February 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2019
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MIDDLE EAST

Yemen

Expected Council Action

In February, the Council is likely to be briefed on the implementation of resolutions 2451 and 2452 by Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.

It is also expected to renew the Yemen sanctions regime which expires on 28 February 2019. The mandate of the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) expires on 16 June.

Key Recent Developments

Implementing the Stockholm Agreement, reached during consultations in Sweden in December by the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels, has been difficult with only limited progress.

On 22 December, a UN advance team led by General Patrick Cammaert, which was authorised by resolution 2451 adopted the day before, arrived in Yemen to begin monitoring and supporting the Stockholm Agreement. Soon after his arrival, Cammaert activated the Re-deployment Coordination Committee (RCC) that the parties had agreed in Sweden would supervise implementation of the “Hodeidah agreement”. The Hodeidah agreement is one of three agreements that together make up the Stockholm Agreement. It established a governorate-wide ceasefire in Hodeidah and agreement for the mutual redeployment of forces from Hodeidah city and the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa that have been under Houthi control.

The Hodeidah agreement—in effect since 18 December 2018­—has been hobbled by mutual allegations of ceasefire violations and the challenge for the RCC, which includes representatives of the Yemeni government and the Houthis, to determine operational details for its implementation. Following two meetings of the RCC in late December and early January, Cammaert as its chair has had to meet separately with Yemeni government and Houthi representatives, after the Houthis did not attend a third RCC meeting scheduled on 8 January in government-held territory. The initial deadline set in Sweden for completing the redeployment of forces by 8 January was not met.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock and Griffiths (via video teleconference) briefed the Council on 9 January. Griffiths said that although there has been some violence, the parties were largely adhering to the ceasefire. Lowcock said that despite the agreements in Sweden, the humanitarian situation remained “catastrophic”. Cammaert addressed Council members via video teleconference during closed consultations, apparently emphasising that the timelines set out in the Hodeidah agreement had not been realistic.

On 16 January, the Council adopted resolution 2452, establishing the UNMHA for an initial period of six months. The new special political mission, comprising up to 75 monitors, is mandated to lead and support the functioning of the RCC and to monitor the parties’ compliance with the ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate and the mutual redeployment of forces. UNMHA will work in close collaboration and coordination with other UN entities operating in Yemen, including the Office of the Special Envoy, the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator, the UN Country Team, and the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism, all of which are envisioned as having roles in support of the Hodeidah agreement, including providing management backing to Yemeni port authorities and the collection of port revenues. Cammaert was appointed to head UNMHA, with the mission reporting to the Secretary-General through the Special Envoy’s Office and the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.

While the situation in Hodeidah was calmer compared to the heavy fighting prior to the Stockholm Agreement, elsewhere in Yemen the conflict escalated by mid-January. On 10 January, the Houthis attacked a government military parade at Al-Anad air base using a drone that exploded above the ceremony. The attack killed at least six soldiers and wounded several Yemeni government and military officials. On the evening of 19 January, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which supports the government, conducted some of its most intense airstrikes in months on Sana’a. Two days earlier, on 17 January, an armoured vehicle in Cammaert’s convoy was hit by a bullet as it was leaving a meeting with Yemeni government representatives. The UN said it did not have information on the source of the fire.

On 31 January, Council members were briefed in consultations by Griffiths and Cammaert via video teleconference. Lowcock provided an update on the humanitarian situation. That same day, the UN announced that Cammaert was stepping down from his position, and would be replaced by Major General Michael Anker Lollesgaard of Denmark, former Force Commander in the UN Multidimensional Stabilisation Mission in Mali in 2015 and 2016.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 18 January, the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee met with the Panel of Experts to discuss the panel’s recently-submitted final report. Discussion was apparently less controversial than last year (when the panel found that Iran was in non-compliance with the targeted arms embargo against the Houthis), as the final report did not contain any new conclusions on arms supplies in violation of resolution 2216. It did identify what was likely a donation of fuel, loaded from ports in Iran, for the benefit of an unnamed individual on the sanctions list, with revenues from the fuel’s sale in Yemen helping finance the Houthi war effort.

Women, Peace and Security

The first meeting of the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security in 2019 will be on Yemen, as announced by IEG co-chair Germany during the 9 January briefing.

Key Issues and Options

The Hodeidah agreement’s implementation remains a key issue. Challenges have included the need for the parties to agree on implementation modalities, including for monitoring troop withdrawals and establishing new deadlines for the redeployment of forces; the parties also have different interpretations regarding the “local security forces” that are to take over security responsibilities in Hodeidah city and the ports, according to the agreement. According to the Secretary-General, the difficulties reflect a lack of trust and reluctance to make operational concessions outside of a comprehensive political agreement. Scaling up the UN presence has also been flagged as a challenge, including identifying accommodation for the UNMHA personnel and other UN entities, in addition to threats that have been directed at the UN.

Implementing the Hodeidah agreement is also critical for a new round of consultations to proceed. In Sweden, the parties agreed to a follow-up round of consultations during January, but will not do so without progress on the Hodeidah agreement. There has also been little progress advancing the other components of the Stockholm Agreement—a prisoner exchange and the establishment of a joint committee in Taiz, a city that has seen some of the most intense fighting during the war.

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, including the risk of a major famine, remains a key issue for the Council, involving monitoring restrictions on access, protecting critical infrastructure, and advancing measures to stabilise the economy. A high-level donor conference will be held in Geneva on 26 February for OCHA’s 2019 humanitarian response plan for Yemen, which calls for $4 billion.

Council action around the political process and humanitarian situation is likely to depend on developments on the ground. It could seek to adopt a statement reaffirming the importance of the parties’ remaining committed to the Stockholm Agreement, including the Hodeidah agreement, while expressing support for the Special Envoy’s efforts to advance a political process.

For the sanctions renewal, a potentially contentious issue may be over referring to Iranian non-compliance with the arms embargo, as previously concluded by the panel. As was ultimately done last year, the Council may adopt a strictly technical resolution renewing sanctions for a further year, without mentioning specific states. Another option is including a condemnation of Iran for non-compliance with resolution 2216, though a draft resolution doing so last year was vetoed by Russia, which disagreed with the panel’s conclusions.

Council Dynamics

Resolutions 2451 and 2452 adopted since the 13 December 2018 Stockholm Agreement were, with the exception of the annual sanctions renewals, the Council’s first resolutions on Yemen since April 2015. One effect of these resolutions is that they provide for the first written reporting on Yemen to the Council from the Secretary-General.

Kuwait, as a member of the Saudi-led coalition, tends to champion its positions. It has sought to facilitate political efforts, hosting peace talks for three months in 2016, and last December provided aircraft to transport the Houthi delegation to the consultations in Sweden. New member Germany hosted an international conference on the Yemen peace process on 16 January and has indicated its interest in keeping attention on the humanitarian situation. Peru and Poland were part of a group of elected members last year that often coordinated their positions on humanitarian issues or when they perceived Council products as lacking balance.

The US has sought to have the Council condemn Iran for supplying weapons to the Houthis. Recently, it took the position during negotiations on resolution 2451 that if such a reference to Iran were not included, it could not support the resolution going beyond issues directly related to the Stockholm Agreement. That led to the watering-down of the section on humanitarian issues. Conversely, singling out Iran is a red line for Russia.

The UK is the penholder on Yemen. Peru chairs the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON YEMEN

Security Council Resolutions
16 January 2019S/RES/2452 This established the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) for an initial period of six months.
21 December 2018S/RES/2451 This resolution endorsed the agreements reached by the parties during the consultations held in Sweden, and authorised the Secretary-General to establish and deploy, for an initial period of 30 days an advance team to begin monitoring and facilitate implementation of the Stockholm Agreement.
26 February 2018S/RES/2402 This was a resolution extending the Yemen sanctions regime.
Secretary-General’s Reports
21 January 2019S/2019/69 This was a report on the implementation of resolution 2451.
4 January 2019S/2019/11 This was a Secretary-General’s report on progress regarding the implementation of resolution 2451.
28 December 2018S/2018/1173 This was a Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 2451.
Security Council Letters
9 January 2019S/2019/29 This expressed the Council’s intention to consider the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a UN mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement.
31 December 2018S/2019/28 This was the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a UN mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement.
Security Council Meeting Records
16 January 2019S/PV.8444 This was the adoption of resolution 2452.
9 January 2019S/PV.8441 This was a briefing on Yemen by the Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock.
Sanctions Committee Documents
25 January 2019SC/13679 This was a press release on the 18 January meeting of the 2140 Committee to consider the Yemen Panel of Expert’s final report.
Other
26 February 2018S/2018/156 This was a draft resolution on the Yemen sanctions regime, which Russia vetoed, objecting to references to the Yemen Panel of Experts’ findings that Iran was in non-compliance with the arms embargo. Eleven members voted in favour, China and Kazakhstan abstained with Bolivia also voting against.