UN envoy calls for keeping up momentum towards peace in Yemen

1923

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 10 (APP):The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, says that a three-week-long ceasefire in the crucial port city of Hudaydah was largely holding up, but the "difficult part" of reaching a lasting political settlement in the war-torn country "is still ahead of us."In a briefing to the UN Security Council, Griffiths told the UN Security Council,  that both Yemen's 
internationally-recognized government and the leader of the country's Houthi rebels had assured him in recent days that they remain committed to the truce, despite reports of clashes in Hudaydah. But although violence has fallen markedly in the Red Sea port city, the war is continuing across the country and more has to be done before further negotiations take place, the UN envoy said in a briefing.
	“Both sides have largely adhered to the ceasefire and there has been a significant decrease in hostilities,” Griffiths said of the agreement which came into force on December 18, a week after a first round of peace talks took place in Sweden.
	““This relative calm, I believe, indicates the tangible benefit of the Stockholm Agreement
for the Yemeni people and the continued commitment of the parties to making the agreement work,” he asserted.
	The special envoy credited the Council’s “swift authorization” of December’s resolution 2451, and rapid deployment of ceasefire monitors as “a clear signal to the parties and the Yemeni people of the international community’s desire to turn the agreement into facts on the ground” and hoped that security arrangements and the humanitarian access routes agreed in Stockholm will be implemented swiftly.
	“Civilians in Taiz have suffered far too much for too long, and the destruction in the city has been terrible”, he underscored. 
	“The flow of humanitarian aid needs to increase, and people need the chance to rebuild”, he added, pointing out that the Stockholm consultations provided a platform for this.Turning to the major city Taiz where the two sides have battled for control for more than three years, the UN envoy recalled its “enormous historic significance” and called its people a driving economic and cultural force.
	On the prisoner exchange agreement, Griffiths said that although implementation has been “gradual and tentative”, the UN was working with both parties to finalize the lists each submitted in Stockholm and would follow up with talks on 14 January in Amman, Jordan.
	“I hope these talks will allow many thousands of prisoners to go home and be reunited with their families”, he said, asking for the Council’s support in encouraging the parties to “overcome any challenges that may be encountered along the way.”
	Griffiths lamented that no consensus was reached on the Central Bank of Yemen or opening the Sana’a airport, which would significantly contribute to the economy and help relieve humanitarian suffering.
	“I continue to work with the parties to resolve them,” he maintained, urging both sides to “exert restraint in their media rhetoric”.
	With the goal of reaching a lasting political settlement, MGriffiths said “Sweden was just a start” and that it was important to keep up the momentum in moving the process forward.
	Calling speedy implementation “crucial”, he stressed that a lot of work needs to be done “before the parties can reach a comprehensive peace agreement”.
	The UN envoy spelled out: “We need to convene the next round, but we need substantive progress on what was agreed in Stockholm”.
	“Progress in Sweden is a basis for confidence. It would be conducive to further progress at the next round of consultations”, he concluded.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock was next to brief the 15-member Council and began with positive news that the Stockholm Agreement, and resolution 2451, “is already having an impact”.
	Civilians in Hudaydah “are a little more confident and a little less afraid that they will be victims of air strikes or caught in crossfire as they go about their lives” he said, although, he added that the wider humanitarian situation in Yemen “remains catastrophic”.
	Lowcock laid out what humanitarian agencies are doing to meet Yemen’s needs, including the World Food Programme’s (WFP) December operation, providing a record 9.5 million people with emergency food assistance.
	“WFP will expand operations to reach 12 million people a month, including the 10 million most at risk of famine, and two million acutely-vulnerable Internally Displaced People (IDPs)” he elaborated.
	Humanitarian agencies continue to roll back what was the world’s worst cholera epidemic last year, improve IDP living conditions, and mitigate hunger and malnutrition for 240,000 people facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity. “Altogether, operations in Yemen this year will, if funding is available, reach 15 million people – about half the population,” he informed.
	He acknowledged the seriousness of WFP’s recent strong statement against the theft of food intended for civilians, seeking action from defacto authorities over food aid misappropriation, saying “Steps to improve targeting and delivery mechanisms are being taken as we speak”.
	The relief chief also updated the Council on humanitarian issues related to Resolution 2451, beginning with access.
	“The humanitarian scale-up that Yemenis need will not be possible if aid workers and supplies cannot travel safely and freely to where they are needed”, he said, pointing out that enough grain for 3.5 million people had been sitting unused, possibly spoiling in the Red Sea Mills and humanitarian warehouses of Hudaydah.