Consultations on the National Dialogue in Yemen
Tomorrow afternoon (27 November), Council members will meet in consultations to receive a briefing by Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen. The meeting is likely to focus on challenges related to the completion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) in the context of Yemen’s transition to a constitutional government and the difficult security environment.
The UK, the penholder on Yemen, circulated a draft press statement earlier today expressing concern about the significant delays in concluding the NDC and calling on all parties to engage constructively to address the remaining critical issues necessary to conclude the dialogue. (The deadline for the end of the NDC was originally 18 September). The draft reiterates Council members’ concern over continuing reports of interference by those who intend to disrupt the transition process and undermine the government. At press time the draft press statement was under silence but it seems likely that it will be adopted tomorrow.
It appears that Council members will be interested in learning more at tomorrow’s meeting about Benomar’s work facilitating the last stages of the NDC. According to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative, the national dialogue was supposed to last 6 months but has already gone 2 months longer due to the inability of the participants to reach agreement on key issues. Council members will likely be keen to hear more about the key unresolved issues delaying the completion of the NDC. These include the federal structure of the state and the future form of government. Council members may also be interested in hearing about the recently adopted transitional justice provisions and the final report of the working group on Sa’ada (the stronghold of the Houthis, a group of Zaidi Shiites).
Other key actors appear to be similarly concerned about the delays in concluding the NDC. On 21 November, the Group of Ten Ambassadors in Sana’a—which includes the permanent members of the Security Council, the GCC and the EU—released a statement noting with concern that the NDC had continued two months beyond its planned end date and regretting that some parties had brought the transition process to a halt by suspending their participation or threatening to do so.
A related matter that may be addressed in tomorrow’s discussion is the impact of spoilers on the transition process and the mechanisms in place to reach an agreement on the reports of the thematic working groups, which are still under discussion. Even though the General People’s Congress, the party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has returned to the negotiating table of the 8+8 Sub-Committee (tasked with finding solutions for the Southern issue), and a trust fund has been established to compensate Southern security and military forces who were dismissed following the 1994 civil war, there is still no agreement over the number of regions Yemen should have under the new constitution. It seems the possibility of imposing measures under Article 41 (i.e. sanctions) of the UN Charter against spoilers of the transition will be discussed tomorrow, although an agreement might be difficult to reach. (In resolution 2051 of 12 June 2012, the Council had already expressed its readiness to consider sanctions, yet implementing such measures would require another resolution).
It is possible that Benomar will brief Council members on a revised timeline for the transition process, taking into account the work of a soon-to-be-appointed Constitutional Commission, the holding of a referendum to adopt the draft constitution and general elections. (Even though the elections were expected to take place in February 2014, it seems now they will be significantly delayed as well).
Council members are also likely to be interested in Benomar’s assessment of the security situation in Yemen, following recent clashes between Salafist groups and Houthis in the town of Dammaj. There have been sporadic clashes in Dammaj since 2011 but confrontations intensified in late October, leaving dozens killed, hundreds injured and a dire humanitarian situation. A ceasefire brokered by Benomar in early November to allow humanitarian access has reportedly been continuously violated. There have also been deadly clashes recently between Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the army in the city of Hadramout, which some Council members may be interested in learning more about. More broadly, there may be interest in getting Benomar’s assessment on how regional dynamics after the nuclear deal between the P5 +1 and Iran might impact Yemen and the Shiite-Sunni divide exploited by some regional actors.