We seem to be trapped in a cycle of conflict and human suffering. The refugee crisis places an extreme burden on Syria’s neighbours and Europe, and represents a serious challenge to some countries' domestic stability. Nearly 15 million displaced Iraqis and Syrians face adversity, away from their homes and livelihoods.
Nearly 4.9 million Syrians are refugees. Since the onset of the crisis, UAE has welcomed over one hundred thousand people fleeing the violence in Syria. Last year, the UAE pledged to take in 15,000 more Syrians in need of assistance.
The UAE has also contributed over USD 700 million in humanitarian support the Syrian people since the beginning of the conflict.
Let me focus particular attention today on Yemen, another human rights and humanitarian crisis. Here, an already fragile state has been shattered by a three-way assault of aggression, interventionism and extremism.
Security and stability collapsed in the face of aggression after the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh defied the political process and violently overthrew the legitimate Yemeni government. Yemeni’s basic rights have been violated with thousands detained, tortured and killed. The Houthis have blocked and limited the supplies of humanitarian aid worsening the suffering of the Yemeni people.
Iranian interventionism has enabled and empowered the illegal and violent Houthi-Saleh takeover. Iran is directly arming and supporting the insurgents with increasingly sophisticated weapons, including ballistic missiles and armed drones.
The Houthis have also launched thousands of these missiles and rockets into neighboring Saudi Arabia resulting in more destruction and death.
This Iranian interference prolongs and deepens the Yemen conflict, creating conditions that allow Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and more recently, Daesh, more space to operate. Working closely with local Yemeni resistance forces, last year the UAE helped to liberate large parts of Eastern Yemen from oppressive AQAP control.
As a member of a broader Arab Coalition, the UAE is helping in Yemen to restore the legitimate, UN-recognized government, to systematically eliminate terrorist cells, and to provide extensive humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people.
Mr. President, We reiterate our call for all Yemeni parties to seriously commit to the political process and strongly support the important work of the UN toward this end. We also ask for the strong enforcement of UN Security Resolutions barring Iranian support and weapons supplies for the Houthis.
At the same time, the UAE will do all it can to ease the suffering of the Yemeni people. Since April 2015, the UAE has provided over USD 1.6 billion in direct humanitarian aid to Yemen.
Despite the Houthis' repeated attempts to disrupt these efforts, the UAE will continue to take extensive measures to open liberated areas to humanitarian assistance and to provide public security. We applaud the work of and welcome expanded cooperation with the UN and other international aid organizations in these critical efforts.
Following the liberation of Aden in July 2015, the Coalition and humanitarian actors have been able to use the city’s port to meet urgent needs of people in Aden and throughout Yemen. In Aden, the Coalition has restored electricity and water, renovated over 150 schools, rendered hospitals functional, maintained security by recruiting, training and equipping local police and security forces, and implemented numerous other projects to assist the local population.
We undertook similar efforts in Mukalla and Eastern Yemen and are planning an intensive surge of humanitarian assistance into areas along the Red Sea as soon as these areas are liberated.
Mr. President, The Yemen tragedy must end. It is a humanitarian and human rights disaster.
The people of Yemen, like people everywhere, should be able to live free from fear and suffering. We must confront the extremism, aggression and interventionism that give root to conflict and instability.
Bringing peace and stability to Yemen, Syria, Iraq and other troubled places in the region must continue to be the critical focus for the UN and world community. The UAE is a committed partner in this important work.
Mr. President, We are proud of our progress in advancing human rights. We know we have much more to do at home and in the region but we are also committed to lead by example. In a region where dark forces risk setting the cause of human rights back, we will continue to push forward. Openness, tolerance, and respect are more powerful ideas. They enable and empower people.
We all must work toward advancing the fundamental ideals and values of human rights recognized by responsible nations, enlightened leaders and hopeful people.
In the UAE, this is our commitment and our work both at home and in the world.