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Thank you. Let me say how glad I am of this meeting, of this visit of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The European Union and the United Nations work very well hand-in-hand on many different crisis and this is not exceptional, on the contrary. It is an evident confirmation of the fact that we share visions, strategies and daily work on a daily basis.
I would like to thank in this occasion the UN Special Envoy, Mr Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed for his work, but also our Head of Delegation to Yemen who has been working in an extraordinary way on this crisis over these difficult years.
This is a perfectly timed visit at a very important moment. We believe that we have good reasons for hope ahead of the announced ceasefire as from the 10th of April and the resumption of peace talks on the 18th of April in Kuwait. Still we need to work to make this happens and this was the main issue we discussed today with the Special Envoy.
Our meeting today has given us the opportunity to have an in-depth exchange on the current situation and the perspectives for Yemen in the short and in the medium terms.
As I have repeated on several occasions, the only sustainable solution to the conflict in Yemen is a political solution. So let me thank here in public as I have done in private, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed for the relentless efforts he has made to help restart this negotiations process and all our support to this efforts.
On its side, the EU will continue to pledge political support to this process – which I believe is absolutely crucial – but also practical support. I am pleased to confirm today, for example, that as a concrete contribution to crucial Confidence Building Measures, the European Union has been able to quickly mobilise technical support to the UN Special Envoy. On the 10th of April, as you know, there should be a ‘Cessation of Hostilities’ and a ‘Committee for De-escalation and Coordination’, which will be staffed by the two sides. The Committee will do all that he can to ensure that, over time, this will lead to a ceasefire. And currently it is the European Union that is working to the preparations for the Committee to be ready to perform its tasks with the support of international military experts that we have mobilized through our mediation unit.
At the same time we cannot lose sight of the incredibly difficult humanitarian situation. The UN Special Envoy met yesterday with my friend and colleague Christos Stylianides [European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management]. They discussed at length all the humanitarian help that the European Union is providing and is willing to continue to provide. In spite of slightly improved access for aid, still 80% of the population is in need of substantial support. There are legitimate fears that the crisis will have long term effects – beyond the current generation and that a big part of the Yemeni society will be affected for long time on this.
In Yemen, just as much as in the whole region, we cannot afford to lose an entire generation or generations to war and despair. The European Union will continue to find substantial resources in form of humanitarian aid.
The current situation requires that we stay focused on a number of crises at the same time, even when the attention of the media – so I also ask for your help in this respect- gets distracted easily by the many other crises that we are facing in different parts of the world.
Sensationalism cannot be the driver of our policies. We need to keep being focused on the crisis that are opened around us first of all for the humanitarian duty but also because it is clearly our interest. We need a strategic look on each of these crises and on the connections between the different theatres.
All the humanitarian aid that the international community will be able to mobilise will be needed by Yemen. Still Yemen’s long-standing problems cannot be solved with humanitarian aid alone. Yemen needs peace and stability, so that a genuine reconstruction and development process can truly kick off.
Reconstruction will be the next challenge. We discussed this also at length. Several preparatory talks are now already taking place and the main element for a credible and successful strategy will have to be coordination and cooperation among the different actors. And the European Union is obviously ready to play its part also on this.
The European Union will continue to actively, constantly support the efforts of the UN to achieve a sustainable and peaceful solution. Yemen sits in a strategic position for the entire region and for the Horn of Africa connected with another important region for the entire world, Sahel, and also crucially for our European Union: it is a crucial hub on the route connecting the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and it is also a crucial part of our fight against terrorism and radicalisation. Because it is also our direct and vital interest to make sure that Yemen does not turn into the next safe heaven for terrorist organisations.
So this opportunity that opens up on the 10th of April and then on the 18th is an opportunity that we cannot miss. It is an opportunity for the renewal of Peace Talks that we can and must ensure that is taken by all. “By all” means all parties inside Yemen that have to commit, to sit around the table and try to turn the page but also all the parties in the region and beyond.
I personally remain committed to reaching out to all parties in the region and beyond to support this process and to make sure that we do not miss this opportunity that was created with an immense work and an incredible amount of good will. Thank you.