Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Meeting on Yemen, 28 July 2020

Mr President,

We thank Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths; Chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee, Gen. Abhijit Guha; Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA), Acting Assistant Secretary-General, Ramesh Rajasingham; Chairperson of the Arab Human Rights Foundation, Dr Raja Abdullah Ahmed Almasabi; and General Coordinator (Yemen of Medecins du Monde), Wafa`a Aisaidy, for their briefings.

South Africa reiterates its support to the Special Envoy in his arduous pursuit for a peaceful solution to the situation in Yemen despite the escalating violence that persists amidst the unyielding COVID-19 pandemic.

My delegation would like to reiterate that the disturbing humanitarian situation in Yemen, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is inextricably linked to the political impasse. As such my intervention will focus on these two elements, namely the humanitarian and the political situation.

Mr President,

On the humanitarian situation, South Africa remains deeply concerned about its devastating effect on the people of Yemen, in particular women, children, the aged, internally displaced persons, and those with disabilities. As Dr Almasabi has mentioned, it is a harrowing reality that persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected in situations of risk and face multiple barriers in accessing protection and humanitarian assistance.

South Africa therefore calls upon all authorities in the various governorates to agree to a unified set of measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 in Yemen and alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. It is imperative to allow full access into the country; to accelerate custom clearances for PPE and medical supplies; to facilitate air travel of humanitarian staff into the country for staff rotations, as well as to communities in need, both in the North and the South. This will enable healthcare workers and the humanitarian community to slow the rate and spread of infection.

Mr President,

It is vital for all parties to abide by their obligations and responsibilities under international humanitarian and international human rights law, and to take all measures necessary to end and prevent violations against civilians. Investigations into alleged violations must be pursued to uphold the standards of integrity, transparency and accountability.

Mr President,

On the political impasse, fighting continues in the region of Yemen’s northern border with Saudi Arabia, on the edge of Marib City, Hodeidah and Taìz. The proposed ceasefires remain unimplemented and there remains no substantial progress on any of the political agreements. South Africa calls on all parties to cease hostilities in line with the Secretary General’s global ceasefire call and UNSC Resolution 2532 (2020). Furthermore, we call upon the parties to agree on confidence building measures, such as the payment of civil servants, reopening of Sana’a airport and lifting of commercial import restrictions, to help the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to provide impetus to the overall political negotiations to end the war in Yemen.

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 Yemenis at the centre of a negotiated political settlement. We appeal to all parties to avoid approaches of gaining “absolute” positions.

Mr President,

South Africa remains concerned regarding the lack of implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. We reiterate our call for the implementation of this vital agreement between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC). We also call for the full implementation of the December 2018, Stockholm Agreement.

South Africa urges all parties to conclude the issue of the Safer Oil Tanker by allowing critical repairs and to avoid a man-made disaster in the Red Sea. The need to allow technical experts to undertake an assessment and initial repair, cannot be stressed enough. It is our wish that this impending threat 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 is 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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