What's In Blue

Posted Sun 22 Mar 2015

Council Emergency Meeting and Presidential Statement on Yemen

This afternoon (22 March) the Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Yemen at Jordan’s request. The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, will brief via video teleconference. Representatives of Yemen and Qatar, the latter on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), are also expected to make statements. During today’s public session, the Council is also expected to adopt a presidential statement. The Council will then move into closed consultations.

This meeting comes in the wake of a series of events that have heightened concerns that Yemen could be spiraling into civil war. It also follows a letter dated 20 March from Yemen’s President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi that he sent to the Council president asking the Council for its “urgent intervention” and to protect Yemen’s constitutional legality.

On Thursday (19 March), a police commando unit led by General Abdel Hafez al-Saqqaf, who is loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, attacked Aden International Airport. Fighting resulted in at least 13 people killed before the attack was repelled by forces loyal to President Hadi. Later that day, two unidentified planes attacked the presidential palace in Aden. Officials close to Hadi, who was evacuated from the palace unharmed, claimed that the Houthis carried out the airstrikes. The following day, suicide bombings at two Zaydi Shiite mosques in Sana’a killed at least 126 people. An Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) affiliate claimed responsibility for these attacks although the group’s relationship to ISIS is unclear. The Council reacted to the attacks in Aden and Sana’a by issuing two press statements on Friday (SC/11826, SC/11827).

Council members will likely be interested in getting a better understanding of Thursday’s attacks in Aden, particularly who carried them out. The attacks seem to reflect cooperation between Saleh and the Houthis, as Yemen’s former president has been supportive of the group over the past year. Media reports noted that the attacks on the airport by the police commando unit came after Hadi earlier this month sought to remove General al-Saqqaf from his command. Additionally, two days before the airstrikes, the Houthis replaced Yemen’s air force commander, Major General Rashid al-Janad, who reportedly refused to provide them with air support, with Brigadier General Khader Saelem, said to be more sympathetic to the group.

Following the attacks, in a televised address on Saturday (21 March) Hadi described the Houthis’ actions as a coup, said that the group was being supported by Iran and declared Aden as Yemen’s temporary capital. He also promised to raise the Yemeni flag over the Maran mountains, a Houthi stronghold. Shortly afterwards, the Houthis, through their Supreme Revolutionary Committee, issued a statement announcing the general mobilisation of the armed forces to fight terrorist groups, who the statement said were “under the umbrella of the popular committees”. The reference to the popular committees appears to be a reference to the militias loyal to Hadi. Today, the Houthis reportedly seized key installations in Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz. In addition, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula appeared to be benefiting from the situation, seizing control of the southern provincial capital of al-Houta on 19 March, just 12 miles from Aden. Members will also likely be looking for an assessment from Benomar of whether with the capture of Taiz, the Houthis backed by Saleh loyalists could advance on Aden and the likelihood of a full scale civil war.

Regarding the Council’s draft presidential statement, it seems that the P5 and Jordan began discussion about two weeks ago on a draft text (apparently prepared with the involvement of the GCC states) stressing the importance of implementing resolution 2201 adopted by the Council on 15 February. It seems that Russia and China were not initially very keen on moving forward with the draft. But upon Jordan’s request for the emergency meeting and the worsening situation, the UK, the penholder on Yemen, and Jordan decided to circulate the text yesterday. It was put under silence procedure until noon today. Despite the lack of opportunity for other elected members to negotiate the text, silence procedure was not broken.

The draft presidential statement contains largely agreed language from resolution 2201 and the two press statements condemning the attacks on Thursday. It once again supports the legitimacy of President Hadi, and calls upon all parties and member states to refrain from actions undermining Yemen’s unity, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The draft statement also condemns Houthi unilateral actions and expresses deep concern over the insufficient implementation of resolution 2201, including that the Houthis have not implemented the Council’s demands from the resolution to withdraw from government institutions and to normalise the security situation in Sana’a and other provinces. The statement does welcome the 16 March release from house arrest of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and other cabinet members, which had been one of the demands placed on the Houthis in resolution 2201. Additionally the draft statement welcomes the intention of the GCC to convene a conference in Riyadh with the participation of all parties to support Yemen’s transition and which would compliment and support UN-brokered negotiations.

Overall, in spite of the continued deterioration in the situation and the request contained in the letter from President Hadi, the draft presidential statement does not go further than reaffirming the Council’s readiness to take further measures against any party in case of non-implementation of its resolutions on Yemen, in particular resolution 2201. Hadi in his letter, circulated by France to Council members yesterday, asks the Council to adopt a resolution that would stop the Houthis and their allies’ aggression, especially against Aden.

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