Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by closed consultations, on Yemen. UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths are the anticipated briefers. General Michael Beary, head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), is expected to brief during the consultations.
Key Recent Developments
The ongoing truce in Yemen is set to expire on 2 October, following its second renewal in August. Grundberg is seeking an “expanded truce” agreement that opens roads around Taiz, as envisioned in the initial truce agreement; maintains the regular flow of fuel imports through Hodeidah; increases international flight destinations from Sana’a airport; and establishes a mechanism to pay civil servant salaries. His push for an expanded truce also seeks a longer six-month extension, instead of its customary two-month renewal periods, to provide more space to negotiate a formal ceasefire, and to hold talks on broader economic, security and political issues.
The truce saw its most serious fighting on 28 August when the Houthi rebel group attacked the al-Dhabab district west of Taiz city, in an attempt to seize the lone government-controlled road into the city, which the Houthis have surrounded for years. The Yemeni government said ten of its soldiers were killed and seven wounded in the hours-long fighting. Grundberg strongly condemned the attack. The fighting occurred as representatives of the parties to the Military Coordination Committee (MCC), which manages military aspects of the truce, were in Amman to hold their fourth meeting. Because of the attack, the meeting did not take place, and MCC members only met bilaterally with the envoy’s military adviser.
Talks to open roads into and out of Taiz city have been deadlocked. The Houthis have blocked access to main roads since 2015, leaving the mountainous, narrow and unpaved Haigat Al-Abd as the only major access road to the city from Aden. On 29 August, 15 human rights organizations, including Humans Rights Watch and Amnesty International, issued a statement calling for the Houthis to immediately open roads, highlighting the humanitarian suffering created by the road closures and isolation of Taiz.
In other provocative actions, the Houthis have recently held a series of military parades. A 1 September parade in Hodeidah included drones, mines and land-based anti-ship missiles. It prompted an UNMHA statement that called the parade a violation of the December 2018 Hodeidah Agreement and urged Houthi leadership “to fully respect their obligations under the Agreement, particularly as it pertains to keeping the City free of military manifestations”. On 15 September and 21 September, the Houthis staged massive military parades in Sana’a to commemorate the eighth anniversary of their take-over of Sana’a in September 2014.
Meanwhile in the south, the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), which is a member of the anti-Houthi coalition, announced that 27 soldiers had been killed on 28 August in an attack by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The attack followed an STC military operation into Abyan, launched on 23 August, against the orders of the chairman of Yemen’s eight-member Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), Rashad al-Alimi. The operation came just after fighting had subsided in neighbouring Shawba governorate between anti-Houthi forces and further demonstrated the fragility of the PLC, which was formed in April to create a more united front consisting of the various Yemeni groups nominally opposed to the Houthis.
Council members held their regular monthly meeting on Yemen in closed consultations with Grundberg, OCHA Director of Operations and Advocacy Reena Ghelani, and General Beary on 8 September. Prior to the meeting, Grundberg completed a series of regional meetings on his expanded truce proposal in Riyadh, Tehran and Muscat. In a 12 September press statement, Council members called on both parties to urgently intensify, and be flexible in, the negotiations to agree on an expanded truce that could be translated into a durable ceasefire. The statement condemned all attacks that threatened the truce, including the recent Houthi attacks on Taiz, and condemned the military parade in Hodeidah. Members also expressed concern regarding recent instability in the southern part of Yemen.
On 15 September, the Council held a briefing on widespread food insecurity due to conflict and violence in northern Ethiopia, northeast Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen. An OCHA white note on the four country situations, dated 26 August, prompted the meeting. According to the white note, 19 million people in Yemen are estimated to be suffering from acute food insecurity. Of this total, 538,000 children are severely malnourished and 161,000 people face “catastroph[ic]” food insecurity, a reference to famine-like conditions. Yemen’s depreciating currency, the rise in global fuel and food prices, and the severe humanitarian funding gap continue to drive Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, despite reduced hostilities.
On 17 September, the Netherlands announced a pledge of 7.5 million euros for the UN-facilitated plan to prevent a major oil spill from the decrepit FSO Safer oil tanker moored off Hoideidah governorate. The announcement by the Netherlands—which made an initial pledge in May, also of 7.5 million euros—provides the UN with the $75 million required to begin the emergency phase of the operation to transfer the oil from the FSO Safer to a temporary vessel.
Key Issues and Options
The renewal and expansion of the truce is a critical issue. Recent developments represent a precarious moment for the truce. The Houthis have refused to make concessions regarding Taiz, and there are reports that they have increased their demands for securing an extension or expansion of the truce agreement. Emerging issues are the fighting and divisions among different groups that make up the PLC.
Council members are likely to monitor Grundberg’s efforts to obtain an extension of the truce. In the event of agreement on an expanded truce, members could consider adopting a presidential statement to endorse the deal, while encouraging the parties to maintain and translate the truce into a ceasefire agreement.
Rising global food and energy prices as a result of the war in Ukraine have contributed to increasing humanitarian needs in Yemen despite the reduction in fighting since the truce. Members could encourage donors to contribute to the UN’s 2022 Yemen humanitarian response plan and support Yemen’s economy, to the salvage operations involving the FSO Safer, and to the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM). UNVIM, which has operated since 2016, has played an important role during the truce in facilitating commercial shipments into Hodeidah, but it may face funding shortfalls starting in October that could force it to suspend operations.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council 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 an eventual negotiated settlement to end the war. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)—an elected Council member that has been closely involved in the conflict as a member of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition battling the Houthis—actively pushes for its views, particularly regarding the Houthis, to be reflected in Council products. Russia traditionally resists language in Council products that it perceives as too critical of the Houthis or not balanced. This year, however, Russia has been more flexible in Council negotiations on Yemen, which appears to reflect its bilateral relations with the UAE. The US Special Envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, has engaged in regional diplomacy to support UN efforts to extend the truce and raise funds for the FSO Safer salvage operation. While Saudi Arabia exercises leverage on the Yemeni government, Oman often plays an important role as an interlocutor with the Houthis. Ahead of the truce’s renewal on 2 August, an Omani delegation visited Sana’a to help secure its extension.
The UK is the penholder on Yemen. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania) chairs the Yemen 2140 Sanctions Committee, which met on 9 September with the Yemen Panel of Experts on its mid-term update.
UN DOCUMENTS ON YEMEN
|Security Council Resolution|
|13 July 2022S/RES/2643||This renewed the mandate of UNMHA until 14 July 2023.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|15 September 2022S/PV.9133||This was a briefing on conflict-induced hunger following OCHA’s 26 August white note to Council members on widespread food insecurity due to conflict and violence in northern Ethiopia, northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|12 September 2022SC/15025||This press statement called on both parties to urgently intensify, and be flexible in, the negotiations to agree on an expanded truce that could be translated into a durable ceasefire.|