October 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2023
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Expected Council Action

In October, the Security Council will hold its monthly briefing on Yemen, followed by closed consultations. UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and a representative of OCHA will 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 mandate of the Yemen sanctions measures, which comprise an assets freeze and travel ban, expires on 15 November.

Key Recent Developments

A delegation of the Houthi rebel group visited Riyadh from 15 to 19 September, holding a new round of Omani-mediated talks with Saudi Arabia—which leads a military coalition in support of Yemen’s internationally recognised government—on a possible ceasefire agreement. It was the first official visit by the Houthis since the start of Yemen’s war more than eight years ago. Saudi Arabia welcomed the “positive results” of the five-day talks the Houthi delegation held with Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman Al Saud. The talks “were aimed at achieving a road map to support the peace process in Yemen”, according to a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. Media reports cited sources as saying that some progress was made on such issues as a timeline to withdraw foreign troops from Yemen and a mechanism for paying public servants’ salaries.

Parallel to this process, Grundberg continued his regular consultations with the parties and other relevant actors. In late August, he held a virtual meeting with Iranian officials, followed by a visit to Cairo to meet with Egyptian and League of Arab States officials and Yemeni government parliamentarians, which included discussing the possible establishment of direct flights from Houthi-held Sana’a to the Egyptian capital. The UN Envoy then held talks with Yemeni government representatives in Aden and Marib in Yemen, where he met with the chair of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), Rashad al-Alimi, and the president of the separatist Southern Transitional Council and PLC vice-president, Aidarous al-Zubaidi. Grundberg also consulted Emirati and Saudi officials during visits to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh on 6 September and 7 September, respectively. In a 20 September statement, Grundberg welcomed the recently concluded Houthi visit to Riyadh.

Grundberg briefed Council members in closed consultations during their monthly meeting on Yemen on 11 September. At the closed-door session, Council members also heard briefings by Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya and Beary. Following the meeting, Council members issued press elements expressing their support for the UN-led peace process and welcoming the efforts by Saudi Arabia and Oman “and their ongoing support to the mediation efforts of the United Nations.”

In further diplomatic activity, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, respectively—met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 19 September in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s high-level week. The Saudi Press Agency reported that Saudi Arabia “was commended for hosting the Sanaa delegation”, while Blinken, according to his opening remarks, described the current situation as “a moment of opportunity” to advance peace in Yemen. A US statement said that the “Secretary and the Foreign Ministers agreed that cooperation among the three governments and Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council is essential to advancing UN-led peace efforts”. A media report said that the US had pushed for the trilateral meeting to address differences between the two coalition countries that could undermine efforts for a peace deal.

On 25 September, Bahrain announced that a Houthi drone attack killed one Bahraini officer and one Bahraini soldier, and wounded several other soldiers serving in the Saudi-led coalition along Saudi Arabia’s southern border. The attack was a rare Houthi cross-border attack since the UN mediated a now expired truce agreement in April 2022.

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 an inter-Yemeni political process under UN auspices. Differences over the use of Yemen’s resources and associated revenues to pay the salaries of public employees have been one of the main issues impeding progress in the Houthi-Saudi talks, which started in October 2022. A related issue is the fragile relations between the various factions that make up the anti-Houthi forces and that form the Yemeni government’s PLC, including the separatist STC movement, which is supported by the UAE. Concerns have also been raised within Yemen’s government about Saudi Arabia, seeking to extricate itself from the war, potentially reaching a deal with the Houthis, which could lack the concurrence of other Yemeni stakeholders.

Council members could encourage the parties to continue talks and show flexibility to reach a ceasefire agreement. They may further reiterate the importance of an inclusive Yemeni political process mediated by the UN for a sustainable resolution of the conflict.

Yemen continues to face massive humanitarian needs, which remains a key issue. An estimated 21.6 million people require aid or protection. Access constraints and interference in relief operations include the Houthis’ enforcement of mahram, requiring Yemeni women aid workers to be accompanied by male guardians, which has negatively affected aid delivery. Funding shortfalls for the 2023 UN humanitarian response plan are causing relief programmes and services to be scaled back or cut. Moreover, economic conditions are exacerbating the humanitarian situation in addition to potentially undermining political efforts. Misinformation and disinformation against humanitarians in Yemen have been exacerbating safety concerns, affecting the response.

Council members may highlight worries about policies that are fuelling socioeconomic challenges and tensions—Houthi drone attacks on oil terminals last year and restrictions on inter-Yemeni trade have caused significant revenue shortages for the government, which have hindered the provision of services. Members may further reiterate calls for 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, which calls for $4.3 billion but was only 32 percent funded as at 21 September.

Council members could similarly reiterate calls for donors to help fill the remaining funding requirements, and to deliver committed funds, for completing the UN-led FSO Safer salvage operation. A potential environmental crisis was recently averted after the successful extraction of the oil from the moored vessel off Hodeidah governorate, but a funding gap still exists to complete the operation. This includes towing and scraping the ship and installing a buoy to moor the replacement vessel of the FSO Safer.

Council Dynamics

Council members are united in their support for the UN Special Envoy’s mediation efforts. Members have further welcomed the potential for the Houthi-Saudi talks to yield meaningful results. At the same time, they stress the ultimate importance of an inclusive Yemeni political process under UN auspices to achieve a sustainable resolution to the conflict. The UAE has been a leading member of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and is active in pushing for its views, coordinated with the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia, to be reflected in Council products. Russia has traditionally objected to language in Council products that it perceives as too critical of the Houthis or not balanced. The US maintains a Special Envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, who often seeks to support the UN and other mediation efforts.

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

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Security Council Resolutions
10 July 2023S/RES/2691 This resolution extended the mandate of UNMHA until 14 July 2024.
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.

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