Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the VTC Security Council Meeting on Yemen, 14 May 2020

Mr President,

We thank Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ramesh Rajasingham, for their briefings. South Africa echoes its support for your efforts Special Envoy in seeking a peaceful solution to the situation in Yemen amidst the calamitous circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ramesh, you gave a worrying report, especially, the imminent closure of much needed health services, especially those provided by WHO and numerous NGOs. We hope that donor countries will respond generously to the 2 June meeting Ramesh reported on.

We welcome the PR of Yemen to our deliberations this morning.

My delegation would like to reiterate that the dire humanitarian situation persisting in Yemen is linked to the political impasse; as such our intervention will focus on these 2 elements.

Mr President,

On the humanitarian situation,

South Africa notes that there are a growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. With only half of the health facilities across the country fully functional, due to the previous heavy bombing and attacks, Yemen is simply not equipped to handle a full-scale COVID-19 outbreak. The virus is now reaching the north of Yemen, home to some of the most vulnerable children and families in this humanitarian catastrophe. If this crisis is not addressed, an entire generation will suffer long-term physical and psychological consequences.

In line with, and supporting the UNSG’s call for a global ceasefire in the context of this deadly pandemic and to allow unhindered humanitarian access, South Africa welcomes the ongoing measures taken by both the National Government of Accord and the Houthis to curb the spread of COVID-19, by closing airports, schools, cafés and wedding halls to varying degrees as well as conducting temperature tests at several entry points to the country. These actions highlight the ability of both sides to work together towards a common goal, however, the violence must stop so the Yemeni people, health workers and aid organisations can focus on slowing the spread of the virus and mitigating its social and economic impact.

In view of this South Africa urges the parties to the conflict to allow expert staff to travel to all affected parts of Yemen to provide much needed support and other humanitarian relief. We furthermore impress upon all parties to avoid actions that would deprive civilians of their rights to food and healthcare. We remind the parties to the conflict that all necessary measures should be taken to respect their obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

Mr President,

On the political impasse,

It is important that all the parties avoid compounding the current humanitarian disaster, and commit to resuming the political negotiation process. The key to a peaceful resolution lies in the political willingness of all parties to the conflict, to meaningfully engage in discussions, and be amenable to conceding some of their demands, which will result in a lasting peace in Yemen and will allow for the social and economic rebuilding of the country.

There has been no further implementation on the Riyadh Agreement. South Africa wishes to reiterate its call for the implementation of this vital Agreement between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) as well as the full implementation of the December 2018, Stockholm Agreement. The Stockholm Agreement and process is key to lasting peace, stability and ultimate prosperity for Yemen.

South Africa encourages the parties to the conflict to pursue new confidence building measures, such as: The release of detainees and prisoners; An agreement on a set of nationwide measures to combat COVID-19; The release of all vessels held by either party in the seas off the coast of Yemen; and Any other measures that the parties believe could be used to improve trust. South Africa reiterates its call that all parties to the conflict adhere to their obligations in terms of international human rights and international humanitarian law.

Mr President,

South Africa remains concerned over the threat posed by the SAFER oil tanker and lack of progress to allow technical experts to undertake an assessment and initial repair, in order to avoid an environmental and economic catastrophe for Yemen and its neighbours. The threat must be dealt with on a purely technical basis, without politicisation.

In conclusion, Mr President,

We wish to reiterate that the only sustainable solution to this conflict will be a negotiated, Yemeni-led and Yemeni-owned, political settlement that is inclusive and fair and puts the interests and wellbeing of all the citizens of Yemen first. In this context we also call for the full and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of an inclusive political process, and thanks the Yemeni women for been in the forefront calling for the ceasefire and release of prisoners.

Let the Yemeni parties return to the inclusive Stockholm Agreement and National Dialogue. The parties should be bold, courageous and decisive as these uncertain times have demonstrated, DO NOT delay any further once you have reached agreement. Act immediately for the sake of us all.

I, thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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