Near verbatim transcript of the press remarks by Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Yemen

Geneva, 8 September 2018

Special Envoy:  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 it has taken so long to get here.Anyway, I will do as you say: give a few opening remarks and take some questions. So, for me the important aspect of these last three days is: we have started consultations. The process of beginning the road back to peace has started. Not quite in the waythat 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 5th. I appreciate their commitment and I appreciate the engagement on the issues and the details of the issues that we have discussed. We focused on, as I mentioned the other day, confidence-building measures; sorry to use that cliché term, but that covered – and it still does by the way, because we are going back after the speech to have a further discussion with the Government delegation – it covers issues like the release of prisoners, the opening 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 the stabilized 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 – I think I mentioned that the other day. So, we made some good progress. And in fact, I think I mentioned the other day that the environment, oddly enough – you may think it’s a bit of a contradiction – but the environment for discussions is fairly positive, despite what is happening on the ground and despite the fact that we did not of course get the opportunity to receive the Ansarullah delegation.

I think you will be hearing from Minister Al-Yamani a bit later, so I won’t talk about his views or where he’s going. We had the opportunity for a number of meetings with diplomats: the G-19 group ambassadors assigned to Yemen; P5 has beenextremely helpful, P5 ambassadors, permanent five members of the Council, very helpful to us during this week. Everybody is reiterating international support for a political process, and of course that’s exactly, exactly what the people of Yemen say too.

And in that context, I would like to specifically identify very interesting constructive practical discussions, that I have 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 the rounds of consultation.

But of course, the elephant in the room, we didn’t manage to get Ansarullah’s delegation, the delegation from Sana’a to come here. And we were engaged throughout these days in discussions and negotiations and arrangements and options andalternatives to get them here. I am not going to go into the details of what those options and arrangements might be – I am sure you have heard a lot and reported a lot, but you will not 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 their constituencies are not fully engaged and don’t see ahead of time results that will come out of the talks, out of consultations. It’s not easy, and it’s not easy in the Yemen context either, so 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 Houthis leadership, the Ansarullah leadership.

I would like to thank actually – these negotiations have involved a wide range of actors, diplomats… Thank you to the government of Oman – I talked to their Foreign Minister yesterday, Yousef bin Alawi, a good friend who was very helpful -, to the representatives of the coalition and of course to the Government of Yemen and the permanent five. We were all involved in this. You saw us scurrying around in the hotel over the last few days and everybody wanted to get the circumstances right forAnsarullah to feel comfortable about coming but we didn’t quite make it. We will have similar consultations with Ansarullah. One of the advantages of consultations is that you don’t actually need to be in the same room. You don’t actually need to be in the same city. It is more convenient, it is 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 have 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.

It is 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 is important to know that Ansarullah also wanted to be here and that they are disappointed not to be here, and it is 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 have 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 remarkably united.

So, with that, I could take some questions.