Phase One and Phase Two is underway, the parties will indeed monitor, verify and report with us on all redeployment as agreed through the RCC Committee, in which they are represented. We are alsopursuing with the parties an agreement on the issue of the approach to local security forces in parallel with negotiations on redeployments.

I hope, we must all hope, that the progress we are witnessing and the subsequent steps of the parties intend to take will allow additional areas in Hudaydah, and I pick one al-Duraihmi District for example, to witness the immediate benefit of increased humanitarian assistance, and of course we will hear a lot more from colleagues, Henrietta and Mark on such matters.

The purpose of the Hudaydah agreement, of what we had in mind all along, of what the parties have in mind all along, is to improve the humanitarian situation, both there and for the rest of Yemen, that is its aim.

 I am encouraged by the steps taken by the parties to address the issues related to the economic aspects of the Hudaydah agreement, specifically looking at the revenue in the ports, and representatives of the two parties came together in Amman yesterday and today with my office to discuss these issues. I need to stress the importance of these discussions, as they will ensure and this is the objective that the revenues from the ports are used for the benefit of the people of Yemen and salaries paid across the front lines. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Jordan for allowing this meeting to take place and for hosting it.

Mr. President,

Despite the significance of the last few days, Yemen remains very much at the crossroads between war and peace. If the ceasefire in Hudaydah is generally holding, generally holding, carefully chosen words, intensification of the conflict in all its dimension , as I’m sure we will hear, continues to be alarming, and this intensification in all its different aspects is a reminder that hard won achievements of the sort that I have been describing can be easily wiped away, can be easily reduced. We cannot ignore how the war affects the political process and the move towards peace. And finding our way through to a political solution is always a delicate exercise. A fragile vessel.

Mr. President,

Tangible progress on Hudaydah will and should allow us to look ahead to the negotiations to end the conflict and enable the resumption of the political negotiation, and the finding of the political solution to the conflict. As many many Yemenis have made clear to me in recent days, only a comprehensive solution will be able to provide Yemen with sustainable peace.

It has been three years since the parties discussed politics. Three years since they had the privilege of meeting in Kuwait in 2016. It’s about time we gave them the the opportunity to do so again.

I hope that the parties can start these negotiations on the political solution as soon as possible. Much of the ground work for these discussions on the political solution has been laid, the key tenets of that solution are well-known, not least because of the three months in Kuwait three years ago. Discussions that are guided by the relevant resolutions of this Council, including 2216.

These negotiations, which is the principle focus, of course, of my mission, will require patience, good faith and, of course, concessions that go beyond what we have seen before.

Mr. President,

The resolution to this conflict will also only be possible if we include the voices of the broad range of Yemenis. The inclusion of women in particular in the peace process will shape the future of their involvement during the transition. And I recommit my office to be dedicated to that proposition. The contribution of the Yemeni Women’s Technical Advisory Group, so-called, which has been with us in the talks, in between the talks, has already been valuable during the Stockholm consultations, and it should provide a basis to reach out much more broadly to Yemeni women who remain in their homes in the frontlines looking after their families.  

In April, last month I met with the eight representatives of that technical advisory group on Scotland in the United Kingdom, where they generated ideas with us for the comprehensive peace agreement, on how to maintain stability in Yemen through the post-agreement phase. And they came with great difficulty to the United Kingdom, traveling from Yemen is not a simple matter, nor is it a safe matter. I would like to record my gratitude to them for the risks they take and for the advice they give. And again we will depend on that relationship as we move into reviewing the political options to resolve this conflict. I would like to emphasize, as again if I may, the importance of enhancing southern participation in the peace process. I have met with several southern groups during the past year, we have an office in Aden now led by a very distinguished and experienced Political Officer of the United Nations, and I am grateful for the commitment that these groups show us that their concerns about their future should be resolved in dialogue with all Yemeni groups, and that is the commitments that they give us, but we must maintain a very close relationship with them to make sure that we hear them, we listen to their aspirations.

Mr. President,

There are signs of hope. Nothing can, nothing should, remove our welcome or reduce our welcome to the redeployments made these last days in Hudaydah and the prospect of more to come.

But there are also alarming signs, in recent days, there are alarming signs of the war. War has a habit of trumping peace, its impact more corrosive than the positive effect of hard won gains towards ending wars. The ease with which progress can be reduced or removed is indeed frightening. And this is I think also a lesson of these days, progress can be made, progress can be threatened.

Finally, Mr. President, what I would like to ask through your Members of this Council is first to welcome the redeployments that we have seen in Hudaydah in the last few days; to welcome the commitment of both parties to those redeployments, to urge them to work quickly with General Michael Lollesgaard to implement the remaining redeployments; and on that basis, through this Council to work with us urgently on a political solution. And finally, these beginnings must be protected from the threat of war. We must not allow war to take peace off the table.

Thank you Mr. President.