What's In Blue

Posted Tue 24 May 2016

Security Council Consultations on Yemen Peace Talks

Tomorrow (25 May), Security Council members are expected to receive a briefing in consultations from Special Envoy for Yemen Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed (via video-teleconference).

The briefing is intended to update members on peace talks in Kuwait, in anticipation of a plan from the Secretary-General on how the Special Envoy’s Office can further support the Yemeni parties. The Council requested the Secretary-General to provide a plan within 30 days in its 25 April presidential statement (S/PRST/2016/5), which welcomed the start of these talks. At press time, members had not received the plan but were expecting the Secretary-General to propose a substantial expansion of the Special Envoy’s office, including to increase support to ongoing negotiations and the De-escalation and Coordination Committee (created to address issues related to the cessation of hostilities), and to activities such as disarmament and security sector reform. The Secretary-General is likely to propose relocating the office to Amman, Jordan, with a view to establishing a presence in Yemen.

Before endorsing such a plan and to better evaluate the proposals, members want more information about the talks. Last week, the Yemen government suspended its participation for a second time since talks began on 21 April. At a news conference on 18 May, Foreign Minister Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi said the decision was due to the Houthis’ unwillingness to recognise the legitimacy of President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and their insistence on a power-sharing arrangement. However, talks restarted yesterday after Hadi agreed that the government would return to the talks during a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Amir of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani in Doha, over the weekend.

Fundamental differences between the parties seem to exist over transitional governing arrangements and the timing of armed groups’ withdrawals and disarmament. Still, there has apparently been some progress on a general framework agreement, which would cover the five areas of a roadmap that the Council’s last presidential statement called on the sides to develop: interim security arrangements; withdrawals; handover of weapons; restoration of state institutions; and preparations for the resumption of the political process. On 15 May, the Special Envoy said an agreement “in principle” had been reached to free half of all prisoners and detainees before the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts in early June. Members may be interested in learning what issues are proving the most challenging in the talks, and the Special Envoy’s assessment of Yemeni leaders’ commitment to this process. It is likely that members will emphasise that the sides must be willing to compromise. More generally, members may want to hear why the Special Envoy believes his office should be expanded in light of what appears to be only limited progress in the talks, and how he envisions the plan’s implementation.

Council members are likely to want to get a sense of how well the cessation of hostilities is holding. Following yesterday’s deadly attack in Aden by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), killing approximately 40 army recruits, members are likely to express concern about the threats posed by ISIL and Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Members may also be looking for more information on the De-escalation and Coordination Committee.

Members had expected to receive a briefing on the humanitarian situation following a request from Russia. However, this will not take place as the OCHA officials who could provide the briefing are in Turkey for the World Humanitarian Summit. Members are still likely to express their concerns about the humanitarian situation. According to OCHA Operations Director John Ging, speaking at a 17 May press conference after a recent trip to Yemen, ten million people require basic health care support and 7.6 million are severely food insecure, a classification that is one step below famine. Ging further raised concerns over a drop-off in donor funding, with the $1.8 million humanitarian response plan for Yemen being only 16 percent funded. The Special Envoy could note that the current cessation of hostilities, which began 10 April, has had the positive effect of stemming civilian casualties.

Members may raise the need for parties to cooperate with the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) that finally became operational on 2 May. The UNVIM is now responsible for reviewing the manifests of commercial ships and approving shipments within 48 hours to proceed to Yemeni ports not under the government’s control, or flagging a cargo for inspection.

Some members may be interested in the government’s recent announcement that the Central Bank has used almost all of its reserves. There have also been reports of the sudden devaluation of Yemen’s currency, further affecting civilians’ ability to purchase basic goods. Members may want clarity on steps that have, or may be, taken to stabilise the Central Bank.

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