Letter to EU Foreign Ministers
EU Foreign Ministers,
CC: Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Martin Griffiths, UN Special Envoy for Yemen
Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
4 March 2020
I wish to update you on the situation in South Yemen and the efforts of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) towards a political solution for the Southern cause and Yemeni crisis. The evolving situation on the ground – while it poses new challenges – offers a small window of opportunity that we must collectively utilize to support a credible negotiated solution for the Yemeni people.
The STC’s focus over the past several months has been on restoring stability to the South, following the escalation in August 2019. On 5 November 2019, the STC agreed a power sharing arrangement – the Riyadh Agreement – with the Yemeni government. The Agreement put in motion a series of important steps to ensure the political, security, and humanitarian stability on the ground.
As you are aware, the implementation process has faced delays and obstacles. We continue to engage constructively with the Yemeni government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as the guarantor of the Agreement, to enable the Agreement’s success. But there is an onus on the Yemeni government to do more to advance implementation, particularly on the appointment of new Governors and Security chiefs across the South. Furthermore, unilateral Yemeni troop movements on the ground have risked escalation on more than one occasion, further threatening the good will we’ve established.
While progress is slow, it is not insignificant. We view the Riyadh Agreement as a critical stepping-stone to revive the UN-led political track. This was reinforced in our meeting with UN Envoy Martin Griffiths’ team in Amman ahead of his consultations with Yemeni voices on 26-27 February on the resumption of the UN-led process. We echo Envoy Griffiths’ position that the Riyadh Agreement (and Stockholm Agreement) must not be implemented in isolation of the broader UN effort to end the conflict.
The STC is, therefore, intensifying its preparation for the UN-led process. As this would be the first time the Southern voice would credibly be represented at the negotiating table, we are strengthening our engagement with our Southern constituency, including dialogue with other Southern political groups, and systematic engagement civil society, and women and youth activists. Our priority is ensuring that our vision for the South meets the demands and aspirations of the Southern people, and crucially addresses Southerners’ legitimate grievances.
In parallel, the STC continues to do its part on the ground to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Southern governorates. We are committed to facilitating humanitarian operations and the movement of humanitarian personnel to and via the South. We are likewise regularly engaging with the UN in Yemen Country Team and humanitarian NGOs on this front.
Against this backdrop, we welcome the EU’s support and leadership to navigate this critical phase of the conflict. Only collective and ceaseless international leadership can grip the Yemeni conflict, as well as pave the way for comprehensive de-escalation and a sustainable solution that is viable and supported by the people. Specifically, we seek to work with you to:
- Support an inclusive political solution that credibly addresses the Southern cause. We welcome the recognition via the Riyadh Agreement of the need for Southern representation in the UN process. It is key to maintain momentum and rhetoric around a broad and inclusive process with Southern representation toward genuine outcomes with buy-in from the ground. In parallel, the agenda of UN talks must be comprehensive and be open to the solutions Southerners seek, including options for future governance structures.
- Enable the speedy resumption of UN-led political process. Your words, particularly Council Conclusions, carry weight on the parties to the conflict. We encourage you to push against intransigence by all parties, and use your leverage and incentives to enable a return to the negotiating table under UN auspices. As Envoy Griffiths has reiterated, the Riyadh and Stockholm Agreements should not become preconditions that block talks, and that we must rather swiftly work to reinvigorate the political process.
- Earmark specific humanitarian and development funding for the South. We remain concerned about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation on the ground. As we work to implement the governance and security arrangements agreed in the Riyadh Agreement, a priority for the STC is ensuring the needs and livelihoods of our people are met. In this regard, we encourage the EU to designate specific funding for the South as part of your support to the UN humanitarian response plan, and in parallel to design EU development projects on the ground with credible Southern interlocutors, including with many civil society organisations that need much greater international support. The STC stands ready to facilitate the process for EU agencies.
- Empower South Yemeni women in international initiatives. The STC is committed to empowering women within its ranks, including participation in the UN talks, and Southern civil society. As a leader in advancing the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, we look to the EU to ensure Southern women have access and are enabled to participate regularly in political, peace building, and capacity building discussions for Yemeni women.
Your Excellencies, our principal objective remains a political solution to addressing Southern needs and grievances, and we are ready with credible solutions to advocate through the UN process for our people. We welcome the tremendous leadership demonstrated by the EU in response to the crisis. We ask that you urgently push forward political efforts to tackle the root causes of the conflict and lay the groundwork for a sustainable end to the violence, displacement, and devastation across Yemen. We believe this and a democratic, peaceful, and just future is still within reach through a negotiated political solution.
I have copied this letter to EU High Representative Josep Borrell, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Mr Martin Griffiths, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mr Mark Lowcock.
Ahmed Omer bin Fareed
STC EU Representative