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Envoy calls for end to attacks in Red Sea

By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-01-11 11:37

China's top envoy to the United Nations on Wednesday called on Houthi rebels to stop attacking ships in the Red Sea, emphasizing respect for the freedom of navigation. The call came as the UN Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to Red Sea attacks.

"We call on the Houthi rebels to immediately cease their attacks on civilian vessels and respect the freedom of navigation of all countries in the Red Sea waters in accordance with the requirements of the Security Council resolutions," said Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN.

"We call on all relevant parties to strictly abide by the UN Charter and international law and play a constructive and responsible role in easing tensions in the Red Sea. No country may misinterpret and abuse the relevant provisions of this resolution to create new tensions in the Red Sea," he told the Security Council.

The Security Council passed a resolution on Wednesday strongly condemning the multiple attacks on merchants and commercial shipping in the Red Sea by Houthi rebels, demanding that the group immediately cease all such attacks.

The resolution passed with 11 votes in favor, none against, while four countries abstained: China, Russia, Algeria and Mozambique.

China abstained from voting because the resolution didn't include all the suggested amendments proposed by China, Russia, Algeria and others, and it still "seems unclear on important issues", said Zhang. It raises concerns about its effectiveness and the possibility of making things worse in the region, he said.

"China is open to further appropriate action by the Security Council to safeguard the navigational rights of merchant ships of all countries in the waters of the Red Sea in accordance with international law," said Zhang.

Zhang highlighted the Red Sea's vital role in trade and energy transport, emphasizing its importance for regional peace, global supply chains and international trade.

"Ensuring the safe and smooth flow of this water area is not only conducive to the maintenance of regional peace and stability, but also conducive to the maintenance of a stable and smooth global supply chain and international trade order, and is in line with the common interests of the international community," he said.

Around 12 percent of global trade passes through the Suez Canal in the Red Sea, handling 30 percent of all global container traffic and more than $1 trillion worth of goods annually, according to data from the Baltic and International Maritime Council.

Houthis rebels started to target vessels bound for Israel since mid-November as they demanded full humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza, leading many companies to redirect ships south around the Cape of Good Hope, increasing costs and posing a threat to the global supply chain.

There have been more than two dozen separate attacks on international shipping by the Houthi rebels since the Oct 7 terror attacks by Hamas led to the new round of conflict in Gaza, according to the UN.

In the latest strikes, the Houthi group announced Wednesday that it has launched "a large batch" of drones and missiles toward a US Navy vessel in the Red Sea, which was "assisting" Israel. The group also said the attack was a "preliminary response" to the US sinking of Houthi ships in the Red Sea on Dec 31.

"It must be noted that the current tensions in the Red Sea are one of the manifestations of the spillover effects of the Gaza conflict. This is a fact that cannot be ignored," said Zhang.

"China has repeatedly emphasized that the immediate realization of a cease-fire in Gaza is urgent and is the overriding prerequisite and the highest priority of international diplomatic efforts. We regret that the resolution just adopted by the Security Council failed to clearly call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza," he said.

He reiterated China's commitments to ongoing efforts for a Gaza cease-fire, reducing Red Sea tensions, resolving the Yemen issue and achieving peace in the Middle East.

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