December 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2022
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Expected Council Action

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

Key Recent Developments

Yemen’s truce, which had been in place since April and was extended twice, expired on 2 October despite intensive efforts to renew and expand the truce agreement. Ahead of its expiration, Grundberg had proposed a six-month extension of the truce. The UN envoy’s proposal also entailed the payment of civil servants’ salaries and pensions, the opening of specific roads in Taiz and other governorates, additional flight destinations from Sana’a airport, unhindered entry of fuel ships into Hodeidah port, a commitment to release detainees urgently, and the strengthening of de-escalation mechanisms through the Military Coordination Committee (MCC). The Houthi rebel group’s position that their security forces be included in the salary payments of civil servants, however, prevented an agreement with the Yemeni government.

Despite some fighting along the front lines, major hostilities have not resumed since the truce’s expiration. Grundberg has continued talks with the parties to re-establish the truce agreement. He visited Riyadh from 17 to 18 October, meeting officials from the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia, as well as diplomats representing the permanent members of the UN Security Council, the P5 (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US). On 30 October, Grundberg concluded a visit to Muscat, where he met with senior Omani officials and Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam to discuss options to renew the truce. On 7 November, he concluded a second visit to Riyadh, meeting with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohamed Al Jabir, and P5 diplomats. Grundberg did not announce any breakthroughs following these visits.

Meanwhile, a Houthi delegation visited Abha, Saudi Arabia, and a Saudi delegation went to Sana’a on 12 October. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which supports the Yemeni government, said in a statement that the delegations visited prisoners of war as a confidence-building measure geared at extending the truce. The exchange coincided with reports during October and November of intensified direct talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, as well as Houthi-Saudi talks facilitated by Oman regarding a comprehensive agreement to end the war.

On 21 October, a Houthi drone attack targeted an oil tanker off the Al-Dubba oil terminal in Hadramawt governorate. The Houthis claimed that the attack was a “warning strike” to prevent pro-government forces from using the terminal for oil exports. The Greek shipowners said that there were “two drone-driven explosions in close proximity” to the vessel as it tried to load at the port but that the vessel had not sustained damage. At a 23 October emergency meeting, Yemen’s National Defence Council—which is headed by the President of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), Rashad al-Alimi—designated the Houthis as a terrorist organisation. Grundberg condemned the attack in a 22 October statement, calling it “a deeply worrying military escalation”. In a press statement on 26 October, Security Council members strongly condemned the “Houthi terrorist drone attacks” against the oil terminal.

According to the Yemeni government, the Houthis conducted similar drone attacks targeting the Rudum oil terminal on 18 and 19 October. The drone attacks targeting government oil terminals continued in November. On 9 November, a Houthi drone attack targeted the southern Qena port in Shabwah governorate, followed by an attack on 21 October against the Al-Dubba terminal. A joint statement by the ambassadors of France, the UK and the US to Yemen on the Qena port attack called on the Houthis to cease the attacks, saying that “economic warfare will only exacerbate the conflict and humanitarian crisis” in Yemen.

On 22 November, the Council held its monthly briefing on Yemen, receiving an update from Grundberg on his mediation efforts. OCHA Director of Operations and Advocacy Reena Ghelani described, among other issues, the increasingly constrained humanitarian operating environment. Movement restrictions imposed by Houthi authorities on women humanitarian workers over recent months have contributed to this reduction in relief agencies’ ability to deliver assistance.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 26 September, the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee added two members of the Houthis to its Sanctions List. The Committee designated Houthi Commander of Yemen’s Naval and Coastal Defense Forces Mansur Al-Sa’adi for having “masterminded lethal attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea”. It also added former Deputy Head of the Houthi National Security Bureau (NSB) Motlaq Amer Al-Marrani, who oversaw detainees of the NSB who were subjected to torture and other mistreatment, as well as for his role in planning the detention of humanitarian workers and diverting humanitarian aid. On 4 October, the Committee designated a third member, Ahmad al-Hamzi, commander of the Houthi Air Force and Air Defense Forces and its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme.

On 29 November, the 2140 Committee held joint consultations with the 751 Al-Shabaab Sanctions Committee (formerly called the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee) to discuss arms smuggling in the region.

Human Rights-Related Developments

A 4 November statement delivered by the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, Jeremy Laurence, described the High Commissioner as gravely concerned about the safety and security of civilians following the expiry of the UN-mediated truce in Yemen. It noted that in late October, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had verified three incidents of sniper shootings attributed to the Houthis, in which a boy, a woman, and two men were injured, and three shelling incidents in government-controlled territory that killed two men and wounded four boys, two of whom required leg amputations.

Key Issues and Options

The risk of a resumption of major hostilities is a critical concern. A key issue for the Council is how to support efforts to restore the truce and establish a political process. Council members are likely to monitor Grundberg’s ongoing mediation activities. Members may call on the parties, especially the Houthis, to show the flexibility to restore the truce and encourage the coordination of other peace initiatives with the Special Envoy’s mediation activities. If an expanded truce agreement is brokered, the Council could adopt a presidential statement to endorse the deal. It may also encourage the parties to maintain and translate a new truce agreement into a ceasefire agreement that leads to an inclusive political process under UN auspices aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement of the conflict.

In addition to bureaucratic impediments and movement restrictions, rising global food and energy prices because of the war in Ukraine have complicated efforts this year to address humanitarian needs in Yemen. Members might encourage more donor support for relief efforts in Yemen, both for the rest of 2022 and for upcoming requirements next year.

Members are also likely to closely monitor progress towards starting the salvage operation for the FSO Safer oil tanker, which is moored off Hodeidah port; in September, the UN-facilitated plan to remove the oil from the decrepit ship finally received the donor commitments required to conduct the first phase of the operation.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Council members want the parties to restore the truce and have criticised the Houthis’ “maximalist demands”, which prevented the renewal and expansion of the truce agreement in October. 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. Despite broader geopolitical tensions, the P5 ambassadors to Yemen have maintained their coordination in support of Grundberg’s efforts, while the US Special Envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, has also engaged in regional diplomacy to back UN mediation to re-establish the truce. Saudi Arabia exercises leverage on the Yemeni government, and Oman often plays an important role as an interlocutor with the Houthis.

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

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Security Council Meeting Records
22 November 2022S/PV.9199 This was a briefing on Yemen by Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and OCHA Director for Operations and Advocacy Reena Ghelani.
Security Council Letter
21 October 2022S/2022/791 This was was a Yemeni government letter on Houthi attacks against oil infrastructure.
Security Council Press Statements
26 October 2022SC/15080 This press statement condemned the Houthi terrorist drone attacks on 21 October that struck the Al-Dubba oil terminal.
5 October 2022SC/15054 This was a press statement expressing “deep disappointment” on the expiration of Yemen’s truce, and reiterating that the parties should find a way forward to reinstate the truce.