Yemen: Council to Renew Sanctions Regime
Tomorrow (26 February), the Security Council will adopt a resolution that renews the financial and travel ban sanctions established in resolution 2140 in February 2014 to be applied against individuals or entities threatening the peace, security and stability of Yemen for one year until 26 February 2020. It further reaffirms the provisions that established an arms embargo in resolution 2216 of April 2015 against the Houthi rebel group and forces loyal to now deceased former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his son Ahmed Saleh. A draft passed silence procedure on Friday (22 February).
Discussion on the draft resolution appeared to be smooth. The UK, as the penholder on Yemen, circulated a draft text to Council members on 20 February. The draft made only technical amendments to last year’s resolution 2402 renewing the sanctions. It is updated to mention Council products adopted over the past year, including resolutions 2451 and 2452. In addition to renewing sanctions for a year, the mandate of the Yemen Panel of Experts is extended until 28 March 2020. The Panel is requested to provide a mid-term update to the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee no later than 28 July 2019, and a final report by 28 January 2020 to the Security Council, after discussion of the report within the Committee.
A period to submit comments on the draft was available to members until noon on 21 February. Belgium submitted a proposal to highlight that the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict falls under the designation criteria, an offense which can trigger sanctions as a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. Some members indicated their preference not to go beyond technical revisions, however, and the current draft in blue has thus remained unchanged from the text first circulated.
The process stands in contrast to last year’s negotiations, when Russia vetoed a draft resolution that would have condemned Iran’s non-compliance with the arms embargo, as concluded by the Panel of Experts in its January 2018 final report. (Bolivia also voted against this draft, while China and Kazakhstan abstained). Ultimately, the Council renewed the sanctions regime by adopting, as it has decided to do this year, a text containing only technical amendments. As recently as Council negotiations on resolution 2451 in December 2018—adopted after the agreements reached during UN-brokered consultations in Sweden—the US wanted to condemn Iranian violations of the arms embargo, but this remained a red line for Russia, which had not agreed with the Panel’s conclusions in its 2018 report. For this year’s renewal, it seems that the P5 agreed to have just a “technical” update of the sanctions regime, so as to avoid a repeat of last year’s divisive process and maintain Council unity on Yemen. This year’s Panel of Experts’ final report does not contain any new conclusions on arms supplies in violation of the arms embargo, which may have also contributed to a less contentious process.
In other developments, the Council received a briefing last week on 19 February from Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock. This was followed by closed consultations, in which members were also briefed by General Michael Lollesgaard, who is the chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee, which oversees the 13 December agreement on the key port city of Hodeidah,and head the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA).
The briefing came two days after an agreement was reached to implement Phase 1 of the redeployment of forces set out in the Hodeidah agreement. In a first step, Houthi forces would redeploy from the ports of Saleef and Ras Isa. In a second step, the Houthis would redeploy from Hodeidah port and both parties would withdraw forces from critical parts of the city of Hodeidah associated with humanitarian facilities. This includes the Red Sea mills, which hold sufficient grain stocks to feed 3.7 million people for one month, but which have been inaccessible since October 2018.
On 22 February, a Council press statement stressed the “critical importance” of the parties’ implementing their commitments under the Stockholm Agreement. It called for “the immediate implementation” of the first phase of the redeployment of forces. Today’s scheduled withdrawals of Houthi forces from Saleef and Ras Isa were postponed.
Tomorrow, on 26 February, a high-level pledging conference will be held in Geneva to fund the $4 billion 2019 Yemen humanitarian response plan.