Opening remarks by the UN Special Envoy at a consultative meeting with Yemeni public and political figures, Amman, Jordan


27 Feb 2020

Opening remarks by the UN Special Envoy at a consultative meeting with Yemeni public and political figures, Amman, Jordan

Yemen experienced one of the quietest periods of the conflict particularly in the air war.

But recent military escalations since then have demonstrated the exceptional vulnerability of such gains that were made in the absence, in our view, of a political process to give them meaning and direction.

Over the past month and a half, in particular, the military situation has grown more dire.

Both sides have announced expansive military goals and exchanged fierce rhetoric.

Frontlines which had been quiet for several months have been drawn into the escalation and reports of airstrikes and cross-border aerial attacks have increased considerably.

And I am particularly concerned, deeply concerned, that the escalations that we have seen east of Sana’a may threaten progress, limited though as may be in Hudaydah, where the situation is exceptionally vulnerable to renewed violence and we fear this is an imminent threat.

Despite this bleak season, there have been signs that the confidence the parties worked so hard to build has not gone to waste. The recent medical air bridge flights have allowed a number, still very few, of Yemeni patients to receive life-saving medical care. Last week, as you know, the parties came together here in Amman to implement the first official, large-scale exchange of prisoners, a crucial step toward implementing the Stockholm Agreement and intriguingly the meeting that was held last week was twelve months, a full twelve months later since the one took place before, so the progress on that file have not been rapid.

Despite the ongoing fighting, the parties are still working very constructively and I thank those here relevant to this with my Office to allow more and more ships through the ports in Hudaydah. And we continue to mediate between the parties to support them in fulfilling their commitments to use the revenues incurred there to as a basis on the contribution to pay the salaries of government’s servants.

Now in order to build upon and consolidate these gains, we need, in my opinion, a truly inclusive de-escalation arrangement to ensure military restraint. But we realize that a reduction in violence is not enough, and this has been, very particularly the lesson of the past few months.

There is no alternative to a negotiated solution. All sides must make compromises and we cannot afford to wait any longer. This conflict has already claimed too many victims, and it threatens the collapse of the state and the disintegration of the social fabric. And every day that we together lose translates into immeasurable more effort, time and resources that will be required to rebuild the institutions and infrastructure necessary for a return to civility and a dignified life for the people of Yemen.

So I believe that we are at a crossroads. We will either see agreement on an inclusive de-escalation mechanism, that I referred to, and a resumption of the political process, or, as I fear, Yemen may enter a new phase of greater escalation, in which the numbers of victims will rise, and the path back to the negotiating table will be more arduous.

For three and a half years, since the talks in Kuwait, there has been no formal, UN-mediated negotiations over the substance of an agreement that would go beyond confidence-building measures and comprehensively end this conflict. In our view, there should be no resistance to re-convening talks. Resuming the political process is not a reward, it is merely the start of an organized process to begin addressing the roots of this conflict; and its existence should be a given.

We are, nonetheless, mindful of the need to move forward on the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement, in all its aspects, and indeed distinguishably with the Riyadh Agreement. But these agreements cannot and should not be implemented in isolation of broader efforts to end the conflict. They should not become preconditions that block the resumption of talks. Rather, the political process should reinforce those commitments made and ensure they are fully and sustainably implemented.

We have asked you to come here to this consultation to help us think through together the steps needed to take us from where we are now, to the launch, at last, of that political process. This meeting is not, if there is any doubt about this, this is not a forum for negotiations, this is a consultation about these issues, so I encourage and ask you and I know this will be the case, to be frank and to think creatively with us about how to go forward.

We are here to engage with you. We want to hear your insights on the biggest challenges facing the resumption of the political process and your recommendations how to overcome those challenges.

You represent, as I said last night, a diverse group of Yemenis with a wealth of experience and expertise to contribute to this discussion. You are more than that. You are also their leaders. I am grateful particularly to see that a third of the participants here are women, because of the significant role women play across Yemen in peacemaking, which you are the leaders and to a degree that is more than might be imagined, the future is clearly in your hands

Thank you very much