UN Security Council adopts resolution demanding immediate halt to Red Sea Houthi attacks

The resolution affirms the need for all member states 'to adhere to their obligations'

A ship crosses the Suez Canal towards the Red Sea  in Suez, Egypt. Getty images
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The UN Security Council on Wednesday adopted a resolution condemning and demanding an immediate halt to attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

The text, co-sponsored by the US and Japan, received 11 votes in favour and four abstentions – Russia, China, Mozambique and Algeria.

The resolution "condemns in the strongest terms the at least two dozen Houthi attacks on merchant and commercial vessels since November 19, 2023, when the Houthis attacked and seized the Galaxy Leader and its crew".

It calls for the immediate release of the Galaxy Leader, a Japanese-operated cargo ship with links to an Israeli company.

The text "demands that the Houthis immediately cease all such attacks, which impede global commerce and undermine navigational rights and freedoms, as well as regional peace and security".

It notes the "large-scale" breaches of the arms embargo against the Houthis and reaffirms the need for all member states to "to adhere to their obligations".

Russia's top envoy at the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, who accused Washington of "politicising" the resolution, had proposed three amendments that were rejected by the Security Council.

They included replacing "takes note of the right of member states, in accordance with international law, to defend their vessels from attacks, including those that undermine navigational rights and freedoms", with "and in that regard takes note of applicable rights of member states in accordance with international law".

Another amendment would have added "the conflict in the Gaza Strip" to the list of factors contributing to tensions.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, told the Council all three of Russia's amendments were voted against because they "were divorced from reality".

"We voted against Russia's amendment that falsely suggests that the conflict in Gaza is the cause of the Houthis' brazenly opportunistic attacks," Ms Thomas-Greenfield said.

"The Houthis are simply intoxicated with power."

She said the resolution acknowledges regional dynamics, including Iran's provision of advanced weapons that enable the Houthis to attack commercial vessels, which have contributed to this situation.

"The facts are indisputable," Ms Thomas-Greenfield said.

Without naming Iran, the resolution condemns all arms dealings with the rebels, which violate Security Council sanctions and calls for “additional practical co-operation to prevent the Houthis from acquiring the materiel necessary to carry out further attacks.”

The resolution does not authorise the use of force but recognises the right to self-defense for countries whose vessels have been attacked.

Since the October 7 attacks on Israel, the Houthis, who control large parts of Yemen, have increased their attacks on international maritime traffic in the Red Sea.

The Iran-backed group claims to be acting in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

Washington formed an international coalition in December to protect maritime traffic from Houthi attacks in the strategically important zone through which at least 12 per cent of world trade passes.

The US and its allies have repeatedly warned the Houthis that such attacks will not go unanswered, although so far the international coalition patrolling the Red Sea has not struck Houthi missile-launch bases in Yemen.

“I’m not going to telegraph or preview anything that might happen,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Bahrain.

"If this continues as it did yesterday, there will be consequences."

Updated: January 11, 2024, 11:01 PM