What's In Blue

Posted Wed 26 Jun 2024

Houthi Red Sea Attacks: Vote on a Draft Resolution*

Tomorrow morning (27 June), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution extending the monthly reporting requirement for the Secretary-General contained in resolution 2722 of 10 January on attacks by the Houthi rebel group in Yemen on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea. The draft resolution in blue extends the reporting obligation, which is due to expire on 1 July, for another six months, until 15 January 2025.

The US and Japan, the penholders on the Red Sea crisis, circulated an initial draft of the short one-page draft resolution on 20 June, inviting comments until the following day (21 June). On 24 June, a slightly revised text was placed under silence procedure until yesterday morning (25 June). Algeria subsequently broke silence, supported by China and Russia. This morning (26 June), the penholders put the text in blue, without making additional edits.

In addition to renewing the monthly reporting requirement, the draft resolution in blue repeats the Council’s condemnation of the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and reiterates its demand that the group immediately cease all attacks against merchant and commercial vessels and release the Galaxy Leader and its crew. (The Galaxy Leader is a Japanese-operated vessel, affiliated with an Israeli businessman, that the Houthis seized on 19 November 2023.) The draft text reiterates that all member states must adhere to the targeted arms embargo against the Houthis imposed by resolution 2216 of 14 April 2015. It also urges caution and restraint to avoid a further escalation of the situation in the Red Sea and the broader region.

The language of the draft resolution in blue is mostly based on resolution 2722. Switzerland made two proposals that were incorporated into the text, including language encouraging enhanced diplomatic efforts by all parties and continued support for dialogue and Yemen’s peace process under UN auspices. Algerian proposals, namely to refer to the leadership role of regional states and the need to address the root causes contributing to regional tensions and the disruption of maritime security, were also incorporated. However, as was the case during the negotiations on resolution 2722, Algeria’s request to mention the conflict in Gaza as a particular root cause of the Red Sea crisis was not included, leading Algeria to break silence.

Algeria and several other Council members, including China and Russia, repeatedly highlight at Council meetings the importance of a ceasefire in Gaza to resolving the Red Sea crisis, as the Houthis started their campaign against commercial shipping in November 2023 to pressure Israel to end the military action that it launched in the Gaza strip after the 7 October 2023 attacks led by the Palestinian armed group Hamas. The Houthis have said that they will continue the attacks until Israel stops its military campaign in the Gaza strip and allows in more humanitarian aid. Algeria, China, Mozambique, and Russia abstained in the vote on resolution 2722, one of the reasons being that resolution 2722 did not refer to the link between the Houthi attacks on commercial vessels and the war in Gaza. (For additional background on resolution 2722, see our 10 January What’s in Blue story.)

The extension of the Secretary-General’s reporting requirement comes as the Houthis continue to threaten maritime traffic in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the broader Indian Ocean, despite the sustained US-led retaliatory strikes since January against Houthi targets in Yemen. The crisis has significantly disrupted maritime traffic through the Red Sea and frozen Yemen’s peace talks. On 19 June, a Liberian-flagged, Greek -owned and -operated bulk carrier called the M/V Tutor sank in the Red Sea. A bomb-laden Houthi boat had struck the vessel one week earlier. One missing Philippine crew member is believed to have died. This was the second ship that the Houthis have sunk. Additionally, on 13 June, two Houthi missiles struck the M/V Verbena—a Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned, Polish-operated bulk cargo carrier—in the Gulf of Aden. The attack set off fires on the ship, which was transporting timber, and forced the crew to abandon the vessel. One sailor was reportedly seriously injured.

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Post-script: On 27 June, the Security Council adopted resolution 2739, extending the monthly reporting requirement for the Secretary-General on attacks by the Houthi rebel group in Yemen on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea until 15 January 2025. The resolution received 12 votes in favour and three abstentions (Algeria, China, and Russia). In their explanations of vote, Algeria, China, and Russia indicated that their decision was consistent with their abstentions earlier in the year on resolution 2722 because of their concerns over that resolution’s language related to international law and how resolution 2722 was subsequently interpreted by some member states and implemented. They also underscored the need to end the war in Gaza in order to resolve the crisis in the Red Sea.

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