NEW YORK: The Houthi assault in Yemen’s Marib province has caused “astonishing” loss of life, including the deaths of many children, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen said on Wednesday.
“I cannot re-emphasize enough what is at stake in Marib,” Martin Griffiths told the Security Council during a briefing on the conflict. Jonathan Allen, the UK’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said the Houthis “are not serious about peace” and if this attitude continues, the Security Council will have to “consider stronger actions” in Yemen.
Griffiths said that the Houthi offensive, which has continued for more than a year, “has caused an astonishing loss of life, including children who have been thrown mercilessly into the battle.
“Internally displaced persons, who have sought refuge in Marib, continue to live in fear for their lives. Civilians have been displaced multiple times. And the offensive has been constantly disrupting peace efforts.”
He once again called on the Iran-backed Houthis to immediately end their “unjustifiable” attack on Marib.
The militia, which controls much of northern Yemen after seizing the capital Sanaa from the government in 2014, has repeatedly refused to engage in peace efforts to resolve the six-year conflict.
Saudi Arabia, which is part of an Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognized government, proposed a peace initiative in March that included a comprehensive cease-fire, the reopening of Sanaa airport and the resumption of the political process.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the plan at the time and urged all sides to seize the opportunity it provided to pursue peace.
Griffiths said the Houthis’ actions in Marib suggest that they believe the war can be won outright, militarily.
“But military conquest will not decisively end the war,” he said. “It will only invite further cycles of violence and unrest.”
He added that he believes a peace deal is still possible.
“There is strong international backing and regional momentum for the UN’s efforts,” said Griffiths. “And I want to restate my gratitude to Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United States, among others, for their support.”
Council members repeatedly called on the Houthis to end their offensive in Marib, stop recruiting children “to fight and die on their front lines,” and remove restrictions on humanitarian access. They urged the militias to acknowledge the effects of the second wave of COVID-19 that is sweeping across Yemen and accept vaccination assistance through the global COVAX initiative
The council also reiterated its calls for the Houthis to allow a UN technical team to access, assess and repair the dilapidated Safer oil tanker, which has been moored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen for several years and threatens to leak four times the amount of oil spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.
Allen, the UK’s deputy permanent representative, said: “The Houthis have shown they are not serious about peace, or about ending the suffering of the Yemeni people.”
He warned that “if this doesn’t change, and change soon, this council will need to consider stronger actions if we are to achieve peace in Yemen.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, said: “Despite this continued, cruel and callous obstinance from the Houthis, there’s hope for Yemen yet.
“Here’s the good news: we have stronger international and regional consensus on ending this war than ever before. The Saudi and Yemeni governments are prepared to bring this war to an end. They have publicly announced their commitment to reach an end to the conflict in line with Special Envoy Griffiths’ proposal. The government of
Oman is also playing an important role in facilitating efforts between the key stakeholders.”
She urged the Houthis to “stop standing in the way of peace and commit to a comprehensive ceasefire.”