Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to renew the Yemen financial and travel ban sanctions measures, which expire on 15 November, and the mandate of the Yemen Panel of Experts, which expires on 15 December. (The targeted arms embargo established by resolution 2216 in April 2015 on the Houthi rebel group is open-ended.)
The Council will also hold its monthly meeting on Yemen, with UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and a representative of OCHA expected to brief. The chair of the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania) may also brief. The head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), Major General Michael Beary, is expected to brief during consultations.
Key Recent Developments
From 14 to 19 September, a delegation of the Houthi rebel group visited Riyadh for a new round of peace talks with Saudi Arabia, renewing expectations that the two sides could be nearing an agreement. Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition that has supported Yemen’s internationally recognised government during the more than eight-year-long war in Yemen. The Saudi foreign ministry welcomed the talks’ “positive results”. Days later, however, a Houthi drone attack on 25 September killed four Bahraini soldiers serving in the coalition along the Saudi-Yemen border. Coalition spokesperson Brigadier General Turki al-Maliki described the attack as having been carried out by “some Houthi elements”.
Grundberg condemned the attack, warning that “any renewal of offensive military escalation risks plunging Yemen back into a cycle of violence and undermines ongoing peace efforts”. Council members also condemned “the egregious and escalatory” attack in a 29 September press statement. The Council press statement reiterated the need for “decisive steps” towards a sustainable ceasefire and underlined members’ “strong support for efforts towards a political settlement”.
On 12 October, Council members held their monthly briefing on Yemen in closed consultations. Grundberg, Beary, and the director of OCHA’s Operations and Advocacy Division, Edem Wosornu, briefed. As part of his briefing, Grundberg raised the risk of the war between Israel and Hamas—the Palestinian armed group and de facto authority in Gaza—affecting the situation in Yemen. The animosity of the Houthis towards Israel is revealed by their slogan, adopted in 2003, which includes the words: “Death to America, Death to Israel. Curse the Jews”. Also, like other anti-Israel forces in the region, the Houthis are supported by Iran. In a 10 October televised speech, Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi warned that the group would fire drones and missiles if the US directly intervenes in Gaza, along with taking other military actions. He added that the Houthis were ready to coordinate with other groups and intervene.
On 19 October, the US announced that a US naval warship in the northern Red Sea intercepted three missiles and several drones that had been launched from Yemen. (Other subsequent reporting said that the US intercepted four cruise missiles and 15 drones.) According to the US, the missiles and drones were heading north along the Red Sea, potentially towards targets in Israel.
Yemenia Airways resumed the only international commercial flights from Sana’a airport on 17 October. The airport, which had been closed to commercial flights for most of the war, was opened last year as part of Yemen’s April 2022 truce agreement and continued to operate passenger flights after the truce expired in October 2022. Yemenia Airways had however suspended operations on 30 September after the Houthis reportedly blocked the carrier from withdrawing its funds ($80 million) from Sana’a banks. At the time of writing, it was unclear whether or not the dispute over the funds had been resolved.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 12 October, during its 54th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted without a vote resolution A/HRC/RES/54/29 on technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights. In the resolution, the HRC called on all parties to immediately implement all of the truce provisions and called for the removal of the Houthi-imposed blockade on Ta’izz. The HRC emphasised the need to immediately implement the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement in order to begin negotiations to reach a “comprehensive and inclusive political solution” and called on the Houthis to release kidnapped humanitarian workers. The resolution requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to present a report on the implementation of technical assistance to the HRC at its 57th session and the National Commission of Inquiry to submit a report on all human rights violations in all parts of Yemen as soon as possible.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is how the Council can support ongoing peace talks and efforts to establish a formal ceasefire and an inter-Yemeni political process under UN auspices. One of the unresolved issues in the Houthi-Saudi talks has been the use of Yemen’s resources and associated revenues to pay the salaries of public employees in Houthi-held territory. Other key issues related to the political process are the fragile relations between the various factions that form the Yemeni government’s Presidential Leadership Council and the importance of their adopting a common negotiating position.
A related key issue for the Council is how to renew the sanctions in support of ongoing political efforts. Other key issues for the Council when considering the Yemen sanctions are the implementation of the assets freeze on designated individuals and the arms embargo on the Houthis, as well as assessing obstructions on humanitarian assistance and violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law.
One option for the Council is to renew the sanctions regime without making significant changes to the mandate, as it waits for the outcome of the Houthi-Saudi talks.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen remains a key issue. This includes a funding shortage for relief efforts, which is forcing humanitarian agencies to scale back programmes. As at 18 October, the 2023 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan, which calls for $4.344 billion, was only 33.3 percent funded. Access constraints also undermine relief efforts; in October major donors, such as the US, were reportedly halting assistance because of Houthi interference in the delivery of aid. Moreover, difficult economic conditions in Yemen are exacerbating the humanitarian situation.
Members may 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. They could also 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 it from providing services.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are united in their support of the different mediation efforts. Members have 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.
Despite this unity in support of the mediation tracks, members still have differences that become visible during negotiations on statements or resolutions. The United Arab Emirates 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. Regarding the Yemen sanctions, Council members agreed this past February to a technical rollover of the sanctions regime, which it seems was also the preference of Saudi Arabia, to give space for the Houthi-Saudi peace talks and avoid disrupting this process.
The UK is the penholder on Yemen. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha (Albania) chairs the 2140 Sanctions Committee. The committee most recently met on 27 October to consider the final report of the Yemen Panel of Experts.
UN DOCUMENTS ON YEMEN
|Security Council Resolution|
|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.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|29 September 2023SC/15430||This press statement condemned the “egregious and escalatory” drone attack, attributed to the Houthis, on Bahraini forces serving in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on the southern Saudi border.|