SMA NEWS – GENEVA
The Security Council, before the last month, June 2023, as usual announced the plan of its schedul of agenda to be implemented during June 2023, and revealed its conecerns about the situation in Yemen including the political process and the humantarian situation.
The Security Council held its monthly briefing, followed by closed consultations, on Yemen with UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and a representative of OCHA. The head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), Major General Michael Beary, is expected to brief during consultations.
Key Recent Developments
From 8 to 13 April, delegations from Saudi Arabia and Oman visited Sana’a for talks with the Houthi rebel group. The visit raised expectations that the Houthis and Saudi Arabia could be nearing an agreement in talks that Oman has facilitated since October 2022, when Yemen’s truce agreement from April 2022 expired. Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition in support of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, said that talks in Sana’a were “constructive”, but no breakthroughs have been announced.
Any agreement in this dialogue is expected to include launching an inter-Yemeni political process mediated by Grundberg, who has been trying to coordinate his activities with the parties of the Houthi-Saudi negotiations. Grundberg visited Sana’a on 2 and 3 May, saying afterward that he had “frank, detailed and constructive discussions on the way forward” with Houthi authorities. Also on 3 May, he met in Aden with the president of the Yemeni government’s Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), Rashad al-Alimi. This was followed by meetings with senior regional and Yemeni officials in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and senior officials in Washington D.C. Briefing the Council on 17 May, Grundberg said that he was encouraged by these discussions and that he believed “outstanding issues can be resolved”.
OCHA Deputy Director of Operations and Advocacy Edem Wosornu reported to the Council at the 17 May briefing on Yemen’s massive humanitarian needs and the challenges facing relief efforts, including access restrictions, primarily in Houthi-controlled areas, and funding shortages. Yasmeen al-Eryani, the co-executive director for knowledge production at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, also briefed the Council. While welcoming the Houthi-Saudi negotiations, al-Eryani warned about the risks of a “hasty peace deal” and emphasised the need for an agreement that accounts for Yemen’s people as a whole and that is mediated under UN auspices. Al-Eryani similarly highlighted that any agreement that ignores principles of transitional justice could lead to a cycle of conflict and revenge.
In other developments, Southern Yemeni political factions met from 4 to 8 May in Aden for the Southern National Consultative Meeting. At the five-day meeting, they signed a “national charter”, and several groups announced that they were joining the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC). In the wake of this meeting, STC President Aidarous al-Zubaidi, who is also vice-president of the PLC, issued several resolutions, which included reshuffling the STC presidency on 9 May. As part of the reshuffle, al-Zubaidi appointed the PLC’s Abd Al Rahman al-Mahrami—who commands one of Yemen’s strongest military units, known as the Giants Brigades—and PLC member Faraj Salmeen Muhammad Al Bahsani to the STC. With these appointments, three PLC members are now part of the STC.
Further progress was made in efforts to prevent a massive oil spill from the FSO Safer, the decrepit oil tanker moored off the Ras Isa peninsula in the Red Sea. The replacement vessel of the FSO Safer that the UN Development Programme (UNDP) purchased in March arrived in Djibouti on 7 May. On 30 May, another vessel, called the Ndeavor, which will be used for the salvage operation, arrived in the area of the FSO Safer. At a 30 May press conference announcing the Ndeavor’s arrival, UNDP Adminstrator Achim Steiner and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen David Gressly said that the preparatory work for the operation would start the next day, and that the transfer of oil from the FSO Safer to the replacement vessel, called the Nautica, could potentially be completed over the next four to six weeks.
A pledging conference on 4 May that the Netherlands and the UK hosted for the operation raised $5.6 million in new funding. At the 30 May press conference, Steiner and Gressly said that $14 million was still required for the operation’s emergency phase—the transfer of the oil between the ships—and an additional $15 million had to be secured for the second phase, which includes towing and scrapping the Safer.
On 16 May, the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee held informal consultations to discuss the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM), which provides verification and inspection of commercial vessels sailing to Houthi-held ports to ensure compliance with the targeted arms embargo established by resolution 2216 of 14 April 2015. Deputy Project Manager of UNVIM Pascal Goodman and Senior Partnership Advisor of the UN Office of Project Services Marija Bateman briefed.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council is how to support ongoing peace talks and efforts to establish a formal ceasefire and political process. Details of a potential deal in the Houthi-Saudi talks have not been made public, but according to news reports, they may include establishing a ceasefire and the payment of public employees in Houthi territory, possibly through revenues from Yemen’s oil and gas reserves, which the Yemeni government controls. Continuing prisoner exchange negotiations between the conflict parties, which the UN and the ICRC have mediated, are an important confidence-building measure. Council members could reiterate the importance of an inclusive Yemeni political process under UN mediation for a sustainable resolution of the conflict.
Despite some positive signs in the peace process, Yemen continues to face massive humanitarian needs. An estimated 21.6 million people in Yemen require aid or protection. Access constraints and interference in relief include the Houthis’ enforcement of mahram, requiring women to be accompanied by male guardians, which has negatively affected aid operations. Support for Yemen’s economy is also critical to mitigating the humanitarian crisis; the UN is revising an economic framework it had previously developed to address the broader economic drivers of humanitarian need. Landmines and explosive remnants of war have become an issue of greater concern in the truce and post-truce period, impeding returns of displaced people and hindering economic recovery.
Members may reiterate calls on all parties to facilitate the safe, rapid, and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief to all civilians in need and to protect humanitarian personnel and assets in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law. In addition, they may urge donors to support the Yemen 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), which calls for $4.3 billion but is only about 20 percent funded. Members are also likely to continue closely monitoring progress in the FSO Safer salvage operation.
Council members have welcomed the potential for the Houthi-Saudi talks to yield meaningful results. At the same time, members stress the ultimate importance of an inclusive Yemeni political process facilitated by UN mediation to achieve a sustainable resolution to the conflict. Joint meetings of the Riyadh-based ambassadors to Yemen of the Council’s permanent members (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US) show the Council’s general unity of approach towards Yemen.
The United Arab Emirates has been a leading member in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and takes a strong interest in Council decisions on Yemen. Since 2021, the US has had a Special Envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, who has actively supported Grundberg’s efforts to establish a political process and to resolve the threat posed by the FSO Safer. China helped mediate the Saudi-Iran agreement on 10 March to restore relations between those two countries, which, it has highlighted, could create conditions to improve the situation in Yemen.
The UK is the penholder on Yemen. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania) chairs the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee.