Security Council Presidential Statement on Yemen
The Security Council appears ready to adopt a presidential statement this afternoon in support of the Yemen peace talks that began today in Kuwait. The UK circulated a draft on 14 April, ahead of the Council’s 15 April briefing and consultations on Yemen, in anticipation of the talks beginning as scheduled last Monday (18 April). Following minor revisions, the text was placed under silence that weekend (16 April) until noon on 18 April, but the adoption was postponed due to a delay in the opening of the talks. The UK was hoping to adopt the presidential statement last Thursday (21 April), once the talks had started. But one delegation proposed amendments that required further negotiations, and the adoption was again delayed.
Bearing in mind that Yemen peace talks had been postponed in the past, members did not want to adopt the presidential statement until there was confirmation that the talks had begun. This approach proved to be warranted, as the talks were delayed after the delegations of the Houthis and the General People’s Congress (GPC) remained in Sana’a, citing heavy fighting and coalition airstrikes, in violation of the cessation of hostilities that began on 10 April. During his briefing on 15 April, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed, noted that despite a discernible decrease in violence since the 10 April cessation of hostilities, there had been “an alarming number of serious violations”, particularly in al-Jawf, Amran, Mareb and Taiz (S/PV.7672). Following assurances from Kuwait and Oman that there would be no more violations of the cease-fire by the Saudi-led Coalition, the Houthis announced that they would participate and the Houthi/GPC delegation arrived last Thursday in Kuwait. The opening ceremony was convened that evening. Talks are now in their fifth day, though they have run into difficulties, with the sides no longer meeting face-to-face.
The Council’s draft presidential statement urges the parties to comply fully with the cessation of hostilities and calls on them to work with the De-escalation and Coordination Committee to resolve any reported violations.
It notes the importance of the parties agreeing on a framework of principles, mechanisms and processes for the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement. It seems that a key element of the draft statement is the Council’s call for Yemeni parties to develop a roadmap for the implementation of interim security arrangements, withdrawals, handover of heavy weapons, and the restoration of state institutions and resumption of political dialogue – which are among the areas of focus outlined by the Special Envoy for the talks. The Council requests a plan from the Secretary-General within 30 days on how the Special Envoy’s office can support the parties, in particular regarding the roadmap. Such a plan may initiate a process to expand the Special Envoy’s office in order to support the parties in implementing this roadmap.
Elaborating further on these issues, the statement says that the parties should commit to ensuring that security mechanisms facilitate and oversee the negotiated withdrawal of militias and armed groups, and provide for the orderly handover of heavy and medium weapons. This, it notes, is in line with resolution 2216 and the outcomes of the National Dialogue conference. The statement stresses the importance of restoring government authorities’ control over state institutions, as well as changes to ensure inclusivity in political institutions, an effort to address the positions of both sides.
While most of the text focuses on the talks, there is one paragraph covering the humanitarian situation and the parties’ obligations to respect international humanitarian law, including proactively taking all feasible precautions to minimise harm to civilians and civilian objects, ensuring security of humanitarian and UN personnel and medical facilities, and allowing access for aid and imports. In light of continued delays in beginning the work of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) – a problem that OCHA Assistant-Secretary General Kyung-wha Kang expressed frustration over in her briefing to the Council on 15 April – the statement calls upon all states to respect the UNVIM’s mandate and processes and facilitate its implementation without any further delay.
During the negotiations members seemed generally comfortable with the draft text. Most of the initial comments and revisions appeared limited to the paragraph on the humanitarian situation, with several members proposing changes that represented slight strengthening of language in this paragraph, some of which were incorporated.
However, last Thursday, Egypt requested an extension of the renewed silence procedure and then proposed two amendments. Russia raised objections to one of these amendments, which specified the handover of weapons “to the legitimate Yemen authorities”. Russia felt that including this language would create the impression of a Houthi surrender and that the Council should use more neutral language. Following bilateral negotiations between the UK and concerned delegations, it seems the compromise reached was providing for the hand-over of weapons “to state control.”