UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths warned on Tuesday that the recent military escalation in Yemen threatens any potential political progress. This includes the Hodeidah Agreement, which is currently at great risk.
In a briefing to the Security Council by video-teleconference from Geneva, the envoy said: “Several previously quiet front lines have been drawn into the escalation, which may threaten the vulnerable port city of Hodeidah and challenge efforts to maintain calm by the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA).”
He said the situation in Yemen has grown increasingly dire during the past month.
Rapidly escalating situation
“Most of the heavy fighting has taken place in Nihm District, as well as in Al-Jawf, Marib and Saadah governorates, with previously quiet front lines being drawn into the escalation,” the envoy explained.
He also said the military escalation puts at risk millions of people in need.
Griffiths said that hesitance on the political track allows the war drums to beat louder. It also allows provocations to spiral and to multiply.
“The great efforts the parties exerted, is at grave risk,” he warned.
Expressing alarm over the lack of progress in addressing the threat posed by the deteriorating condition of the oil tanker Safer, he warned that the vessel’s potential rupture could spill more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea, causing an environmental and economic catastrophe for Yemen and its neighbors.
UN-led political compromise
Griffiths noted that all commentary from Yemeni leaders points to a core principle that “peace can only emerge from a political compromise between both parties through a United Nations-led process.”
The envoy called on the parties to unite around a vision entailing an inclusive government, a political transition process, a military and security sector that safeguards Yemenis, and acceptance that enmities must end even when differences remain. “These are achievable goals when the political will is truly there,” he stressed.
Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, provided updates to the Security Council on the protection of civilians, humanitarian access, funding of assistance, the national economy and progress towards peace.
He said Yemen depends on commercial imports, which are arriving through ports, but must remain affordable.
The Coordinator said dispute between the parties over banknotes continues to drive the disparity between the exchange rate in the south, which is around 650 rials to the US dollar, and in the north, where it is about 595 rials.
Saudi Key role
Lowcock recalled that the rapid currency depreciation in 2018 brought Yemen to the brink of widespread famine. He also noted that Saudi Arabia has played a key role in stabilizing the rial.
“Peace is the only way to end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” he said. “We are now entering the sixth year of this war,” he pointed out. “Enough is enough.”
US representative to the UN, Kelly Craft said that she feels upset about the slow implementation of Riyadh Agreement. She also expressed dismay over the lack of progress towards a political solution.
Recalling Iran’s launch of missile attacks against Saudi oil facilities on September 14; Craft said that country sticks to its meddling. He also cited the interception of 358 Iranian-made missiles on their way to Houthi militias.