United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen Martin Griffiths (front) briefs the Security Council on the situation in Yemen, at the UN headquarters in New York, May 15, 2019. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), on Wednesday urged all parties to the conflict in Yemen to open doors to immediate, long-term humanitarian access, and to allow days of tranquility to vaccinate and help children. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
UNITED NATIONS, May 15 (Xinhua) -- With Yemen "at the crossroads between war and peace", both sides of the conflict in that country must set aside their differences and move towards a lasting political settlement, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council on Wednesday.
Outlining recent developments, UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen Martin Griffiths said at a Security Council meeting on the Middle East that "change in Hodeidah is a reality" as the Houthi rebel forces have undertaken an initial deployment of forces from the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa, under UN monitoring between May 11 and 14.
He described this as "the first concrete step towards the implementation of the Hodeidah agreement."
Yemen has been in civil war in the past four years, pitting the Houthi rebels against forces loyal to the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition to support the Hadi government.
Political efforts continue to focus on implementing the agreement made at Stockholm in December 2018, particularly the arrangement for Hodeidah that established a governorate-wide ceasefire and called for the mutual redeployment of Houthi rebels and Yemeni government forces from Hodeidah port and city, as well as the two nearby smaller ports of Ras Isa and Saleef.
"Despite the significance of the last few days, Yemen remains at the crossroads between war and peace," he cautioned, noting that the intensification of the conflict in other parts of the country is alarming.
Fighting between the Houthis and forces aligned with the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia-led coalition has escalated in other parts of Yemen, and Houthi rebels on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the drone attacks on an oil pipeline and other oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.
At the same meeting, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Henrietta Fore provided glimpses of the dire situation of Yemen's children, warning that time is running out.
With 360,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition and 2.5 million - or half of all children under the age of five - stunted, the country is spiralling perilously close to the brink, she warned.
According to Fore, the UN has verified the recruitment and use of over 3,000 children by all parties to the conflict since the conflict began. "That number is likely much higher. A flagrant and outrageous violation of international law," she said.
Also briefing was the Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, who said that "the spectre of famine still looms" as ten million Yemenis are still reliant on emergency food assistance to survive.
Restrictions on movement are delaying humanitarian deliveries, and violence is raging in many areas, Lowcock added, emphasizing that these challenges require strong, steady support.
Security Council members agreed that there can be no military solution to the conflict, expressing strong support for a political process leading to lasting peace. They urged all parties to refrain from actions that could jeopardize that goal.
Russian deputy ambassador to UN Vladimir Safronkov said that the strategic goal in Yemen remains the same: to launch a fully fledged political process in order to discuss a solution.
The window of opportunity is now open to implement other components of the Stockholm Agreement, including prisoner exchanges, he added. Emphasizing that the goals of external players and parties in seeking a lasting solution have never been more important, the Russian envoy urged all stakeholders to honor the ceasefire.
Ma Zhaoxu, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, said that China welcomes the recent positive progress in the redeployment of troops, and in the longer term, it is imperative to relaunch political talks to find a durable, holistic solution to the issue of Yemen.
The international community should respect and preserve the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Yemen, and support efforts to reach a broadly inclusive political solution through dialogue and negotiation on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative as well as its implementation mechanism, and the outcome document of the national dialogue conference, Ma said.
Yemen's representative Abdullah Ali Fadhel Al-Saadi, while emphasizing that implementation of the Stockholm Agreement must be built on trust, said the Houthis are attempting to implement measures through unilateral actions rather than through the United Nations.
At the same time, the government of Yemen has tried to halt the conflict while the Houthis continue to destabilize the country and the wider region, including through drone attacks, he said.