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Yemen Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow afternoon (7 February), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing by Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant (UK) and Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki (Morocco), who co-led the Council’s visit to Yemen on 27 January. This is likely to be followed by a briefing in consultations by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the situation in Yemen, Jamal Benomar. (In resolution 2051, the Council requested an update on developments in Yemen every 60 days.) A press statement in which the Council may reiterate its support for the political transition in Yemen appears to be a possible outcome.

It seems that there were some discussions among Council members on the format of the two meetings, with eventual agreement reached that Benomar’s briefing be conducted in closed consultations. This was likely due to Council members’ preference to have a frank discussion with Benomar about his views on the situation in Yemen, as well as for them to openly share their reflections following their visit to Sana’a.

Council members generally agree that the visit—the first to Yemen by the Security Council and its first visit to the Middle East in five years—was successful in fulfilling its Terms of Reference (S/2013/61). (The Council had planned to visit Yemen in October 2012, but the trip was postponed due to security concerns.)

Council members will likely welcome the recent announcement by President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi of the start of the much-anticipated National Dialogue Conference, which media reports indicate will take place on 18 March. (The Conference, which will feed into the drafting of a new constitution, will be conducted over a six-month period, in the lead up to general elections slated for February 2014.)

While all Council members agree on the importance of comprehensive preparations involving all political parties to ensure a successful political transition, they will likely be keen on hearing Benomar’s comments on the ambitious timeline, particularly in light of the fact that the National Dialogue Conference was originally planned to commence in November 2012. Council members may also be interested in hearing Benomar’s thoughts on southern separatism and how this issue may be addressed in the National Dialogue Conference. (On 13 January, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis rallied in support of self-rule for the formerly independent south.)

A related issue that Council members will be interested in getting greater clarity about is the role that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh—currently head of the General People’s Congress party, which along with its partners will have 112 delegates in the 565-seat Conference, the largest of any bloc—will play in the National Dialogue Conference, as well as others who are considered a threat to Yemen’s successful transition to democracy. (In resolution 2051, the Council expressed its readiness to consider “further measures, including under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter” (i.e. sanctions) against those individuals whose actions aim at undermining the political transition. During their visit to Yemen, Council members repeated this warning citing resolution 2051.) Should Council members decide to impose sanctions, it is likely that further discussion and negotiation would be required.

Also of interest to Council members tomorrow will be Benomar’s comments on the security situation in Yemen, including the implementation of presidential decrees issued on 19 December 2012 related to the structure and centralisation of the Yemeni armed forces, as well as the ongoing threat of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Drone attacks may also be raised by some Council members tomorrow, in light of the 24 January launch of a Human Rights Council-mandated inquiry into the civilian impact of the use of drones. (At least 42 US airstrikes were recorded in Yemen in 2012 and 5 have been recorded in 2013 by the Long War Journal). Among those killed by drone attacks was Said Al Shihri, AQAP’s deputy commander and former Guatanamo Bay detainee, who died recently from wounds received during a drone strike in November 2012.

Benomar may also highlight ongoing humanitarian priorities in Yemen. Reports have noted that nearly one million Yemeni children under five are acutely malnourished while almost half of the population lacks sufficient food supplies. Additionally, there is also concern with the increasing number of refugees and migrants travelling by boat across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen from the Horn of Africa, which in 2012 reached 107,500 people.

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