Mr President,

As this is the first formal meeting of the year, I can assure you of Switzerland's full support for your presidency. I would also like to congratulate Ecuador on its successful presidency last month. We wish the five elected members every success as they begin their term on the Council, and look forward to working with them.

I would like to thank Assistant Secretary-General, Mohamed Khaled Khiari, and Secretary General Arsenio Dominguez of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for their briefings.

Switzerland remains concerned about maritime safety in the Red Sea due to the continuing attacks by the Houthis on cargo ships and the risk of an escalation of the situation. In this respect, we welcome the efforts, particularly those of the United Nations, aimed at de-escalation and encourage them to continue. 

We echo this Council's press statement of 1 December condemning the attack on the merchant vessel Galaxy Leader. We reiterate our demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all its crew.

In this context, we stress the importance of the rights and freedoms of navigation of all vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, in accordance with international law. 

The situation in the Red Sea already has an impact on global maritime traffic. It is essential to prevent a regional escalation, which would have further negative consequences for international maritime traffic and could also be detrimental to the ongoing negotiations between the parties to the conflict in Yemen. 

In this regard, the announcement by the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, that the parties have agreed on a set of measures to implement a nationwide ceasefire is encouraging. It is important to ensure that the conditions for the effective implementation of these measures are met.

The unity of this Council in fulfilling its mandate in accordance with international law, as well as the call for prudence and restraint on the part of all actors, remain crucial to avoid a major escalation in the region and to ensure maritime security in the region.

Thank you.