NEW YORK: The Houthis must lift the siege of Taiz to allow millions of suffering residents access to life-saving humanitarian aid, health care and economic opportunities, special envoy Hans Grundberg urged on Tuesday. Yemen.
Reporting to the monthly UN Security Council meeting on the war-torn nation, Grundberg said the step had to be taken, although he welcomed the truce between the Yemeni government and the Iranian-backed group.
The ceasefire led to a drastic reduction in hostilities and civilian casualties, allowed the resumption of civilian flights from the long-closed Sanaa airport, and facilitated the delivery of fuel to the port of Hodeidah.
Grundberg said the Houthis must now gradually open the roads leading to the town. Taiz governorate has been under siege since 2015, when the group closed major roads and surrounded the city center, largely cutting it off from the rest of the country.
“It is essential that this truce can also alleviate the suffering of the people of Taiz,” Grundberg told the Security Council.
“For years, (Taizi’s) freedom of movement has been severely hampered by this conflict. As Taizis knows very well, the only open roads to the city are long and arduous,” Grundberg said. The Swedish diplomat told the council that he personally traveled for more than six hours “along the narrow, winding and rugged mountainous road from Aden to the city of Taiz. Before the conflict, the same journey on the main road took only three hours.
“In Taiz, I met men, women and young people, who told me about their daily difficulties caused by the closure of access roads inside and outside the city. I have also witnessed firsthand how the harsh restrictions have crippled the economy, worsened access to health care and endangered the movement of civilians.
The UN has proposed a gradual opening of roads around Taiz. It includes a main route east from Taiz city to the Hawban area, as well as additional routes to and from other governorates. The proposal includes measures to ensure the safety of civilian travellers.
“Although I am encouraged by the positive response of the government of Yemen to the UN proposal, I am still awaiting a response from Ansar Allah,” Grundberg said.
In response to questions from Arab News after the meeting, Grundberg said he wanted to urge the Houthis to respond.
“If you consider the fact that seven years have passed and we have not seen a resolution, but only several attempts (to solve the problem) from Taiz, I think the fact that we have been waiting for six days since the proposal was presented to them, it is in this context not long.
“But as we are within the framework of a 60-day truce, each passing day is particularly long. So that just highlights the fact that it’s not an easy question to answer. But I encourage all parties, including Ansar Allah, to move forward as quickly as possible on this issue.
Grundberg had addressed the Security Council on Tuesday for the first time in person since the truce came into effect on April 2, which was later extended until August 2. there have been no airstrikes inside Yemen or cross-border attacks launched since the start of the agreement.
There was also a significant reduction in civilian casualties, although Grundberg lamented that lives were still being lost to landmines and unexploded ordnance as civilians ventured into contaminated frontline areas that were previously inaccessible to them.
Despite the overall reduction in hostilities, however, Grundberg said violations continue with armed clashes occurring on multiple fronts, particularly in the governorates of Marib, Taiz and Hodeidah.
“As you know, we don’t have independent monitoring capabilities, but I take these allegations very seriously,” Grundberg said. “It is essential to prevent such alleged incidents from triggering a spiral of renewed escalation and violence.”
Grundberg also spoke of his involvement in convening the first two meetings of the Military Coordination Committee, with representatives from multiple parties and the Coalition Joint Forces Command. The committee had agreed to meet regularly, he added.
“Face-to-face meetings are an important first step towards building trust and improving communication between the parties,” he said.
Since the start of the truce, several commercial flights have left Sanaa airport, which has been closed for six years. About 3,000 passengers were flown to Amman and Cairo, seeking medical treatment and reconnecting with family members.
Grundberg noted that the country’s government is “putting the needs of Yemenis first” in facilitating the opening of the airport, and also reiterated its “sincere gratitude to the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their instrumental role in facilitating the flights.
The steady flow of fuel to the port of Hodeidah continued throughout the truce, he said. During the months of April and May, more than 480,000 metric tons of petroleum products were cleared, “more fuel than entered Hodeidah in all of last year.”
“Regular fuel delivery has eased pressure on vital services, dramatically reduced queues at gas stations that dominated the streets of Sanaa, and made it easier for Yemenis to travel around the country,” he said. he declared.
Lana Nusseibeh, permanent representative of the United Arab Emirates to the UN, called on Grundberg to step up efforts to open the main road to Taiz, and not just the secondary roads, “to alleviate the suffering of millions of people living in a state of headquarters”.
She said that despite the truce, the Houthis continue to mobilize and recruit in their areas of control, “indoctrinating children with extremist ideology”.
Nusseibeh, along with other board members, praised Saudi Arabia for its $10 million contribution to the UN-backed rescue operation on the decomposing supertanker Safer.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said there is now “cause for genuine optimism” as the truce holds, and building on that progress will be the focus of President Joe Biden’s visit to the region next month.
Asked by Arab News if he shares the optimism that the truce will turn into a permanent solution for the seven-year conflict, Grundberg said he was taking a cautious approach.
“I try to take it one step at a time and not rush too quickly, but I also make sure that all the measures taken are taken and implemented in a consolidated way. What we’re seeing right now are unprecedented steps that we haven’t seen in the past seven years and that’s absolutely something we should welcome.
“But then there is absolutely more to be done, more effort to be made. Therefore, we want to continue to encourage all parties on all issues and hope that we can take the necessary steps to move forward. »