Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council will hold its monthly briefing, followed by closed consultations, on Yemen with UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg. A representative of OCHA and the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly are also expected to brief. The head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), Major General Michael Beary, is expected to brief during the consultations. The Council is also expected to renew the mandate of UNMHA, which expires on 14 July.
Key Recent Developments
Grundberg has continued his shuttle diplomacy with the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebel group. His efforts are occurring in parallel with Omani-facilitated talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia that have helped maintain the longest lull in fighting in Yemen’s eight-year conflict, beginning with the start of the now-expired April 2022 truce.
On 4 June, Grundberg met in Riyadh with representatives of the Yemeni government, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, and the P5 ambassadors to Yemen (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the UK). The next day, he met in Muscat with senior Omani officials and Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam. On 9 June, Yemenia Airways announced that it would increase to six the number of weekly flights between the Houthi-held capital of Sana’a and Amman, Jordan; the April 2022 truce agreement resumed commercial flights out of Sana’a airport for the first time since 2016. In a further sign of easing tensions between the Houthis and Saudis, on 17 June, the first flight from Sana’a to Saudi Arabia since 2016 carried 270 Yemeni citizens to Jeddah for the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca required once in a lifetime of every Muslim who can afford it and is physically able to undertake it. A second flight of Yemeni pilgrims on 20 June carried a Houthi delegation, which included, according to news reports, the head of the Houthi military committee for negotiations, General Yahya Ruzami.
Grundberg briefed Council members via videoconference from The Hague during closed consultations on 12 June. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths and General Beary briefed in person during the consultations.
Beary’s rare in-person briefing occurred as Council members received the Secretary-General’s annual review of UNMHA before its mandate expires next month. The review, dated 12 June, details how the mission conducted visits over the past year to both sides of the new frontlines in southern Hodeidah governorate, which it had previously not been able to access, following government forces’ withdrawal from Hodeidah city in November 2021. It sets out UNMHA’s increased civic engagement with local communities and efforts to support the UN country team. Still, UNMHA faced persistent restrictions by the Houthis on its freedom of movement, particularly in monitoring the civilian nature of the ports. The review further adds that daily ceasefire violations, though not amounting to major or sustained escalations, remain of concern.
From 16 to 18 June, the eighth meeting of the UN- and ICRC-chaired Supervisory Committee on the Implementation of the Detainees Exchange Agreement was held in Amman. This was the committee’s first meeting since the Yemeni government and the Houthis agreed at talks in March in Geneva to release nearly 900 detainees, who were released from 14 to 16 April. In a statement, the Office of the Special Envoy said that the government and the Houthis discussed “the necessity of achieving tangible progress to reach a gradual release of [detainees] based on the ‘all-for-all’ principle”; “all-for-all” refers to the parties releasing all detainees as agreed to in the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement.
In developments indicating the disunity of the anti-Houthi forces, Saudi Arabia hosted talks between political and tribal representatives of Hadramawt governorate from 19 May to 21 June in Riyadh. At its conclusion, these representatives announced the formation of the Hadramawt National Council (HNC) and the approval of a political charter. The creation of the HNC for the governorate appeared to be an alternative to the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC). In May, the STC organised in Aden a “Southern National Consultative Meeting” that adopted a political charter which reiterated the call for a separate southern state. The STC, which is supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), strengthened its military and political position when, on 9 May, it integrated into its leadership two members of Yemen’s eight-person Presidential Leadership Council (PLC).
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 9 June, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement calling for the immediate release of a group of followers of the Baha’i faith. The statement observed that a sermon by Shamseddin Sharafeddin, the Mufti in Sana’a, incited hatred against Baha’i adherents and other religious groups, noting that it was a “serious concern”. The statement emphasised that the sermon “starkly defies international law”.
Sharafeddin, who was appointed by the de facto authorities in Sana’a, accused the Baha’i followers of apostasy and threatened them with death if they did not repent.
On 19 June, the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee held informal consultations to hear a briefing by Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council is how to support ongoing peace talks and efforts to establish a formal ceasefire and political process. Details of a potential deal in the Houthi-Saudi talks have not been made public, but according to news reports, they may include establishing a ceasefire and the payment of public employees in Houthi territory, possibly through revenues from Yemen’s oil and gas reserves, which the Yemeni government controls. Council members could reiterate the importance of an inclusive Yemeni political process under UN mediation for a sustainable resolution of the conflict.
Despite some positive signs in the peace process, Yemen continues to face massive humanitarian needs. An estimated 21.6 million people in Yemen require aid or protection. Access constraints and interference in relief include the Houthis’ enforcement of mahram, requiring women to be accompanied by male guardians, which has negatively affected aid operations. Support for Yemen’s economy is also critical to mitigating the humanitarian crisis. Landmines and explosive remnants of war have become an issue of greater concern in the truce and post-truce period, impeding the return of displaced people and hindering economic recovery.
Members may reiterate calls on all parties to facilitate the safe, rapid, and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief to all civilians in need and to protect humanitarian personnel and assets in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law. In addition, they may urge donors to support the Yemen 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), which calls for $4.3 billion but was only about 29 percent funded, as of 30 June.
Council members are also likely to continue closely monitoring progress in the FSO Safer salvage operation to prevent a massive oil spill in the Red Sea off the coast of Hodeidah governorate. On 19 June, the Office of the UN spokesperson said that the transfer of oil from the FSO Safer to the replacement vessel that the UN Development Programme has procured was expected to begin by the end of June.
Another key issue for the Council in July is to renew the mandate of UNMHA. The Council may extend the mandate for a further 12 months, which includes monitoring the 2018 Hodeidah ceasefire agreement.
Council members have welcomed the potential for the Houthi-Saudi talks to yield meaningful results. At the same time, members stress the ultimate importance of an inclusive Yemeni political process facilitated by UN mediation to achieve a sustainable resolution to the conflict. Joint meetings of the Riyadh-based ambassadors to Yemen of the Council’s permanent members show the Council’s general consensus on Yemen. Council members’ approach to mandate renewals this year—the February renewal of the Yemen sanctions regime and now the upcoming renewal of UNMHA—has been to avoid significant changes that could disrupt ongoing diplomatic processes.
The UAE has been a leading member of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and takes a strong interest in Council decisions on Yemen. Since 2021, the US has had a Special Envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, who has actively supported Grundberg’s efforts to establish a political process and to resolve the threat posed by the FSO Safer. China helped mediate the Saudi-Iran agreement on 10 March to restore relations between those two countries, which, China has highlighted, could create conditions to improve the situation in Yemen.
The UK is the penholder on Yemen. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania) chairs the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON YEMEN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 February 2023S/RES/2675||This resolution extended the Yemen asset freeze and travel ban sanctions measures nine months until 15 November, and the mandate of the Yemen Panel of Experts until 15 December.|
|13 July 2022S/RES/2643||This renewed the mandate of UNMHA until 14 July 2023.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|17 May 2023S/PV.9323||This was a briefing on Yemen with Special Envoy Hans Grundberg; OCHA Deputy Director of Operations and Advocacy Edem Wosornu; and Yasmeen al-Eryani, the co-executive director for knowledge production at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies.|