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Briefing Council, ASG Khiari underscores UN warning against "adverse political, security, economic and humanitarian repercussions of military escalation in the Red Sea"

Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari’s remarks to the Security Council on

maintenance of international peace and security in the Red Sea

New York, 3 January 2024


Thank you, Mr President,

There have been further alarming developments in the Red Sea since the last briefing on the subject on 18 December 2023.

The United Nations continues to warn against the adverse political, security, economic and humanitarian repercussions of military escalation in the Red Sea and the risk of exacerbating regional tensions. Continued Houthi threats to maritime navigation coupled with the risk of further military escalation remains of serious concern and could potentially impact millions in Yemen, the region and globally.

Since this issue was last on the Council’s agenda on 18 December, the Houthis claimed responsibility for two attacks using naval missiles on the MSC United on 26 December and on the Maersk Hangzhou on 31 December.  There have been reports of other intercepted Houthi attacks as well.

On 31 December, an armed intervention by the US forces against the Houthis in response to two distress calls from the Maersk Hangzhou, a Singapore-flagged container vessel, reportedly resulted in 10 deaths or missing according to the Houthis. As a result, Maersk has halted Red Sea shipping again until further notice on 2 January. On the same day, Hapag-Lloyd said it will continue to avoid Red Sea transits and reroute vessels around the Cape of Good Hope until 9 January in response to recent attacks. This is only one example of the risks of continued escalation of attacks against seagoing merchant vessels and the impact on global supply chains particularly increasing freight costs and lengthening delivery times.

We continue to share the concerns of the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) with respect to the need for the protection of the freedom of maritime navigation, and also about the potential impact of current attacks and disruptions to sea traffic in the Red Sea and environs on international trade. We reaffirm the importance of ensuring safety and security of maritime navigation in the region. In that regard, we also call for the immediate release of the “Galaxy Leader” and her crew which was seized by the Houthis on 19 November.

We reiterate that such incidents originating from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen must stop. No cause or grievance can justify continuation of these attacks against the freedom of navigation.

As to the overall situation in the region, we encourage all concerned parties to avoid further escalation and de-escalate tensions and threats. This is critical so that traffic through the Red Sea can return to its normal state and the risk of Yemen being dragged into a regional conflagration be avoided.

The continued assistance of this Council in actively engaging with all concerned parties who may be able to push for restraint remains extremely valuable so that through our combined efforts we can prevent further escalation in the Red Sea from exacerbating regional tensions or undermining regional peace, security, or international trade.

Thank you.