The Security Council is meeting in a closed-door session on the political situation in Yemen, just one day after the country’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed by Houthi rebels south of the capital. The session in which UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is briefing is expected to deal with growing concerns about humanitarian aid access into the country amidst fears that violence would escalate.
The UN has reported a pause in the fighting in Sana’a, on a day the slain former President is expected to be buried. However at UN headquarters in New York, there is concern that desperately needed supplies – both aid and commercial goods – are unable to get into the country due to an escalation in fighting.
“ Our message is very clear – it’s one we make in public and in private that all concerned need to ensure the swift flow of humanitarian aid to those in need, in particular through the ports of Hodeidah and the Sana’a airport. We need humanitarian access and we need commercial access and this is critical,” says UK’s Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen.
Yemen currently has the greatest level of humanitarian need in the world – over 20 million people or 80% of the population are in need of assistance. Ten million, mostly women and children need help just to stay alive. In addition, cholera has affected close to 1 million while severe malnutrition is complicating efforts to fight the disease.
“We would want the Security Council to call for the humanitarian pause and to call for an end to the blockade and this includes also the commercial part of this. There is an urgent need for food, fuel, medical supplies and so the Port of Hodeidah must be fully functional and operational,” says Sweden’s Carl Skau.
As the Houthi rebels celebrated the killing of Saleh, many are warning that there is no military solution to the conflict.
“It’s extremely concerning the escalation of violence in Yemen and the brutal killing the day before of the ex-President Saleh of course. I think it’s important now that we manage to halt this escalation, as we’ve said before there is not military solution to this conflict, important that there is not a military logic that takes over and that parties can come back to negotiations and engage with the UN.”
French Ambassador Francois Delatrre says recent developments in the country could offer a new opportunity, politically speaking.
“The latest developments in Yemen create a period of maximum risk, a zone of all dangers, both on the military and on the humanitarian front. Therefore our first priority is to prevent a military escalation, to silence weapons and to allow a complete and immediate humanitarian access in all Yemen and via all its ports and airports. At the same time, the developments of the last days can also help change the equation in Yemen, and lead to new opportunities to boost the political process. “
Concerns are widespread that with Saleh’s death, the war risks becoming intractable.