March 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2019
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MIDDLE EAST

Yemen

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council expects a briefing on the implementation of resolutions 2451 and 2452 by Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.

The 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee has planned a visit to the region at the end of the month. Resolution 2456, adopted on 26 February, extended for an additional year the Yemen financial and travel ban sanctions, reaffirmed the provisions of the targeted arms embargo, and renewed the mandate of the committee’s Panel of Experts.

Key Recent Developments

Implementing the Stockholm Agreement, reached between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels at UN-brokered consultations in Sweden last December, has remained difficult, with only limited progress. The Stockholm Agreement set out three different arrangements: a deal to avoid a battle for the key port city of Hodeidah, an executive mechanism to implement a prisoner exchange agreement, and a statement of understanding on the city of Taiz.

From 3 to 6 February, the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC), which is chaired by the UN and oversees the agreement on Hodeidah, held its first meeting in nearly a month, bringing together the committee’s Yemeni government and Houthi representatives on a UN vessel anchored off Hodeidah. Discussion centred around UN proposals to conduct the mutual redeployment of forces from the city of Hodeidah and the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa. Following the third day of meetings, General Michael Lollesgaard took over on 5 February as RCC chair and as head of the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), succeeding General Patrick Cammaert.

On 16 and 17 February, the RCC held its fourth meeting, reaching an accord for implementing the first phase of the mutual redeployment of forces set out in the deal on Hodeidah. In a first step, Houthi forces would redeploy from the ports of Saleef and Ras Isa. In a second step, the Houthis would redeploy from Hodeidah port and both parties would withdraw forces from critical parts of the city of Hodeidah associated with humanitarian facilities. This includes opening up the Red Sea mills, which hold sufficient grain stocks to feed 3.7 million people for one month. At the RCC meeting, the parties also agreed, “in principle”, on the second phase of redeployments, which entail the full withdrawal of forces from Hodeidah city, though further consultations were required with the leadership of each side.

Following a 19 February briefing and consultations on Yemen, a Council press statement three days later stressed the “critical importance” of the parties’ implementing their commitments in the Stockholm Agreement. It called for “the immediate implementation” of the first phase of the redeployment of forces.

A 26 February high-level pledging conference in Geneva raised $2.6 billion for the 2019 Yemen humanitarian response plan, which OCHA says will require $4.2 billion.

Key Issues and Options

Advancing implementation of the Stockholm Agreement remains an immediate issue. This includes fulfilling the new commitments on Phase 1 troop redeployments, and reaching an agreement to implement Phase 2 redeployments. Deploying UNMHA and scaling up the presence of other UN entities has also been a challenge. Moreover, there has not been tangible progress yet in implementing the prisoner exchange, which is overseen by a supervisory committee chaired by the Office of the Special Envoy and the ICRC, nor in creating more humanitarian access to Taiz as envisioned in the statement of understanding on that city. Violence has decreased in Hodeidah, but other frontlines, in particular Hajjah governorate, have seen continued fighting. If the sides remain at an impasse in implementing the commitments regarding Hodeidah, an option is for the Council to adopt a presidential statement to exert greater pressure on the parties to follow through on those commitments.

Resuming talks on a framework for a comprehensive political solution is another key issue. A new round of consultations has been on hold until further progress is made in fulfilling the Hodeidah agreement. However, Griffiths recalled the importance of restarting such talks during his last briefing. Upon the parties agreeing on a negotiating framework, one option for the Council would be to adopt a resolution endorsing this framework, as Griffiths has proposed.

The humanitarian crisis remains a critical issue, with 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, including over 10 million people at risk of famine, according to the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Yemen of OCHA and the UN Country Team. Members are likely to reiterate their public calls for the parties to facilitate humanitarian access, including the Red Sea mills and by re-opening the Sana’a-Hodeidah main highway.

Council Dynamics

Members appear united in wanting the parties to fulfil their commitments under the Stockholm Agreement. Two press statements were issued in February to maintain this pressure. Kuwait is part of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that backs the Yemeni government and tends to champion coalition positions. It has sought to facilitate political efforts, hosting peace talks for three months in 2016 and providing aircraft to transport the Houthi delegation to the consultations in Sweden in December 2018. Belgium, Germany, Peru and Poland have been among members that have sought to highlight issues around the humanitarian crisis and international humanitarian law. The US often raises concerns about the role of Iran, which it views as having a destabilising effect on the region.

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

UN DOCUMENTS ON YEMEN

Security Council Resolutions
26 February 2019S/RES/2456 This resolution extended for an additional year the Yemen financial and travel ban sanctions, reaffirmed the provisions of the targeted arms embargo, and renewed the mandate of the committee’s Panel of Experts.
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.
Security Council Meeting Record
19 February 2019S/PV.8464 This was a briefing on Yemen by Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock.
Security Council Press Statements
22 February 2019SC/13713 This press statement called for the immediate implementation of the Phase 1 redeployment of forces from the Hodeidah agreement.
4 February 2019SC/13690 This statement stressed the critical importance of the parties’ fulfilling their commitments made in Sweden.