Joint Statement From Secretary John Kerry, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed
Secretary of State
FOREIGN SECRETARY JOHNSON: Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very much for coming to Lancaster House. As you know, the conflict in Yemen is causing increasing international concern. The fatalities that we’re seeing there have become – I think they’re on an unacceptable level. And we’ve had a very good meeting today to discuss the way forward, and one of the things we think is absolutely vital is that there should be a ceasefire, and that the UN should lead the way in calling for that ceasefire.
I’m going to ask John Kerry – we’re very lucky to have John Kerry and the UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed here as well. John, why don’t you – why don’t you give your point of view.
SECRETARY KERRY: Sure. First of all, I want to thank Minister Johnson – Secretary Johnson for hosting the meeting here today. This is a subject we’ve been talking about a lot over the course of the last weeks, and I’ve been particularly engaged with Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed over the last year as we have tried to find a way forward in Yemen. It is a crisis now of enormous humanitarian proportions, with an increasing economic, increasing humanitarian, health crisis, and obviously the military components of it are troubling to everybody.
So we have over the last days been in touch with the parties. I have talked with the foreign minister of Oman as well as with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia and of the United Arab Emirates, and everybody agrees that the moment calls for moving forward with efforts to try to de-escalate and find a way forward at the negotiating table.
So together, Boris Johnson and I, with the United Nations Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, are calling today for the implementation of a ceasefire to be implemented by the parties as rapidly as possible, meaning Monday, Tuesday, but moving very rapidly. We are not calling for this in a vacuum. There have been communications to both the Houthi, through various intermediaries, as well as to President Hadi, respectful of his position. But this is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and to move to the negotiating table.
We discussed today, as we did in New York, the parameters of a roadmap. We have all agreed on that roadmap and that that roadmap needs to be put to the parties in order not to accept the roadmap without any changes, but to understand it is a roadmap. It is the beginning of a conversation, and a place to get back to the negotiating table and start to work through a lasting peace agreement. But we cannot emphasize enough today the urgency of ending the violence in Yemen, of providing for an opportunity for a political settlement, which is the only way it will be ultimately resolved, and of getting to that table as rapidly as possible. And I’m delighted that the UN special envoy has been as patient and as committed to this task as he has been, and it’s our pleasure to turn the floor over to him so that he can speak for the United Nations.
MR OULD CHEIKH AHMED: Thank you very much. I would like, first, also to thank His Excellency Secretary Boris Johnson for inviting me, and for all the members of the ministers, also Secretary Kerry, and the minister for the Quad, to invite me today to this Quad. It was an important meeting. As explained, we are here, the three of us, standing today to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities which will be declared in the next, I would say, few hours. We are just going to work through the modalities. I have been in touch with President Hadi. I spoke to him this morning early. I spoke also to the lead negotiator, Mohammed AbdulSalam, of the Houthi, and I had been in touch with them when I was in Muscat. Everybody supports this idea. It’s becoming very urgent when we see the dramatic events of last week on the funeral attack. We realize how much it’s important today for the population to have a cessation of hostilities. My colleague Stephen O’Brien, who visited recently, has underlined the catastrophe we are witnessing in terms of the humanitarian situation.
Therefore, I think this is the most important thing we have to announce today, and we are hoping to have it in terms of specific hours, clarified in, as I say, the coming hours. I’m going to work on that activity.
At the same time, the Quad today had a long discussion on the roadmap, as explained by His Excellency Secretary Kerry. We are going to work now on the modalities, and I’m hoping that we will have that in front of the parties in the coming (inaudible) couple of days, three or four days, we’ll have a clearer plan so that the parties can engage again in the spirit that we had in Kuwait. And I think I have to say that we are also very pleased that the plane was able to come from Oman, Muscat, to transport the delegation of the Houthi and GPC, and particularly, to transport back the injured people and, as you know, also two American hostages. I think this was an important event of the week, and I am grateful to the coalition, the king of Saudi Arabia, for facilitating that, but also for the Omani Government particularly for providing the plane and facilitating this.
So we are hoping that this new spirit of a cessation of hostilities, return now of the delegation, getting the injured people out, will create the momentum we need for the peace process, which I am very committed to start engaging very, very quickly in the coming hours. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Could I just close out by saying that if both parties, the Houthi and President Hadi, accept to move forward on the ceasefire, then the special envoy of the UN will work through those details immediately, and he would be making the announcement on when and how it might be implemented.
And finally, I want to thank the Government of Oman and I want to thank the Saudis for working effectively with us in the last few days in order to enable this airplane to fly from Muscat to Sanaa, not only to bring the Houthi delegation to Sanaa, which we’ve been working on for some time, but to bring wounded people out. I think that was an important humanitarian gesture. It shows the willingness of the Saudi to address the humanitarian concern, and I particularly want to acknowledge the fact that the Houthi were able to secure the release of two Americans, which we’ve been trying to do. There are still others we are going to continue to focus on there and elsewhere, but we are grateful that those two Americans were returned yesterday.
Thank you very much.
FOREIGN SECRETARY JOHNSON: Thank you, everybody. I just want to say thank you to both Secretary Kerry and Special Envoy Ismail, and just to say, I think the world has had enough of the conflict now in Yemen. I think there’s got to be a chance now for this ceasefire to be made to work. And the roadmap offers a genuine way forward for both sides if they will take that opportunity. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.