July 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 June 2019
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MIDDLE EAST

Yemen

Expected Council

In July, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is expected to brief the Council on the implementation of resolutions 2451 and 2452. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock and General Michael Lollesgaard, the chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) and head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), are also likely to brief.

The Council is also expected to renew the mandate of UNMHA, which expires on 16 July.

Key Recent Developments

Diplomatic efforts focused on fixing the damaged relations between the special envoy and the Yemeni government following the UN’s overseeing the Houthi rebel group’s “unilateral” redeployment from Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Isa ports from 11 to 14 May.

On 10 June, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo met in Riyadh with Yemeni President Abdo Raboo Mansour Hadi, whose 22 May letter to the Secretary-General had been highly critical of Griffiths, outlining a list of alleged offenses that ranged from Griffiths’ handling of the Houthi redeployments to his seeking to transcend resolution 2216 by adopting a political framework for the negotiations outside the scope of relevant resolutions and neglecting the Stockholm Agreement’s prisoner exchange and statement of understanding on Taiz. (Resolution 2216, adopted by the Council in April 2015, demanded the Houthis withdraw from all seized territory and relinquish all seized arms.) DiCarlo also met with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, and Assistant Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdel Aziz Hamad Aluwaisheg. Both expressed their support for the efforts of the Special Envoy, according to the UN.

In a press statement that same day, Council members underlined their support for Griffiths and called on the parties to engage constructively and continuously with the special envoy. Members “noted positively” the initial progress achieved towards phase one of the redeployments, a reference to the withdrawal of Houthi forces from the ports.

While the ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate has largely held, fighting continued on other fronts, including the northern Hajjah governorate and the southern al-Dhale governorate. The Houthis escalated attacks against Saudi Arabia amid rising tensions between the US and Iran. On 12 June, the Houthis claimed that they fired a missile that struck Abha International Airport, in south-western Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition supporting the Yemeni government, reported in a letter to the Council that the attack injured 26 civilians. On 23 June, a Houthi drone attack on the airport killed one Syrian civilian and injured 21 people, according to the coalition.

At a 17 June Council meeting, Griffiths, briefing via video teleconference, reaffirmed his personal commitment and that of the UN to pursue an impartial and inclusive political process. Yemen’s ambassador, Abdullah Ali Fadhel al-Saadi, expressed the Yemeni government’s willingness to continue to cooperate with the special envoy. The executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, who participated in the session, accused the Houthis of selling food aid for profit. He said that without assurances by the Houthis that they would start to implement agreements brokered last December regarding beneficiary registration, beneficiary targeting and biometrics, the WFP would most likely start a phased suspension of food assistance by the end of that week. On 20 June, the WFP announced a partial suspension of aid, affecting 850,000 people in Sanaa, though nutrition programs for malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers would be maintained.

Following the 17 June meeting, Council members issued “press elements” in which they expressed full support for the Special Envoy. They condemned in the strongest terms the attacks by the Houthis on 12 June on Abha international airport and condemned Houthi misappropriation of humanitarian assistance and aid, as reported by the WFP executive director.

Key Issues and Options

Implementing the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement remains a key issue. The agreement established a ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate and called for the mutual redeployment of forces from Hodeidah city and the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa; an agreement for a prisoner exchange; and a mutual statement of understanding on Taiz to de-escalate fighting and increase humanitarian aid to this frontline city. Resolving the question of the composition of local security forces to take over from Houthi and government troops is the most contentious issue impeding implementation of the Hodeidah agreement. Another priority is to resume talks between the parties on a comprehensive political solution, though this appears unlikely without significant progress in implementing the Stockholm Agreement. Fighting elsewhere, increased Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, and heightened regional tensions risk undoing the agreement and deepening Yemen’s civil war.

The humanitarian crisis created by the war remains a key concern, with ten million people at risk of famine and more than 24 million people requiring assistance. Reported Houthi diversions of food, bureaucratic impediments by the parties, lack of donor funding for aid operations, and economic conditions, including the decline in the Yemeni rial, contribute to the challenge of addressing the crisis. An issue, increasingly flagged by OCHA, is the potential for an environmental disaster in the Red Sea because of the deteriorated condition of the SAFER oil tanker. This floating storage and offloading facility off the Ras Isa oil terminal holds 1.1 million barrels of oil and is at risk of exploding or rupturing because of its age and its lack of maintenance since 2015. During the Council’s 17 June briefing, Lowcock said that the Houthis recently provided written approval for the UN to proceed with a technical mission to inspect the tanker.

For the mandate renewal of UNMHA, a Secretariat review of the mission, reported in a 12 June letter to the Council, noted that UNMHA “serves as a credible and effective conflict prevention tool at a critical entry point for humanitarian assistance in Yemen and an impartial arbiter of conditions on the ground”. It found that the mission’s mandate continues to be achievable and appropriate for the situation on the ground. The composition and operational aspects of UNMHA were also assessed as remaining valid, while requiring significant flexibility in their application, according to the review.

The Council may renew the mandate of UNMHA for six months or one year. That includes leading and supporting the functioning of the RCC to oversee the governorate-wide ceasefire, redeployment of forces, and mine action operations, and monitoring the compliance of the parties to the ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate and the mutual redeployment of forces from the city of Hodeidah and the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa.

Members may invite Griffiths and Lollesgaard to New York to participate in an informal discussion to brainstorm ideas for how to generate momentum for the Stockholm process and broader political negotiations.

Council members could consider adopting a resolution focusing on the humanitarian situation, perhaps with the more prescriptive elements that were dropped during last December’s negotiations on resolution 2451 on steps that the parties should take, such as ending diversion of assistance, removing bureaucratic restrictions within prescribed timeframes, and introducing measures for strengthening the economy.

Council Dynamics

Council members have maintained strong support for Griffiths and want to preserve the Stockholm Agreement despite the shortfalls in its implementation to date. Members view the agreement as the best possible outcome that could have been struck when the parties went to Sweden last December after almost two and a half years without meeting. The Council is expected to renew the mandate of UNMHA, which, as indicated in the Secretariat’s review, has contributed to a de-escalation around the port city that is vital for alleviating the humanitarian crisis.

Kuwait is part of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and champions coalition positions. It has sought to facilitate political efforts, hosting peace talks in 2016 and providing aircraft to transport the Houthi delegation to last December’s consultations in Sweden. Germany announced at the 15 May briefing that it would be willing to host a new round of consultations. Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Peru and Poland will often seek to coordinate their positions on Yemen, especially on humanitarian issues. The US shares coalition concerns about—and at times seeks to highlight—Iran’s role, which it views as destabilising.

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 Letters
14 June 2019S/2019/494 This was a letter from Iran rejecting Saudi Arabia’s claims in its 13 June letter of Iran backing the Houthis.
13 June 2019S/2019/489 This was a letter from Saudi Arabia on a Houthi 12 June attack against Abha International Airport.
10 June 2019S/2019/485 This was from the Secretary-General, containing a review of UNMHA.
Security Council Meeting Record
17 June 2019S/PV.8551 This was a briefing on Yemen by Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, and Executive Director of the World Food Programme David Beasley
Security Council Press Statement
10 June 2019SC/13834 This statement underlined Council members’ full support for the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.