Special Envoy Remarks to the Press on the Last Day of Geneva Consultations

Martin Griffiths, UN Special Envoy for Yemen briefs the press on the Geneva Consultations on Yemen, Palais des Nations. (Photo: Violaine Martin)

Geneva 08 September 2018 - Thank you very much and thank you all for coming. I can imagine it’s been quite a frustrating week for you. And I am sorry that was the case. And I am sorry for taking so long to come here. I will do as you say: give a few remarks and take some questions.

So, for me the important aspect of these last few days is that we have started consultations. The process of beginning, the road back to peace, has started. Not quite in the way that we would have wanted. But it has begun. We have had three days as planned indeed of very fruitful discussions/consultations with the Government of Yemen delegation who arrived in the city on the 5. I appreciate their commitment and I appreciate the engagement on the issues, on the details of the issues we have discussed. We have focused on, as I mentioned the other day, confidence-building measures – and I’m sorry to use that cliché term – but this covered, it still does by the way,  because we are still going back after the speech to have a further discussion with the Government delegation, it covers issues like the release of prisoners, the reopening of Sana’a airport, economic issues, which are of extreme importance now, as we see the protest particularly in the south of Yemen, and a wide range of humanitarian issues, as is normal in a war, to reduce fighting and open up access routes to stabilize areas where this is possible. And we are talking about specific parts of the country as well as issues like pauses for vaccination of children as I mentioned the other day. So we are making good progress. I think I mentioned the other day that the environment oddly enough – you may think it is a bit of a contradiction– the environment for discussions is very positive, despite what is happening on the ground and the fact that we did not have the opportunity to receive the Ansarallah delegation.

I think you will be hearing from Minister Al-Yamani a bit later, so I won’t talk about where his views or where he’s going. We had the opportunity for a number of meetings with diplomats both the G 19 group – ambassadors assigned to Yemen. P5 has been extremely helpful, P5 ambassadors from the five permanent members of the council, very helpful to us during this week. Everybody is reiterating international support for political process, and of course that's exactly, exactly, what the people of Yemen say too. And in that context, I'd like to see specifically identify very interesting constructive practical discussions, that I've had the chance now, that there was a little bit more time during the last few days, to have with a group of Yemeni women, who came here at our request to advise me. We have got a lot of work to do going forward in between rounds of consultation. But of course, the elephant in the room, we didn't manage to get the Ansarallah delegation, the delegation from Sana’a to come here, and we were engaged throughout these days in discussions and negotiations and arrangements and options and alternatives to get them here. I’m not going to go into the details of what those options and arrangements might be – I’m sure you’ve heard a lot and reported a lot on that so you won’t hear more from me on that. However, I should say that it's not unusual. it's not unusual, even in the Yemen context but it’s certainly not unusual in other conflicts, that a restart – I mention this the other day – is a very delicate, fragile moment. People are coming at a time when perhaps all of that constituencies are not fully engaged and don't see ahead of time results that will come out of talks, out of consultations. It's not easy but it's not easy in the Yemen context either, so I don't I don't take this as a fundamental blockage in the process. I should be going to Muscat during the course of the next few days and hopefully on to Sana’a as well of course to discuss with the Ansarallah leadership. I'd like to thank that actually these negotiations involved a wide range of actors, diplomats. Thank you to the government of Oman. I talked to the foreign minister yesterday – Minister Youssef ben Alawi, a good friend who was very helpful. The representatives of the coalition and of course the Government of Yemen and the Permanent 5 so we were all involved in this. You saw scurrying around in the hotel over the last few days and we really wanted to get the circumstances right for Ansarallah to feel comfortable about coming but we didn't quite make it. We’ll have similar consultations with Ansarallah. One of the advantages of consultations is you don't actually need to be in the same room. You don't actually need to be in the same city. It’s more convenient, it’s what we planned, I don't want to underplay that. But we will go and we will discuss with them the fruits of the discussions we've had here. So we will be going to Muscat and Sana’a to take up the issues that we will have discussed here. This is what I mean by we have begun; this is what I mean by we have begun.

It's too early for me to say when the next round of consultations will take place or will be held. That's obviously going to be high on the agenda so that we don't go through a repeat of this week. And I think it's important to note that Ansarallah also wanted to be here and that they are disappointed not to be here, but it's important to make that point very clear. We have had extensive discussions with their representatives in Sana’a and in Muscat this past week, and I've no doubt about that whatever you may think. And they are very keen to take this process forward and so is the international community who are who are remarkably united. So with that I can take some questions.