What's In Blue

Posted Wed 12 Oct 2022

Yemen: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (13 October), the Security Council will convene for its monthly briefing, followed by consultations, on Yemen. Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya are expected to brief. Head of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) Major General Michael Beary will brief during the consultations.

Yemen’s truce, which had been in place since April and was extended twice, expired on 2 October, despite intensive efforts to renew and expand the truce agreement. In the run-up to its expiry, Grundberg visited Riyadh on 26 September, meeting with the President of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) Rashad Al-Alimi and senior Saudi officials, and Muscat on 27 September, where he met senior Omani officials and the chief negotiator of the Houthi rebel group Mohammed Abdulsalam. From 28 to 29 September, Grundberg visited Sana’a, where he met Mahdi Al-Mashat, the Chairman of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council, among other officials, engaging in “intense discussions on how to pay salaries for civil servants as well as issues around the ports, airport and maintaining calm on the front lines”, according to the Special Envoy’s Office. These efforts were supported by a flurry of other diplomatic engagements, including a 30 September statement by Secretary-General António Guterres urging the Yemeni parties to renew and expand the truce’s terms and duration based on the Special Envoy’s proposal. Oman sent a delegation to Sana’a, as it had done in July ahead of the truce’s last renewal, to help secure an agreement.

The latest proposal that Grundberg had submitted to the parties before the truce’s expiry, which he described in a statement on 2 October shortly after the truce lapsed, entailed a six-month renewal, the payment of civil servant salaries and pensions, the opening of specific roads in Taiz and other governorates, additional flight destinations from Sana’a airport, unhindered entry of fuel ships into Hodeidah port, a commitment to urgently release detainees, and the strengthening of de-escalation mechanisms through the Military Coordination Committee (MCC). (The MCC, which is overseen by the Special Envoy’s military adviser, manages the military aspects of the truce and facilitates dialogue.) The longer truce period of six months, instead of its customary two-month renewals, aimed to give space to start negotiations on a formal ceasefire, the resumption of an inclusive political process, and talks on wider economic issues.

In his 2 October statement, Grundberg said that he would continue to engage the parties to reach an agreement, while calling on the sides to maintain calm and refrain from any actions that could escalate violence. Despite reported clashes in several parts of Yemen, including in Marib and Taiz governorates, it seems that there has been no significant resumption of fighting or military operations since the truce expired. At tomorrow’s briefing, Grundberg is likely to repeat his call for calm in order to give space for negotiations to continue to re-establish the truce. He may call for the international community’s continued support in this regard.

The main obstacle during the recent talks was the Houthis’ position that their security forces be included in the salary payments of civil servants, which the government could not accept. In a 5 October press statement, Council members expressed “deep disappointment” over the lapsed truce extension deadline, and said that the Houthis’ “maximalist demands in the final days of negotiations” had hindered efforts to reach an agreement. Council members reiterated that they expect the parties to find a way forward to reinstate the truce.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are expected to echo similar messages, and also to decry any actions that could exacerbate tensions. They are further likely to stress support for the Special Envoy’s mediation efforts. In this regard, members may be interested in Grundberg’s fresh engagements with the sides: shortly after the truce’s expiry, Grundberg went to Riyadh, and recently completed a visit to Abu Dhabi. Yesterday (11 October), the US announced that its Special Envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, was travelling to the region to support UN-led negotiations for a truce extension and expansion.

Msuya will be briefing from Yemen, where she is on a mission from 8 to 15 October; she will share observations and reflect on her engagements during the visit. According to a press release at the start of the mission, Msuya was expected to meet with people affected by the conflict, Yemeni officials, UN agencies, and local and international non-governmental organisations, to discuss pressing challenges and humanitarian solutions. She was also to visit sites hosting internally displaced people (IDPs) in Marib and Hodeidah governorates to discuss their challenges. Over 4.3 million people have been displaced since the start of the war in 2015, with 1.6 million people dispersed across more than 2400 sites. Assistance programmes for IDPs have only received some 20 percent of this year’s required funds, with $230 million urgently needed to sustain programmes, such as those providing life-saving emergency shelter and non-food items to newly displaced people, until the end of the year, according to a 9 October OCHA humanitarian update on Yemen.

Msuya may similarly encourage the parties to reinstate the truce agreement and highlight the humanitarian benefits brought by the six-month armistice. According to OCHA’s humanitarian update, fuel imports through Hodeidah port during the truce were more than triple the total fuel imports through the port in 2021. The truce allowed the opening of Sana’a airport to commercial flights for the first time since 2016; 50 round-trip flights between Sana’a and Amman and one flight between Sana’a and Cairo carried 26,642 passengers. The monthly rate of people displaced declined by 76 percent, and there was a 54.3-percent decrease in civilian casualties, from 2,051 (including 630 deaths) during the six months preceding the truce, to 936 (including 288 fatalities) between 2 April and 21 September 2022, according to data from the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project. More than one-third of these casualties were from unexploded ordnance and landmines, which increased by more than 38 percent during the truce, partly due to torrential rains and flooding in July and August that caused these explosive materials to shift.

During her briefing, Msuya may also update the Council on the planned salvage operation of the FSO Safer oil tanker moored off the coast of Hodeidah governorate. On 17 September, the Netherlands announced a pledge of 7.5 million euros for the UN-facilitated plan to prevent a major oil spill from the vessel. The announcement by the Netherlands—which made an initial pledge in May, also of 7.5 million euros—meant that the UN had the $75 million required to begin the emergency phase of the operation to transfer the oil from the FSO Safer to a temporary vessel.

During consultations, General Beary is expected to report that since the truce expired, the situation has remained stable and there has been no significant uptick in violence in Hodeidah. He may describe how UNMHA has continued to carry out activities to expand its footprint, including by increasing patrols and engaging the parties to ensure its freedom of movement, deploy personnel and address grievances. Since June, UNMHA has established a permanent presence in the government-held port city of Mokha, in addition to Hodeidah city, and maintains offices in Aden and Sana’a.

For more information, see Security Council Report’s Yemen brief in its October monthly forecast.

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