Remarks by Ambassador Chris Lu, U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform, at a UN Security Council Meeting on Red Sea Maritime Issues

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January 3, 2024

Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Khiari, Mr. Dominguez, thank you for your insights on the grave threats posed by the continuing Houthi attacks against commercial and merchant vessels in the Red Sea.

Just over one month ago, the Security Council warned the Houthis to stop these attacks. Instead, the Houthis continue to strike commercial vessels transiting through the Red Sea’s vital shipping lane, with growing consequences for freedom of navigation, regional peace and security, and global commerce.

Since November 19, there have been over 20 attacks by the Houthis. On December 31, the Houthis attempted to board the Maersk Hangzhou, a container ship registered to Singapore and operated by a Danish firm.

Maersk had only resumed using the route a few days earlier, after the United States, its allies, and its partners launched a multinational naval operation to protect ships in the southern part of the Red Sea and deter against lawless non-state actors.

U.S. Navy personnel, who had come to the aid of the Maersk Hangzhou, issued verbal warnings to the Houthi attackers. But rather than cease their attacks, the Houthis responded by opening fire. Three Houthi boats were subsequently sunk in the act of self-defense.

Additionally, two anti-ship missiles were fired from Houthi-controlled areas at U.S. Navy vessels that had responded to the Maersk Hangzhou’s distress call.

These unacceptable attacks, these clear violations of international law, continue. In fact, just this morning, the Houthis announced that they have targeted another container ship.

Colleagues, during the Council’s meeting just over two weeks ago, many delegations expressed a view that the Council has a responsibility to help ensure that the free flow of lawful transit through the Red Sea continues unimpeded.

Today, in light of both the broad support for Council action and continued Houthi attacks, the United States believes that we are at an inflection point.

These attacks pose grave implications for maritime security, international shipping, and commerce. And they undermine the fragile humanitarian situation in Yemen, damaging the ability of the international community to deliver assistance to more than 21 million people in need.

It is vital that the Council speak – and speak now – on the need to uphold international law, as well as navigational rights and freedoms.

Even as we continue to demand that the Houthis stop these attacks, which are clear violations of international law, we must not overlook the root of the problem.

Iran has long-enabled these attacks by the Houthis.

Beyond Iran’s longstanding provision of financing to aid such Houthi operations, since 2015, it has transferred advanced weapons systems to the Houthis, including Unmanned Aerial Systems, Land Attack Cruise Missiles, and ballistic missiles used in attacks against maritime vessels.

Consistent with this long-term support and encouragement of the Houthis’ destabilizing actions in the region, we also know that Iran has been deeply involved in planning operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The United States does not seek confrontation with Iran. Iran has a choice here: it can continue its current course or it can withhold its support – without which the Houthis would struggle to effectively track and strike commercial vessels navigating shipping lanes through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Let’s remember that the provision of arms and related materiel of all types to the Houthis is a violation of this Council’s Resolution 2216. All Member States should adhere to their obligations under this resolution.

Colleagues, the threat to navigational rights and freedoms in the Red Sea is a global challenge and necessitates a global response. Let us remember our responsibilities as members of the Security Council to address these challenges. We look forward to engaging constructively with other members of the Council toward that end.

I thank you, Mr. President.

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