UN Special Envoy’s remarks to the press following the Security Council session on Yemen

Photo: OSESGY/Abdel Rahman Alzorgan

15 Jun 2022

UN Special Envoy’s remarks to the press following the Security Council session on Yemen

Good afternoon. It’s very good to be back in New York and very good to see you all. I have just briefed the Council on the latest of my efforts. And I would want to take this opportunity to give you some short points in this regard.

The truce continues to deliver tangible benefits to the Yemeni people. And as of today, 8 round trips flights between Sana’a Airport and Amman and Cairo have taken off. Hudaydah port continues to see increased and regular flow of fuel, which is considerably easing chronic fuel shortages. In addition to introducing measures that helps alleviate civilian suffering in Yemen, the United Nations-mediated truce contributes to significant military de-escalation and reduction in civilian casualties across Yemen and beyond its borders. However, we still see records civilian casualties from landmines as civilians moved through areas that were previously inaccessible due to fighting before the truce. The truce has also enabled the United Nations to convene direct discussions between the warring sides for the first time in years, and in Amman, Jordan last month, my Office convened two meetings for the military representatives of the parties to discuss setting up joint mechanism for addressing, managing, and preventing incidents that threaten de-escalation efforts. The parties also convened to discuss the re-opening of roads in Taiz and other governorates across Yemen.

Following the discussions on road openings, we presented to both parties a United Nations-proposal that balances the different concerns and positions expressed by both sides for the phased re-opening of key roads in Taiz and other governorates. It is a proposal that upholds the underlying objective and hope to deliver tangible and acceptable results to the people of Taiz and Yemen at large, who’s freedom of movement has long been hindered by the conflict.

Freedom of movement does not only pertain to the movement of Yemeni men, women, and children to travel safely and freely. It also impacts the delivery of essential goods and transportation costs, which, as we know too well, puts further strains on the deteriorating Yemeni economy and the livelihoods of Yemenis who continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.

The proposal on Taiz has been presented to both sides and I am now awaiting a response from Ansar Allah’s leadership. And I hope that we will receive a response soon and I also hope that this response will be positive. As I told the Council, for the next month and a half, I will be working closely with the parties to ensure the implementation but also the consolidation of all elements of the truce. I plan to start discussions on the economic and security tracks to reach more durable solutions. And I will continue to engage with Yemeni stakeholders on options to resume a political process.

Thank you very much.

Questions and Answers

Question: Special Envoy, I have two questions. You said that you plan to initiate negotiations on economic and security tracks. Do you have a date set in your mind? When do you plan to do that? And when you negotiate with the two sides, do you bring them together?  And do you plan to bring them together? And also are the Houthis ready to allow to offload the oil tanker when the UN has this $80 million required? Thank you.

Special Envoy Hans Grundberg: Thanks. On the dates. No, no dates planned. So the idea, there are two lines of efforts that will be critical for the upcoming period. One is ensuring, as I mentioned, that the truce is implemented in full and that it continues to be implemented on all these different elements. There you have the agreement of the truce on the website of our mission, so you can follow there what is expected. Second line of effort is to make sure that we, by the end of this period, also do not come to a situation where we can not only see an implementation of the truce, but also a consolidated version of it and, and see more durable solutions to some issues related to economy and some issues related also to the military setup of the truce. And that is something that I will want to engage with the parties on. How that will take place? Well, obviously I think that I will first continue my direct Interaction with the parties, but then at some point I will also want to continue see the parties meeting face-to-face if possible together with me under the auspices of the United Nations. Thanks.

On the oil tanker, no that's a very good question as always. This is a file that is managed by the Resident Coordinator. I think that what is welcomed in that regard is the additional pledges that have been made recently, I think notably by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and by the United States of America, which means that I believe the, there are now $40 million available for the first phase of the project. And, there, I do hope that we will be in a position to move this forward.

Question from Arab News Daily: What do you think is taking the Houthis so long to respond to your proposed plan for phased opening?

Special Envoy Hans Grundberg: Well, if you consider the fact that seven years have gone, and we have not seen a resolution despite several attempts, on the matter of Taiz, I think that the fact that we have been waiting for six days, or slightly more, since the proposal was presented to them is, within that context, not a long period of time, but obviously since we are within the framework of the 60 days of the truce, every day that goes  is particularly long. So, there I think that this just highlights the fact that this is not an easy file or an easy matter to solve. But there I will also encourage all parties now also, including Ansar Allah, to make a speedy progress on this issue as possible.

cont'd: Also like we haven't heard such good news from Yemen in so long. How optimistic are you that the current truce is actually good grounds for an implementation of a larger settlement realistically?

Special Envoy Hans Grundberg: Those of you who know me and have seen me in action know that I try to take one step at a time and not rush too quickly, but also make sure that all steps that are taken are done in an incremented manner and consolidated manner. And there, I think that what we have seen right now are steps that have been unprecedented, and that we have not seen during the last seven years. And, that is absolutely something that we should welcome. But there's absolutely more to do and there's more efforts to be done. And therefore I will want to continue to engage with the parties in all those issues and there I hope that we can take the necessary steps forward. Thanks.

Question: So if you, from what you just said, can put this in context after this long period of turmoil for Yemenis, do you now believe Yemen has turned a corner and can you foresee a time in the near future when the political divisions can be, uh, solved and you'd have the whole country under one government?

Special Envoy Hans Grundberg: It is a question that I don't think can be answered easily. I think that whether Yemen has turned a corner or not is on the basis of the parties’ commitments to the agreements that they have done so far under the auspices of the United Nations. There, I think that, as in line with the question that was asked previously, I think that what we will need to do is first look into the current period ahead, making sure that the commitments are upheld, that the truce is implemented in all its elements. And also that we see a constructive engagement from the parties on that couple of subjects that I want them to engage with me on and where I know that the parties themselves want to see some progress and there, depending on the progress that are made there, we can hopefully see then a re-engagement into something more consolidated for the period ahead. Whether this is turning the corner or not, I think the future will tell us. And, there for me, my engagement will remain. I will be as relentless and as stubborn as I will always has been and will continue those efforts no matter what. Thanks.

Question from Sky News Arabic: Next month, President Biden will do a visit in the region. Do you think this visit has any kind of impact on the situation in Yemen? And also a follow-up on the negotiation between the US, Western countries and Iran on the JCPOA, do you think this kind of negotiation has any impact on developing negotiation on Yemen. Thank you.

Special Envoy Hans Grundberg: Thanks. The United States of America is an important member of the Security Council being one of the permanent members of the Council and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the more important neighbors of Yemen. As such the fact that you have the Head of State of the United States of America traveling to Saudi Arabia is obviously something that, I think that there is a need for those two countries to understand each other, make sure that they continue the support in moving Yemen out of its current conflict. So any discussions that has that as an aim is something that I welcome and there on, on a broader level, I welcome the cooperation that I have today with both these countries.

The second issue on the issue related to if some other international files have an impact on the development in Yemen, there I would want to re-emphasize that the situation in Yemen is not only on a political, but also on a humanitarian level, fairly complicated and difficult. And it cannot afford being affected by other files or being used as a pawn with the other files. So there, I would want to urge all sides or all countries to avoid seeing Yemen as a pawn in a broader scheme and make sure that they focus on Yemen for the sake of Yemen as I do. Thanks.

Question from Al Jazeera Arabic: Could you please elaborate more on your plan to start talks on the economic and security tracks. And also, how can you proceed on such a plan if there is still a deadlock on the opening roads to Taiz and other areas?

Special Envoy Hans Grundberg: It is a good question, but I think it goes in line with what I said earlier, but I think that obviously I need to have a plan for the way forward, no matter where we stand. And there, I think that my aim is to make sure that the issue that we come around, the difficulties that we might see on Taiz and that that is delivered. And there, I have already engaged in conversations with the parties on the priorities for the way forward. And I've seen that there is interest on a couple of files, which I would want to explore further. But again, I am in the hands of the parties and in the willingness of the parties to engage with me and with themselves. So, there for me, my priority will be to listen carefully to their views, but also to propose and facilitate the way forward on these two files.

Thank you.