The UN Security Council called a vote for Friday on a resolution that would authorize the use of UN monitors to observe the implementation of a cease-fire in Yemen’s important port of Hodeidah and the withdrawal of rival forces from that area.
Passage could offer a potential breakthrough in the four-year civil war that has brought the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of starvation.
The UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has urged rapid deployment of UN monitors as “an essential part of the confidence” needed to help implement the Dec. 13 cease-fire agreement between Yemen’s government and the Houthi militia. The pact also calls for the “phased but rapid mutual withdrawals” of fighters from Hodeidah as well as its main docks and two others in the province.
The fragile cease-fire has halted months of heavy fighting in Hodeidah, which handles 70 percent of the food and humanitarian aid imported into Yemen. But Yemeni officials have reported sporadic artillery and automatic weapons fire from the Houthis.
There had been intense negotiations over the past week on a British-drafted resolution that would authorize the UN monitors, including over whether to condemn Iran for supplying weapons to the Houthis — a statement that the US wanted and Russia strongly opposed.
Then the United States surprised the council by circulating a stripped-down rival resolution Thursday. It is exceedingly rare for allies to present rival resolutions to the Security Council.
The British responded by putting their draft in a final form that can be voted on, and diplomats said it would be put to a vote on Friday morning.
If the British resolution doesn’t get a minimum nine “yes” votes or is vetoed by another of the council’s permanent members — the US, Russia, China and France — the United States could then seek a vote on its rival draft.
The British draft would authorize UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “to establish and deploy, for an initial period of 30 days … an advance team to begin monitoring and to support and facilitate the immediate implementation of the Stockholm agreement.”
It also endorses the truce agreement and requests Guterres to submit proposals “as soon as possible before Dec. 31” on how the United Nations will fully support the cease-fire, the redeployment of the rival forces from the Hodeidah area and other provisions in the accord.
In response to Russia’s threatened veto of the resolution if it referred to Iran, the text now condemns “the supply, from whatever source, of weapons and associated material in contravention of the arms embargo” against the Houthis in 2015.
The British draft also addresses the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen and backs Griffiths’ efforts to facilitate “an inclusive political process.”
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by Iranian-backed Houthi militia, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The conflict has killed over 10,000 people, created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and brought the country to the brink of famine.
The British draft calls on the Houthis and the government to remove bureaucratic obstacles to the flow into Yemen of commercial and humanitarian supplies, to ensure the effective operation of ports and the reopening of Sanaa airport, and to protect medical facilities.
It also calls on the government, with international support, to strengthen Yemen’s collapsed economy, including by strengthening the functioning of the central bank and paying pensioners and civil servants’ salaries.
The US draft resolution strips out all humanitarian and political references. It simply endorses the cease-fire agreement and authorizes the secretary-general “for 30 days” to establish and deploy an advance team to begin monitoring it.