With 1 in 4 civilians killed, injured at home, Secretary-General urges Yemen’s belligerents to end fighting, respect ‘milestone’ accords

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Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the high‑level ministerial meeting on Yemen, in New York today:

I wish to start by reiterating my personal attachment to Yemen, which dates back to my time as High Commissioner for Refugees and I will never forget the generosity of the Yemeni people in hosting refugees.

Since assuming the position of Secretary-General, I have constantly sought to do whatever I can to help find a peaceful resolution to the conflict. More than five years of war have devastated the lives of tens of millions of Yemenis, brought State institutions to the verge of collapse and reversed development by decades.

With the coronavirus pandemic, the urgency of reaching a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict has only grown. There are more than 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Yemen. But, experts estimate that there are possibly up to 1 million affected by the virus, with a fatality rate as high as 30 per cent, as war has decimated the country’s health facilities.

Despite initial expressions of support by the warring parties for my call for a global ceasefire and a Yemeni-specific truce, the conflict continues unabated. In recent weeks, conflict has unfortunately escalated. Air strikes and ground clashes result in many civilian casualties, and Houthi drone and missile attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia persist. More civilians were killed in August than any other month of the year, with 1 in 4 civilian victims killed and injured in their own homes.

I call again on all parties to cooperate under the facilitation of my Special Envoy and engage in good faith, without preconditions, in efforts to reach an agreement on the Joint Declaration, comprising a nationwide ceasefire, economic and humanitarian confidence-building measures and the resumption of the political process. The military escalation in Ma’rib — where more than 1 million civilians have sought shelter since 2015 — and elsewhere only serves to derail these efforts.

Since 2018, Yemeni parties have reached a series of agreements, namely the United Nations-brokered Stockholm Agreement and the Saudi-facilitated Riyadh Agreement, which, if implemented, would lay the groundwork for sustainable peace. We must build on these important milestones.

I urge all parties to cease hostilities. The United Nations will continue to support them in implementing these agreements.

I am also deeply concerned about the Safer oil tanker, moored off the western coast of Yemen. Since 2015, it has had almost no maintenance. An oil spill, explosion or fire would have catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences for Yemen and the entire region.

It would force the closing of the Hudaydah port for many months, cutting off food supplies for millions of people. I call for rapid and unconditional access for the technical team to the tanker to assess its condition, conduct any possible repairs and avert a disaster.

I also urge all donors to disburse the pledges made at the 2 June high-level pledging conference and to increase their support. Donors at the 2 June event pledged only half as much as the year before, so it is very worrying that meaningful sums still remain unpaid.

To date, only 30 per cent of the United Nations response plan is funded — the lowest level ever this late in the year. Critical United Nations programmes are closing down. Fulfilling all pledges to date, and increasing them wherever possible, is vital to prevent a devastating famine. Now is the time to step up for the people of Yemen. Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.