Yemen: Consultations on Implementation of Resolutions
Tomorrow afternoon (31 January), Security Council members are expected to hear briefings in consultations on the implementation of resolutions 2451 and 2452 from the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths (via video-teleconference from Amman); the Chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) to the Hodeidah Agreement, General Patrick Cammaert (via VTC from Hodeidah); and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock. The Chair of the Yemen 2140 Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra (Peru), will provide an update on the work of the committee. The UK, as penholder, is expected to propose a press statement that it seems would seek to express support for UN efforts in Yemen, including the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA).
The consultations, requested by the UK, come just over two weeks since the Council established UNMHA, in resolution 2452, to monitor the parties’ compliance with the ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate and the mutual redeployment of forces from the city of Hodeidah and the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa that have been under Houthi rebel control. The “Hodeidah agreement” is one of three agreements reached during UN-led consultations in Sweden, collectively known as the Stockholm Agreement. Cammaert has been chairing the RCC, which includes representatives of the Yemeni government and the Houthis, that oversees the Hodeidah agreement’s implementation, while leading the UN advance team that deployed to Yemen on 22 December, and now the UNMHA.
Griffiths and Cammaert can be expected to update members on progress to implement the Hodeidah agreement. The agreement has been challenged by a fragile ceasefire, the need for the parties to agree on implementation modalities for the redeployment of forces from Hodeidah city and the three ports, and different interpretations over the “local security forces” to take over security responsibilities. According to the Secretary-General’s reporting, difficulties are driven by an overall lack of trust and a reluctance to make operational concessions outside of a comprehensive political agreement. Over the past week, Griffiths and Cammaert have been meeting with authorities in Sana’a, Riyadh and Hodeidah, with Cammaert also going to Aden, to discuss a UN proposal to provide for ‘credible’ and ‘verifiable’ redeployments.
Members will be interested in learning more about the proposal, and how it has been received by the parties, including on any agreements on new timeframes for completing redeployments. The initial deadlines for the redeployments should have been met by 8 January. Members are likely to stress the importance of implementing the Stockholm Agreement, recalling that it is the parties’ responsibility to fulfill their commitments from Sweden. These also included agreements to implement a prisoner exchange and to establish a joint committee in the city Taiz, which appear to have stalled.
Council members may welcome that the ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate has largely held despite difficulties. Members could, however, express concern over the continuing violence along other front lines. On 25 January, shelling of an internally displaced persons centre in Haradh District of Hajjah governorate killed 8 people and wounded 30 others.
Griffiths may also update members about plans for a new round of consultations. The Yemeni government and the Houthis agreed in Sweden to a follow-up round of consultations during January, but will not do so without progress on the Hodeidah agreement. Griffiths said that he hoped to announce the date of the next round of consultations “very soon” in a 28 January interview with the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. Cammaert may also update members on progress deploying UNMHA, which will consist of up to 75 monitors and other support staff. The UN has already flagged challenges, such as identifying accommodation for the UNMHA personnel and other UN entities, in addition to threats that have been directed at the UN. Members could stress the importance of the parties respecting the UN’s neutrality, freedom of movement and safety.
This is likely to be Cammaert’s last briefing. On 28 January, the Secretary-General informed Council members that Cammaert, who apparently only planned to serve for a short period to set up the UN support role to the Hodeidah agreement, would be stepping down. He will be replaced by Major General Michael Anker Lollesgaard of Denmark, a former Force Commander in the UN Multidimensional Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in 2015 and 2016. Council members are likely to take the opportunity to express their appreciation to Cammaert for his work.
Lowcock’s briefing is expected to recall the importance of the Stockholm Agreement in having prevented a battle for Hodeidah, which would have been catastrophic for the humanitarian situation. He is likely to discuss issues over humanitarian access, which has not improved overall in Hodeidah or in other parts of Yemen, according to the Secretary-General’s last weekly report from 21 January on the implementation of resolution 2451. He is expected to recognise some improvements in addressing bureaucratic impediments, with recent visa and equipment approvals. Lowcock may also flag economic conditions, stressing the need for more international support to keep the Yemeni rial, which has again started to trend downward, at a level that maintains civilians’ ability to purchase critical goods. Additionally, he may draw attention to the 26 February high-level donor conference for the 2019 humanitarian response plan that requires $4 billion, noting that strong backing could signal the international community’s commitment to Yemen, and buttress the political process.
Council members are likely to express concern over access restrictions. In this regard, they may reiterate the importance of implementing the Hodeidah agreement, which would improve access for critical imports and aid, and subsequent distribution. Some members may express concern over the fire on 25 January at the Red Sea Mills, which hold enough grain stocks to feed 3.7 million people for a month but have been inaccessible since October. The fire damaged two silos, which appear to have been hit by mortar fire, according to a UN press release. Members may recall the parties’ responsibilities to protect civilian objects, including the mills.
Meza-Cuadra is expected to provide an update on the 2140 Committee’s work. The committee met on 18 January, receiving a presentation from the Panel of Experts on its final report followed by an interactive discussion between committee members and the panel. Discussion was apparently less controversial than last year (when the panel found that Iran was in non-compliance with the arms embargo against the Houthis), as the final report did not contain any new conclusions on arms supplies in violation of resolution 2216. As noted in a committee press release, the committee discussed the nine recommendations contained in the final report, and will be considering follow-up actions on the six recommendations directed to it. Next month, the Council will need to renew the mandate of the Yemen sanctions regime, which expires on 28 February.
The next report of the Secretary-General is due on 15 February, on the implementation of resolutions 2451 and 2452, in accordance with resolution 2452 that requested him to report to the Council each month.