Remarks at a U.N. Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Yemen

February 27, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile

Ambassador Kelley Currie 
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations

Thank you, Mr. President.

First, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you, Ismael, for your tireless commitment to resolving this conflict. The United States appreciates your leadership and advocacy for peace and security, especially your efforts on behalf of Yemeni women and children, the most innocent victims in this conflict. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors and appreciate your commitment to stay engaged on this issue.

And we thank you, John, for your sober and somber assessment of the situation on the ground. We’re grateful for the work OCHA and the UN agencies are doing to alleviate human suffering in Yemen.

Now, more than ever, it is critical that the United Nations continue its work toward resolving the situation in Yemen. Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis today. After three years of brutal civil war, 75 percent of the population is now in need of humanitarian assistance. The most basic government services are missing in many parts of the country; Houthi aggression – with the support of Iran – threaten stability in the region; and terrorist groups like Daesh and al-Qa’ida have exploited this opportunity to pursue their twisted agendas.

Only a political solution will provide the enduring peace and stability that the people of Yemen deserve, so we must do all we can to achieve that outcome. The UN’s leadership is absolutely essential, and the Council must give it the full support to facilitate a successful political process. But, as we work towards a political solution, it is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the people of Yemen are met.

First, the people of Yemen must have access to, and be able to afford, essential goods. Since your last briefing, we are heartened by the arrival of the four mobile World Food Programme cranes funded by the United States. Now that they are emplaced at Hudaydah port, it is imperative that we work to reduce the time to offload much needed supplies.

The United States welcomes continued efforts by the Saudi-led coalition to address the humanitarian situation in Yemen, including a pledge to provide $930 million by March 31 to the UN and humanitarian organizations. We will continue to coordinate with the Saudi-led coalition, the UN, our international partners, and humanitarian organizations to refine the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations plan to ensure that it is thorough and coordinated with the international humanitarian response. The United States has provided more than $760 million in life-saving humanitarian assistance since September 2016, and we will continue to do our part to fund these urgent needs, as the United States always has.

Similarly, we are pleased that the Saudi-led coalition has agreed to keep al-Hudaydah port open to all commercial and humanitarian goods, including fuel. The most efficient and effective way to get food and fuel to those in need is through Hudaydah. The United States will continue to work with countries in the Saudi-led coalition to achieve additional improvements in humanitarian access.

In addition to addressing Yemen’s humanitarian concerns however, we must also recognize the very real security concerns of Saudi Arabia. As we discussed in this Council yesterday, it is incumbent upon this Council to directly address these verifiable threats to peace and security in the region and the main culprit behind them.

As the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen’s report makes clear, Iran is violating the targeted arms embargo laid out in Security Council Resolution 2216. Specifically, the panel found that missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia last year were of Iranian origin and were introduced into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo.

Yesterday we saw the Russian delegation wield a veto to prevent the Yemen sanctions resolution from mentioning Iran’s activities in Yemen. However, the evidence shows quite clearly that ballistic missiles were Iranian in origin. Last month in Washington, Council members saw firsthand some of the evidence implicating Iran. Eleven Council members agreed with us that such concerns merit mention in the sanctions resolution, and only two Council members voted against it.

We will continue to stand up and remind this Council that we have an obligation to call out malign and destabilizing behavior whenever and wherever we see it. Iran cannot violate Security Council sanctions with impunity. This Council must hold those violating sanctions – like Iran – accountable and ensure that Iranian military technologies – ballistic missiles, waterborne IEDs, sea mines, military UAVs, or other weaponry – are prevented from reaching designated individuals and entities in Yemen.

Doing more to address the severe humanitarian needs of the Yemeni people while taking measures to prevent the free flow of weaponry into Yemen is essential to pave the way for the political solution we all agree is necessary. We need to see genuine engagement from the parties, and we are prepared to support all efforts to this end. In this regard, we look forward to working with the newly appointed Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, and hope that we will see real progress in 2018 toward a lasting and peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen.

Thank you.