Letter to Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament
David McAllister, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament
CC: Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament
31 August 2019
Ahead of the debate on Yemen on 3 September, I write to you on behalf of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to urge the European Union to increase its focus on South Yemen, and the inclusion of our cause, as part of a comprehensive credible political process to address the broader Yemen crisis.
We welcome the leadership demonstrated by the EU in response to the humanitarian crisis on the ground and all the support EU Member States collectively and individually have provided to ease the humanitarian suffering. However, the situation in South Yemen remains critical as the events in the recent weeks have demonstrated. Since 1 August the South has witnessed a brutal campaign of violence at the hands of a combination of actors, including elements within the Yemeni government, as well as attacks by Houthi forces and extremist groups. The STC has since then responded with the sole objective of protecting civilians and restoring stability and security in Aden, as well as the governorates of Abyan and Lahj, which are under STC’s control.
With the sole aim of ensuring de-escalation, we agreed to take part in the Saudi-sponsored dialogue process with the Hadi government in Jeddah. We approached those talks constructively and without any preconditions. That was sadly not the attitude taken by the other side, who refused to engage in Jeddah, and instead focused on military escalation on the ground. This included credible reports of collusion between government forces and extremist elements in Shabwah. Despite this provocation, the STC has agreed to the ceasefire deal sponsored by our Coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the UAE. However, our efforts towards stability and our fight against the Houthis and terrorists cannot continue if attacks by the Hadi government against our people do not cease.
In this context, what is perfectly clear is that only a comprehensive political process through the UN can bring all the actors together and ensure a sustainable solution for the South. This is why we commend the work of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, and why we continue to engage with him and his efforts constructively. The STC’s goal is firmly a lasting and inclusive political solution for the benefit of all on the ground. And we are prepared to take constructive action to deliver this objective. This is our duty to the Southern people who have made clear their demands, including that of addressing years of marginalisation and the legitimate quest of an independent state.
However, to date the STC and the Southern issue have been excluded from the UN process. But the UN Security Council’s position on 29 August through the Presidential Statement was clear: the inclusion of the South in the UN-led political process is a necessity to a comprehensive and credible negotiated solution, and to addressing the legitimate concerns of all. This is a significant and important shift. The focus now needs to be on turning this intent into action in order to restart a viable political process.
Against this backdrop, we look at the European Parliament to use its power to ensure that the European Union and its Member States contribute meaningfully to creating the conducive environment for a credible inclusive peace process, one that includes the demands and representatives of the South. In this context, we urge you to call on the EU to:
- Increase humanitarian assistance to the South. The situation for our people remains dire following years of deliberate mismanagement by the Hadi government. Essential goods such as food, fuel, and medical supplies are lacking, driving inhumane conditions. We therefore urge you to earmark EU funding to ensure aid will be delivered equally across the South, particularly as the UN humanitarian response plan for Yemen is not yet fully funded. In support of this effort, the STC has established a committee on the ground to support aid delivery and to ensure free access for UN agencies, NGOs and local civil society to the northern and southern governorates. Building resilience and support for such actors will be critical in the long-term future of the South.
- Ensure an inclusive political process. The political process has delivered limited results to date despite the efforts of the UN Envoy. This largely is due to the fact that neither the Hadi government nor the Houthis have felt much pressure to get behind a political solution. The recent events in the South can create an opportunity to revamp the political process and ensure progress on the Southern issue, which is a key element to addressing the broader conflict. We urge the EU to speak loudly and clearly on the need for our inclusion in the political process, as set out in the PRST of 29 August. The ‘red line’ on Yemen’s territorial integrity set by some EU Member States purely for their own domestic politics cannot be used as an excuse to block our inclusion in the UN track. The South’s quest for self-determination is unique as we seek to return to our independent state that existed until 1990. And it should be left to the Southern people to determine their future, and the best way forward for that is as part of the UN framework.
- Ensure the inclusion of Southern civil society and women leaders. South Yemeni women and girls currently rank among the most vulnerable groups as a result of the broader marginalisation of the South. In addition to the devastating circumstances of famine and disease, women are subject to gender-based violence, abuse, and exploitation. The STC is committed to supporting women and ensuring their genuine inclusion within the STC and its leadership structures as well as for Southern civil society and youth. This is an area where the EU has strong expertise and experience and we call on the European Union to secure more meaningful inclusion of these representatives in the political process.
I reiterate the STC’s commitment to reaching a political solution to end this devastating conflict at the earliest possibility. The STC’s position in the South creates the opportunity to bring the focus back onto creating a viable and credible UN-led political process. In reflecting on the above, we look to working with our European partners as part of this effort, and stand ready to go deeper into our vision and how to work together towards a truly inclusive solution for the South and Yemen.
Ahmed Omar Bin Fareed
Southern Transitional Council