Statement by Ambassador Xolisa Mabhongo, Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Meeting on Yemen, 15 October 2020
We thank Special Envoy Martin Griffiths; as well as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, for their briefings.
South Africa continues to support Special Envoy Griffiths in his search for a peaceful solution to the situation in Yemen, despite the continuing violence and the persistent COVID-19 pandemic.
My delegation would like to reiterate that the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen, intensified by the COVID19 pandemic, is indistinguishably linked to the political impasse. As such my intervention will focus on these two elements, namely the humanitarian and the political situations.
On the humanitarian situation, South Africa continues to express concern regarding the devastating effect on the people of Yemen, in particular the women, children, the aged, internally displaced persons, and those with disabilities.
South Africa expresses concern that the surging violence risks worsening the widespread man-made hunger crisis in Yemen, where two-thirds of the population require food aid. Although there has been ongoing humanitarian assistance, over 20 million Yemenis are faced with the harsh reality of food insecurity.
7.4 million Yemenis don’t know where their next meal will come from, more than 12 million are in acute need of assistance to obtain drinking water and 2 million children require acute treatment for malnutrition, which can cause stunted growth and affect mental development. Yemen is already vulnerable, and it is doubly reprehensible to wage a war of starvation.
South Africa also calls on all parties to the conflict to agree to a unified set of measures to counter the spread of COVID-19, improve the delivery of humanitarian aid and provide impetus to the overall political negotiations to end the war in Yemen and alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people.
We consistently highlight the importance of all parties abiding by their obligations and responsibilities under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and to take all measures necessary to end and prevent violations against civilians.
On the political impasse, South Africa is concerned that the fighting in Yemen has intensified in recent days, threatening to unravel a stalled peace process and deepen the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.
This past week, Hodeida saw the worst escalation in violence since the truce two years ago. The number of civilian casualties nationwide in September, was the highest since last November, with 67 killed and 123 injured.
We urge all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities in line with the Secretary General’s global ceasefire call and UNSC Resolution 2532 (2020) and to agree on confidence building measures, such as the payment of civil servants, reopening of Sana’a airport and lifting of commercial import restrictions. The effects of the blockade are worse than the aggression itself, both a cease-fire and lifting the siege are required to start the peace process.
We reiterate our position that a military response is not a viable solution and call on all parties to approach the resumption of the political negotiations with a spirit of compromise, placing the interests of all Yemeni’s at the centre of a negotiated political settlement. We appeal to all parties to avoid the stance of gaining “absolute” positions.
South Africa calls on all parties to engage in good faith and without preconditions with Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in order to reach a comprehensive negotiated settlement to end the conflict, and that this be done in parallel to continued efforts to implement the Stockholm and Riyadh Agreements.
South Africa applauds the progress made under the Stockholm Agreement, in terms of the agreement to swop over 1000 prisoners. We urge the parties to implement this agreement hastily and for further measures to be taken towards implementing the Stockholm Agreement. We hope that this success would provide impetus towards the much-anticipated implementation of the Hodeida Agreement.
We also are encouraged that this progress can resolve the lack of access and inspection of the Safer Tanker so that this looming threat will be dealt with on a purely technical basis, without politicisation.
In conclusion, Mr President,
South Africa reiterates that the only solution to the conflict in Yemen would be an inclusive Yemeni-led, Yemeni-owned, political settlement that will deliver on the hopes of the Yemeni people for a strong economic and political future. In this context we also call for the full and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of an inclusive political process.
I thank you.
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