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Consultations on Yemen with Special Adviser Jamal Benomar

Tomorrow afternoon (3 March), Council members will hold consultations on Yemen where they will be briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser to Yemen Jamal Benomar via video teleconference from Yemen. At press time, no Council outcome was expected.
With increasing concern over the potential split of Yemen following the escape of President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi to Aden from house arrest on 21 February, Benomar’s briefing is expected to focus on his efforts to advance negotiations among Yemeni parties on forming a government. Additionally, as requested by the Council in resolution 2201 adopted on 15 February, Benomar is expected to report on the first 15 days of its implementation, though it appears there has been little progress. Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and other Yemeni officials remain under house arrest and the Houthis are still in control of government institutions in Sana’a.

Hadi’s flight to Aden has changed the dynamics of Benomar’s negotiation efforts. It had seemed that Hadi’s resignation in January was irreversible and for weeks negotiations were proceeding on the basis of forming a presidential council. Now Hadi has made clear that he intends to continue as president, and it seems that there are efforts underway to re-establish his government in Aden. Members will likely look forward to discussing with Benomar his ideas on where negotiations can be held. In response to the new circumstances following Hadi’s escape and his call for negotiations to resume in Aden or Taiz, the Council issued a press statement on 25 February in which they urged negotiations to move forward in a location to be determined by Benomar (SC/11798).

Council members will be interested in details from Benomar’s conversations with Hadi, who he met with in Aden on 26 February. Members may also seek information on his discussions with the country’s other parties, and the options he is pursuing for forming a government. Two days prior to Hadi’s escape from house arrest, Benomar had announced an agreement for the composition of Yemen’s legislature that would involve retaining the current parliament while also establishing a transitional council of underrepresented groups. Members may seek clarification on whether this agreement remains relevant in light of Hadi’s return to the presidency.

Council members will also likely express concern over the growing division of Yemen, as the Houthis have continued to consolidate their control over Sana’a while Aden has become the seat of Hadi’s presidency. There have been concerns about the possibility of a Libya-like scenario with regards to the prospect of competing governments. Some members could voice concern that the relocation of embassies to Aden by Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia last week, as well Qatar’s expressed intention to do the same, is further promoting Yemen’s division. Meanwhile, the Houthis demonstrated their increasing control over the capital, signing, according to reports on 28 February in Tehran, an agreement to begin direct flights between Yemen and Iran. The first flight by private Iranian airline Mahan Air arrived in Sana’a on 1 March carrying 12-tons of medical supplies. In this regard, some members could seek Benomar’s views on the relocation of the embassies and other activities of regional actors.

Resolution 2201 had requested the Secretary-General to propose to the Council options for strengthening the office of the Special Adviser. No timeline was given and the Secretariat has yet to submit any options. Benomar may repeat his previous calls to strengthen his office’s capacity to support the disarmament and security sector reform provisions of the 21 September 2014 Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA).

The Council last met on Yemen on 24 February to adopt resolution 2204, which extended targeted sanctions measures until 26 February 2016, and renewed the mandate of the Yemen Panel of Experts until 25 March 2016. The Panel’s final report (S/2015/125), which was published just ahead of the renewal, noted that it had yet to identify the financial assets of the two Houthi military commanders who were designated by the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee last November, along with country’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The example of the two Houthi commanders may be an indication of the limited impact that targeted sanctions may have on the group, whose members are not believed to have extensive assets nor are they believed to often travel abroad. On the other hand, the report noted that former president Saleh, who has assisted the Houthis over the past year, could have assets totalling as much as $60 billion, and that five Yemeni businessmen are alleged to be helping him in hiding his assets. Resolution 2201 noted the Council’s readiness to take further steps in the case of non-compliance by any parties. However, with members’ main priority currently being preventing Yemen’s potential break-up, further designations are unlikely to be discussed in immediate future.

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