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Yemen Sanctions Briefing and Consultations with Special Adviser

Tomorrow (11 December), the Security Council will have two meetings on Yemen. The first will be a briefing by the chair of the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaité (Lithuania). This will be followed by consultations with the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar.

Briefing by Sanctions Chair

Murmokaité’s briefing will update the Council on the activities of the 2140 Sanctions Committee since she last briefed the Council on 14 May. Resolution 2140, which was adopted by the Council on 26 February, requested that the Committee chair brief the Council within 60-days of the resolution’s adoption and then as “deemed necessary by the Committee”. Since her May briefing, the Committee received the mid-term report of the Yemen Panel of Experts (PoE) and in October received case studies by the PoE documenting the activities of four individuals that have threatened Yemen’s peace, security and stability, including Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. On 7 November, the committee agreed to its first listing of the sanctions regime, designating Saleh and Houthi military commanders Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim and Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi, as subject to an assets freeze and travel ban.

Murmokaité’s briefing will likely focus on the new designations, and on the importance of ensuring the sanctions’ implementation with regard to the three designated individuals. She may refer to the Committee’s 26 November meeting with representatives of Yemen and of countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council in which participants were briefed by the Coordinator of the PoE. The discussion largely focused on the need and readiness of countries to implement the sanctions (SC/11679).

Consultations with Benomar

After the briefing, Council members will move to consultations where they will be briefed by Benomar. A key issue to be discussed will be progress in implementing the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA) signed on 21 September by Yemen’s major parties following the Houthis’ seizure of Sana’a. The last time the Council met with Bemonar on 13 October, Khaled Bahah, Yemen’s then permanent representative to the UN, had just been appointed Prime Minister and on 7 November a new government was formed. Members are likely to be interested in hearing about the level of support that Bahah commands and the extent to which the Houthis and others are complying with their commitments in the PNPA, such as dismantling and removing their protest camps in and around Sana’a. It seems that Benomar is likely to report that the Houthis have deepened their control over the capital and other parts of the country. Some members may be interested in hearing Benomar’s assessment on the Houthis’ objectives, as there have been mixed signals about their intentions.

Members are likely to also be interested in an update on the levels of violence in the country. The Houthis have been engaged in heavy fighting with Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Sunni tribes in al-Bayda governorate. A series of improvised explosive devices have recently exploded or been discovered in Sana’a. On 3 December a car bomb blew up in front of the residency of Iran’s ambassador to Yemen, killing three people, for which AQAP claimed responsibility. Iran sent a letter to the Council president the day of the attack (S/2014/867). The bomb attack was condemned in a Council press statement on 4 December (SC/11683). As a related issue, some members could raise the issue of hostage-taking in Yemen and may make reference ot the recent attempted rescue operations by the US of hostages being held by AQAP.

Members are also likely to be concerned over renewed momentum and calls for southern independence, which have been reignited by the unrest in the north and the Houthi’s takeover of Sana’a. The Hirak Southern Movement announced in October that the government had until 30 November to withdraw all employees and security forces from the south, and there have been daily protests for almost two months. On 30 November, there was a major demonstration in Aden, coinciding with the Hirak Southern Movement’s deadline. As security forces sought to disperse crowds using tear gas, water cannons and live bullets near a main government building, at least one person was killed and four were reportedly injured.

An additional issue that is likely to be raised is the imminent economic crisis facing Yemen. Saudi Arabia stopped most aid to the Yemen government after the Houthi takeover of Sana’a, which has compounded the country’s economic challenges and it is feared that the government may soon be unable to pay the salaries of civil servants. Members may be interested in any efforts underway that could restore Saudi support. Similarly, some members could inquire about progress in addressing structural challenges facing the government’s finances, including the issue of fuel subsidies. In line with the terms of the PNPA, the new government has appointed an economic committee that has three months to study and present binding recommendations for dealing with Yemen’s economic challenges.

On sanctions, considered the Council’s key tool to influence the behaviour of Yemeni actors, members are likely to ask Benomar whether the recent designations have had an impact on the situation. They may be interested in hearing his view on the next steps that the sanctions committee or Council could take.

Another issue expected to be raised is progress in the drafting of the constitution. Since 23 October, the constitution-drafting committee has been working out of the United Arab Emirates, where it seems that outstanding issues revolve around southern issues and ensuring 30-percent women’s representation throughout government. Following an agreement on a draft, the constitution will still need to be approved by the National Body before general elections, both of which will likely be challenging steps. In this context, some members may raise the issue of how much the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, which was developed in 2011, remains relevant to the situation and realities on the ground.

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