UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laments suffering in Yemen, urges relief operations

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laments suffering in Yemen, urges relief operations

Moses Kuwema

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the suffering of the Yemeni people has persisted despite the second anniversary of the Stockholm Agreement, a diplomatic breakthrough that offered a glimmer of hope that an end to the devastating conflict in Yemen was at hand.

In a statement Monday to mark the second anniversary of the agreement, Guterres urged Stockholm Agreement parties to uphold the accord amid famine-like conditions in Yemen.

"The Stockholm Agreement helped to avert a catastrophic military escalation at the time, thereby safeguarding the continued although limited functioning of the Red Sea ports and the entry of commercial goods and key humanitarian assistance, on which millions of Yemenis depend to survive," he said.  

"The preservation of this lifeline is even more vital now as pockets of famine-like conditions have returned in Yemen and millions are facing severe, growing food insecurity, in particular against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

"I call on all Member States to step up their financial support for United Nations relief operations and to help address the severe economic crisis in the country," said Secretary-General Guterres.

Guterres called on the parties to fulfil the commitments they assumed in Stockholm, including through full and unconditional participation in the Redeployment Coordination Committee and its related joint mechanisms, and implementation of the terms of the ceasefire on the ground.

"It is crucial to avoid any action that could exacerbate the dire situation in Yemen. I urge the parties to engage with my Special Envoy, in good faith.  Only through dialogue will the Yemeni parties be able to agree on a nationwide ceasefire, economic and humanitarian confidence-building measures to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, as well as the resumption of an inclusive political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated settlement to end the conflict," he stated.

Yemen has been troubled by civil wars for decades, but the current conflict intensified in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the internationally recognised government against Houthi rebels aligned with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The UN brokered an agreement in Stockholm in December, 2018 to demilitarise the Red Sea city of Hodeidah, and after five months of tortuous talks a small part of the agreement has been implemented on the ground. 

The Houthis had promised a two-phase redeployment out of the city, and agreed that an alternative force – poorly defined in the Stockholm agreement – would take over security in the areas they vacated. 

But talks between the Houthis and the UAE-backed government forces stalled over the details.