Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the VTC Security Council Meeting on Yemen, 16 April 2020

Mr President,

We thank Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and OCHA Under-Secretary-General Mark Lowcock, for their briefings.

South Africa continues to reiterate its support to the Special Envoy and applauds his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the situation in Yemen during these distressing times amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr President,

South Africa joins other members of the Council in welcoming the unilateral ceasefire that was announced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on behalf of the Joint Forces Command. This is in-line with the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire in Yemen and we trust that all parties can make similar commitments in support of the UN’s peace process. We note and welcome the Government of Yemen’s positive response and look forward to the Houthis making a similar commitment.

As pointed out, South Africa supports the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy and we therefore encourage the parties to continue their cooperation with him in order to reach a Yemeni-led and -owned, comprehensive and inclusive political settlement, which addresses the legitimate concerns of all Yemenis. In this context we also call for the full and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of an inclusive political process.

In the same vein, we emphasise the full implementation of the Hodeidah Agreement by all parties, which we believe will direct the path to continued dialogue and a political settlement. Furthermore, we welcome the announcement of the Special Envoy’s comprehensive initiative to supplement all diplomatic efforts to end the war in Yemen.

Mr President,

South Africa remains concerned at the alarming number of deaths exceeding 100,000 that resulted from this war thus far. It has also led to widespread starvation, amidst the dire humanitarian situation which continues to worsen due to the continuing conflict.

South Africa strongly urges all parties to resume political negotiations that will result in a lasting peace in Yemen and will allow for the rebuilding of the country.

Mr President,

The first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Yemen on 10 April, in the Hadramout governorate. Yemen remains critically under-equipped to bear the burden that this virus will place on its health facilities, bearing in mind that only half of its health care infrastructure is operational. South Africa welcomes the measures taken by both the National Government of Accord and the Houthis to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Yemen. These measures highlight the ability of both sides to work together towards a common goal.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, South Africa calls on the parties to the conflict, to fulfil their responsibility to the people of Yemen by ensuring access, and unhindered passage of humanitarian and medical supplies to those in dire need and to stop the spread of this virus.

It is certainly the time to lay down arms and take up the fight against the coronavirus, together. South Africa reiterates its call to all parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations in terms of international human rights and international humanitarian law.

In conclusion, Mr President,

This unprecedented humanitarian crisis is a strong indicator of the human toll of continued military action and conflict, which necessitates an urgent commitment to a ceasefire and the pursuit of a negotiated, peaceful and inclusive solution to the crisis.

We wish to reiterate that the only sustainable solution to this conflict will be a negotiated, Yemeni-led and Yemeni-owned political settlement that provides a strong economic and political future for all Yemenis.

I, thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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