I would like to thank Special Envoy Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General Lowcock and Executive Director Beasley for their briefings. I am also looking forward the presentation of Mr Badokhon At the outset, I would like to welcome the exchange of over one thousand prisoners between the Government and the Houthis in mid-October. I commend the successful negotiations lead by the team of Special Envoy Griffiths and the ICRC. This was an important moment of hope in the midst of this prolonged crisis.
We call on the Houthi authorities to unconditionally release also the four remaining journalists who have been arbitrarily detained and are facing the death penalty. In this context we remind all parties of their responsibility to comply with their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law and to ensure accountability for all violations and abuses.
The prisoner exchange was an important humanitarian measure which will hopefully also help building confidence between the parties in order to finally reach an agreement on the Joint Declaration. We reiterate our call upon the parties for an immediate nationwide ceasefire and to agree to the UN proposal, allowing for the meaningful resumption of peace talks, involving the full inclusion of civil society, including women.
As we have just passed the one year anniversary of the signing of the Riyadh agreement, we reiterate our call on the Government and the Southern Transitional Council to implement the remaining elements of the agreement, which is an essential step also on the path towards reaching a wider peace.
Unfortunately the fighting on the key frontlines has not decreased and has resulted with reportedly more and more civilian casualties. The targeting of civilian infrastructure, like the recent shelling of a hospital in Taiz, contradicts the international humanitarian law and is completely unacceptable.
Besides the direct impacts and suffering, the hostilities are also the primary reason for the worsening of the economic and the humanitarian situation. It is most worrying to hear the reports by the UN agencies that Yemen is again on the brink of a food security crisis and that acute malnutrition rates of children under five are the highest ever.
We have noted that the funding situation of the humanitarian programs has slightly improved, although significant gaps still remain. Estonia has contributed to the World Food Program in order to help alleviate the humanitarian situation. However, in order to respond to the humanitarian situation, including the famine, there is need for strengthening Yemen’s economy and to find a long-term solution to ensure the import of fuel and commercial items through the ports.
We also stress the urgency of granting the formal approval to the UN mission to access the SAFER oil tanker, as this decision by the Houthis is already long overdue.