Addressing the UN Security Council, the special envoy also discussed the Riyadh agreement, prisoner swaps and medical flights from Sana'a
Griffiths: Yemen needs to stay out of U.S.-Iran conflict or risk losing political momentum
In a briefing before the United Nations Security Council in New York, UN special envoy Martin Griffiths praised Yemen’s leaders for exercising restraint at a time of heightened tensions in the region, referring to Iran’s bombing of two Iraqi military bases housing American soldiers last week in rataliation for the U.S.assassination of Iranian paramilitary commander Qassem Soleimani in a Jan. 3 drone strike. While the fallout from that episode threatened to reverse the gains in Yemen, he said, a crisis seemed to have been averted for now.
Griffiths praised the Houthis for releasing six Saudi prisoners on Jan. 1, but said it fell short of the prisoner exchange aspirations outlined in the Stockholm agreement in Sweden in late 2018. That deal, which he said he plans to address again in coming days, envisioned the release of about 15,000 prisoner and abductees between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government. As dialogue between the two main Yemeni parties to the war has stalled, Saudi Arabia has pursued political talks with the Houthis in Oman. Griffiths said he hoped to launch formal political consultations between Yemen’s government and the Houthis at some point.
He informed the 15-nation security council that a program, sponsored by the World Health Organization to fly patients with illnesses that can’t be treated in Yemen from Sana’a International Airport to agreed upon hospitals abroad, was about to begin. He said 30 patients were waiting in Sana’a for the first flight of the relief program to take off.
Regarding Saudi efforts to restore stability to Yemen's interim capital Aden and surrounding governorates, he said that he was "fairly confident" that the implementation of the Riyadh agreement was moving in a positive direction.
In his closing remarks, Griffiths emphasized the importance that Yemen stay out of the broader regional conflict.
“Yemen has recently now been brushed by potential tragedy from regional tensions and, so far, appears to have emerged unscathed,” he said. “This is evidence of the leaders’ desire to keep Yemen safe from such tensions but it is a fragile safety and one that needs our diligent and continuing attention.”