Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on Yemen

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
May 15, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you to our distinguished briefers for their presentations today and for the tireless effort of your teams.  Thank you also to the Ambassador of Peru for his work as Chairman of the 2140 Committee and for leading a very successful Committee trip to the region. 

Mr. President, this Council acknowledges the tragedy of the man-made crisis in Yemen each time we meet.  For the fifth year in a row, that tragedy is compounded as the crisis continues into the holy month of Ramadan.  Like other members of this Council, we worry the world has grown numb to that suffering.  If it has, let us hope that today’s alarming presentations by Executive Director Fore and Under Secretary-General Lowcock rekindle broad attention to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.  You certainly have done so for the members of the Council.

Mr. President, we appreciate the first signs of progress on the Stockholm Agreement since last December, and we commend the parties, and thank the UN for doing everything possible to press for the redeployments. 

Houthi withdrawals from Salif, Ra’s Issa, and Hudaydah are a significant first step.  Today’s good news must not break our focus on how much remains to be done. The parties must keep working in good faith to reach an agreement on local security forces in order to fully redeploy.  They must exercise restraint so fighting does not threaten the ceasefire.  And they must enable the United Nations efforts on the ground.  Whatever other actions they take, any party failing to allow UN monitors’ entry into Yemen is failing the Yemeni people.

Obstruction of the UN process cannot be tolerated.  For months, apparent breakthrough has happened just in time for Security Council briefings.  Then progress stalls once we leave this chamber.  We’ve seen enough of that pattern, and we should insist that it end today.  Council members must consider how to hold parties responsible if they don’t implement the Stockholm Agreement. 

Fighting around the country, not just in Hudaydah, needs to stop.  The Houthis must cease UAV attacks against their fellow citizens and their neighbors.  Iran needs to stop supplying the Houthis with the weapons to do so.

Attacks this week against Saudi infrastructure are just the latest example of how destabilizing that is.  These attacks, they threaten to expand the conflict and they undermine the UN led process and the work of Special Envoy Griffiths.

Mr. President, during its trip last month, the Council’s Sanctions Committee reiterated the need for all Member States to adhere to the arms embargo contained in Resolution 2216.  We cannot ignore the fact that since the war began, and since the Council imposed its arms embargo, the Houthis have used more sophisticated weapons to threaten Yemen’s neighbors.  The Houthis did not develop long-range ballistic missiles and UAVs on their own.  They did not develop them.  And the Council’s own Panel of Experts for Yemen has repeatedly said that these weapons have Iranian design characteristics.  When asked about how their weapons keep ending up in Yemen, Iran has never presented a credible explanation.  Iran’s violations of the Yemen arms embargo not only flout the Council’s resolutions—they are prolonging the war. 

Mr. President, as we heard from Mark and Henrietta, limited progress on a political and military settlement has meant even less progress for the dire humanitarian crisis.  Huge amounts of critical grain supplies at the Red Sea Mills have been lost.  As the toll of hunger and cholera rises, we again call on all parties to safeguard humanitarian infrastructure and allow for unfettered humanitarian access.  This includes access to food and medical care for migrants and displaced people throughout the country.

Our support for Special Envoy Griffiths and General Lollesgaard remains steadfast.  They, their staffs, and the international humanitarian community are working to help the parties reach a resolution to the conflict and save Yemeni lives.  This Council must use every means to help.

Thank you, Mr. President