Negotiations on a Yemen Presidential Statement
A draft presidential statement on Yemen, which members have been negotiating since last week following the adjournment of UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait, is under silence until 1 pm. The UK circulated a draft on Tuesday (5 July), placing it under silence procedure until noon on Thursday (7 July), which was broken by one delegation. Following several more attempts at putting the draft under silence procedure, the UK engaged in bilateral negotiations before placing a slightly revised draft under silence procedure this morning.
After more than two months of continuous peace talks in Kuwait between the Yemen government and the Houthis and the General People’s Congress, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, adjourned the talks. At a 30 June press conference, he announced the break in order for the sides to confer with their respective leaderships before resuming talks on 15 July, which the parties agreed to do in a Statement of Commitment. While he said that the sides have reacted positively to a roadmap that he had presented, which provides for implementation of resolution 2216 and the creation of a national unity government, they remain divided over the “sequencing” of the steps. The Houthis have wanted agreement on a national unity government before withdrawing and disarming, while the government wants them to take these actions first.
The UK, as penholder, had considered the option of a press statement, but chose to propose a presidential statement apparently based on the preference of the Special Envoy. The draft presidential statement urges the parties to use the consultations period to further refine proposals for a roadmap. It also calls on the parties to resume talks without preconditions on 15 July in Kuwait, as specified in the Statement of Commitment, and to conduct these negotiations in a more flexible and constructive manner.
Egypt, which broke the initial silence procedure, proposed three amendments. The original draft would have called on the sides to use the consultations period to refine proposals for a roadmap of political and security measures to be taken in parallel as part of reaching an agreement. Egypt argued that it was premature for the Council to weigh in on the contentious issue of the “sequencing” of political and security measures. It proposed that the Council thus use agreed language from its 25 April presidential statement (S/PRST/2016/5), adopted at the start of the talks, which called on the parties to develop a roadmap for the implementation of interim security measures, withdrawals, hand-over of heavy weapons, restoration of state institutions, and the resumption of political dialogue. While the UK incorporated this language, the revised draft retained most of the language that Egypt had been concerned about. Following a suggestion from Senegal, which was supported by Egypt, a modified version was agreed to, in which “in parallel” has been replaced with “in co-ordination”.
Egypt also expressed concern over having the Council state that an agreement should lay the foundation for completing Yemen’s political transition and the creation of a national unity government that represents all Yemenis. In particular, Egypt felt that it was not appropriate to refer to the creation of a national unity government, which could prejudge the outcome of the negotiations. Instead it suggested using language that references all relevant Council resolutions, especially resolution 2216. In the end, a small change was made by replacing the term national unity government with “inclusive government”, followed by a reference “to all relevant resolutions”.
After silence was broken by Egypt, Russia submitted proposals on the draft Friday morning. It broke silence in the afternoon after two of its three suggestions had not been incorporated. The proposals included stating that the restoration of control of state institutions should be done by an “inclusive” government, and requesting the removal of Egypt’s third proposed amendment, which had been added to the draft, welcoming Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the De-escalation and Coordination Committee (DCC). The new draft now “appreciates” Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the DCC. No changes have been made to the reference to restoring government control over state institutions, thus retaining the formulation used in the 25 April presidential statement.
Yemen also circulated comments to members on the draft statement. It was highly critical of the text, including the initial reference to parallel security and political measures, as well as the absence of a reference to resolution 2216. This absence, it claimed, could be perceived as sending a message that the Council was not upholding that resolution. On Sunday, President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi was reported as stating that the government would boycott the talks if the Special Envoy insists on the creation of a unity government as part of a roadmap.
An issue that has been newly highlighted in the draft is the deterioration of Yemen’s economy, due to a decline in foreign currency reserves (which caused a significant devaluation in the Yemeni Rial, starting in May). The draft statement therefore urges the parties to urgently cooperate to identify immediate solutions to this problem.