I thank Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths for their briefings and even more for their efforts to promote peace and the protection of civilians in Yemen.
As the New Year begins, Yemenis are once again suffering the effects of soaring inflation and high levels of food insecurity, compounded by increasingly harsh economic measures put in place by the parties to the conflict. Their livelihoods have been destroyed by devastating drought and floods, both of which are exacerbated by climate change. In addition, Yemenis have limited access to basic services, increasing their humanitarian needs and worsening the human rights situation in the country.
The truce has provided a much needed respite for the civilian population. We echo the calls of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the parties to the conflict to re-establish a formal truce and work towards a negotiated settlement of the conflict. In their words, it is time "to choose peace for good".
Switzerland believes that the following elements should be part of this choice for peace:
First, we welcome the fact that a de facto truce continues to be largely respected. We call on the parties to continue the dialogue in good faith and to exercise restraint. The longer-term goal of an intra-Yemeni political settlement that involves all of society and includes the voices of women and marginalised groups must remain at the centre of peace efforts. We welcome the various dialogues underway and highlight in particular the engagement of the Sultanate of Oman. It is important that all these dialogues are aligned with the efforts of the UN Special Envoy, to which we express our full support.
Secondly, humanitarian assistance must be guided by the needs of the affected population and be independent of any political considerations. Currently, the operating environment for humanitarian actors is becoming increasingly restrictive, in particular for women aid workers. Rapid and unhindered humanitarian access must be guaranteed throughout the country and by all parties to the conflict. All humanitarian personnel, both women and men, must be allowed to move in order to distribute goods or services for the benefit of the most affected population. We also reiterate the need to minimise bureaucratic restrictions such as delays in approving visas or work permits, as these impede an effective response in line with humanitarian principles.
Thirdly, we have an obligation to protect children, who are particularly affected by this conflict. Many of them are victims of explosive remnants of war, but also deprived of schooling and recruited for war efforts. We therefore urge all parties to the conflict to protect the welfare of children, to release them immediately from their ranks and to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. We call on them to implement signed action plans and commitments on children in armed conflict. Furthermore, given the prevalence of threats related to mines and explosive remnants of war, we stress the importance of allowing the import of essential equipment for humanitarian demining and we call on the international community to mobilise to fill the funding gap.
Finally, with regard to the oil tanker SAFER, Switzerland calls for a rapid implementation of the first phase of the salvage plan: efforts to avoid an ecological disaster in the Red Sea must be redoubled.
This Council has repeatedly reaffirmed that the truce must be formally restored and extended to a permanent ceasefire. This is an essential step towards a lasting peace in Yemen. Switzerland reiterates this message today.