August 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 August 2022
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MIDDLE EAST

Yemen

Expected Council Action

In August, the Council is expected to hold its monthly briefing on Yemen, followed by closed consultations. Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and an OCHA official will brief. Major General Michael Beary, the head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), is expected to brief during consultations.

Key Recent Developments

The truce between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebel group, which began on 2 April and was extended at the beginning of June, is set to expire on 2 August. The truce has reduced fighting and led to the re-opening of Sana’a’s airport to civilian flights. It has also eased Yemen’s fuel crisis, despite both sides’ allegations of violations and the build-up of forces.

One of the truce’s key elements, to re-open roads around the Houthi-blockaded city of Taiz, remains unresolved. Briefing the Council on 11 July, Grundberg reported that he had recently shared with the parties a second updated proposal for the phased re-opening of roads in Taiz and other governorates but that the Houthis had not accepted it. During the briefing, Grundberg raised concerns about recent “worrisome escalatory rhetoric” by the parties questioning the truce’s value. Grundberg said that he would continue efforts to reach a negotiated solution on re-opening the roads while exploring the possibility of a longer extension of the truce with the parties. According to news reports, Grundberg has suggested a six-month extension to the parties.

During the 11 July briefing, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya flagged funding shortfalls for UN relief efforts and other critical initiatives. Without new donor funding, the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM), which was established in 2016 to facilitate commercial shipping into the Houthi-held ports of Hodeidah and which requires $3.5 million to continue operating until the end of the year, will have to close by September. The UN also continues to face a $20 million shortfall to begin the first phase of a plan to transfer oil from the decrepit Safer oil tanker, which could cause an environmental disaster in the Red Sea if the oil on board leaks or the ship explodes. More broadly, the Yemen humanitarian response plan is only 27 percent funded. Msuya also highlighted that it was important for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to disburse the $3 billion economic support package for Yemen that they announced in April, given the economic pressures that are driving humanitarian needs. Major General Beary briefed in consultations, reportedly noting an uptick in hostilities since his last briefing and that UNMHA was monitoring reports of increased military preparedness by both sides.

On 13 July, the Council adopted resolution 2643, renewing the mandate of UNMHA until 14 July 2023. Resolution 2643 welcomed the establishment of an UNMHA presence in Yemeni government-controlled areas, which the mission recently created in the port city of Mokha, and demanded that the Houthis end the restrictions and hindrances to the movement of UNMHA personnel, including by allowing announced and unannounced UNMHA patrols. Moreover, resolution 2643 welcomed the truce and the Yemeni government’s flexibility in enabling the entry of fuel ships into Hodeidah and enabling round-trip civilian flights from Sana’a to Amman and Cairo. It called upon the Houthis to act with flexibility in negotiations and immediately open the main roads around Taiz and urged that a strengthened truce be translated into a durable ceasefire and an inclusive, comprehensive political settlement under the auspices of the UN.

Yemen featured prominently in a 15 July meeting in Riyadh between US President Joe Biden and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and their delegations. The two sides committed to “doing everything possible to extend and strengthen the UN-mediated truce”, according to a White House press release. On 18 July, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, and the US—known as the “Quint”—met virtually to discuss the situation in Yemen. They were joined by Grundberg and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly. In a communiqué, the Quint stated their full support for Grundberg’s efforts to extend and expand the truce on 2 August.

Key Issues and Options

The extension and consolidation of the truce is a key issue. The Houthis’ rejection of several UN proposals to re-open roads in Taiz and other governorates and the emerging stalemate in these talks is undermining some of the truce’s initial positive momentum and is a cause for concern. A further key issue is restarting a political process based on Grundberg’s multitrack framework dealing with political, security and economic issues for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Council members are likely to monitor Grundberg’s efforts to secure an extension of the truce. They could consider adopting a presidential statement to endorse any agreement that he brokers while encouraging the parties to maintain and translate the truce into a ceasefire agreement. A statement could also reiterate calls for the Houthis to demonstrate flexibility by opening the main roads around Taiz as the government has agreed to open Sana’a airport and increase fuel shipments through Hodeidah.

Rising global food and energy prices as a result of the war in Ukraine present significant threats to efforts to ease Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and threaten to worsen the situation. Members could encourage donors to contribute to the UN’s 2022 Yemen humanitarian response plan and to UNVIM and to fill the remaining funding requirements to begin implementing the UN-facilitated plan for the FSO Safer.

Additionally, threats to and intimidation of humanitarian personnel have been a growing issue of concern for several months. This includes the Houthis’ continued detention of two UN staff members based in Sana’a since last November and the kidnapping of five UN staff members in February in Abyan, presumably by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Council Dynamics

Council members are generally united over Yemen. Members have encouraged the parties to uphold the truce and want to see it translated into a durable ceasefire, which could facilitate progress on a political process for a comprehensive settlement to end the war. They are also concerned about the humanitarian situation.

The UAE, an elected Council member, is a member of the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition that backs the Yemeni government and has strongly pushed for its views to be reflected in Council products. Russia has often pushed back on language in Council products that it perceives as too critical of the Houthis or not balanced. However, the importance of its bilateral relations with the UAE appears to have made it more flexible this year in Council negotiations on Yemen. The US Special Envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, has coordinated closely with the UN in support of Grundberg’s efforts to advance a political process, as have the P5 ambassadors to Yemen (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US).

The UK is the penholder on Yemen. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania) chairs the Yemen 2140 Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON YEMEN

Security Council Resolutions
13 July 2022S/RES/2643 This renewed the mandate of UNMHA until 14 July 2023.
28 February 2022S/RES/2624 This resolution renewed the Yemen sanctions regime for one year and added the Houthis as an entity to the Yemen sanctions list, subject to the measures of the targeted arms embargo in resolution 2216.
Security Council Meeting Records
13 July 2022S/PV.9091 This was the adoption and explanation of vote on the mandate renewal of UNMHA.
11 July 2022S/PV.9088 This was a briefing on Yemen with Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya.

 

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