As long as the Saudi-led coalition refuses real negotiations and insists on unrealistic demands disconnected from the realities on the ground, there will be no negotiated peace.
SANA’A, YEMEN — A second round of negotiations between the Saudi-led coalition and Yemen’s Houthi movement could be hosted soon in the Jordanian capital of Amman, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee said on Sunday after meeting the UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.
Griffiths arrived in Sana’a on Saturday for talks with Houthi leaders to shore up a ceasefire in the country’s lifeline port city of Hodeida. He left Sana’a for the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Monday to meet Saudi-led coalition leaders, including former Yemeni government officials. The UN Security Council is expected to hear a report from Griffiths sometime next week, although a date has not been set.
“Talks on Yemen’s failed economy could take place soon in Amman or by video conference, which I discussed with the UN envoy,» al-Houthi said, adding:
We informed the UN envoy that we are ready to implement all the terms and conditions of the Stockholm agreement without any retreat or moving away from it.»
The UN envoy made no public statements on his arrival or after meeting with Houthi officials. While in Yemen, Griffiths also met with dozens of children with chronic diseases who were waiting in ambulances, in a symbolic gesture, for the lifting of the years-old blockade on the Sana’a International Airport. The airport blockade has prevented thousands of Yemeni patients from traveling abroad for treatment.
Agreements on the reopening of the Sana’a International Airport, a withdrawal of Houthi forces in Sana’a, the paying of government staff salaries, and the neutralization of the Central Bank were not reached in Sweden in December and instead were postponed until January.
Meanwhile, thousands of Hodeida`s residents staged a street protest in the city on Friday, calling on the world and the United Nations to pressure the Saudi-led coalition to abide by the recent UN-brokered peace agreement reached in Sweden. Under the deal, both the handover of Hodeida port and the redeployment of troops should have been completed within 14 days of the truce taking effect on December 18. That deadline has already lapsed.
Earlier, the Houthis handed-over of control of Hodeida’s port to Yemen’s national government’s Coast Guard under the supervision of UN monitors, a move that was a part of trust-building measures agreed upon during the talks in Sweden.
Houthi officials say they are ready to give guarantees regarding the status of the port as well as political participation of other local groups. However, the Houthis expect the same guarantees and concessions from Saudi-led coalition countries. As long as the coalition refuses real negotiations and insists on unrealistic demands disconnected from the realities on the ground, there will be no negotiated peace, according to Yemeni analysts.
Looking to break the pattern of negotiating failure
Numerous prior negotiations between the Houthis and the Saudi coalition have failed, including peace talks in Switzerland earlier this year that failed spectacularly after the coalition refused to allow the evacuation of wounded Houthi personnel for treatment abroad. Previous talks also broke down in 2016, when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait failed to yield a deal.
The arrival of Griffith to Sana’a came after the coalition launched a military campaign last week to control al Jah al Asefl in Beit al-Faqih — south of Yemen’s port city of Hodeida — after coalition reinforcements reached the harbor of al Mokha. The coalition has also repeatedly violated the UN-brokered ceasefire in Hodeida over the past two weeks.
On Thursday, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said that the cessation of hostilities continued to hold in Hodeida, despite mutual accusations of violations by Saudi-led fighters and Yemen’s resistance movements.
Last weekend, five ships belonging to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) landed in Yemen’s southwestern city of al Mokha loaded with dozens of armored vehicles, heavy weapons, and various weapons carriers, according to a local source speaking to MintPress News on the condition of anonymity.
The coalition convoy of reinforcements en route from al Mokha to Khalid military base, located in the west of Taize in Yemen’s southern region, was targeted with a short-range, solid-propellant Badr P-1 missile by Yemen’s Houthi-aligned armed forces on Sunday, leaving an unspecified number of mercenaries either killed or wounded, according to a military source. The explosion also inflicted damage to coalition military hardware and equipment.
Separately, more than 15 civilians were killed or injured over the weekend after Saudi mercenaries lobbed a barrage of mortar shells at residential neighborhoods in the Hali, Hawak, and Derihimi districts of the western Yemeni province of Hodeida. Some of the injured remain in critical condition.
Focus on resource-rich al-Shabwah
Elsewhere, at least eight civilians from the al-Muhdhar family were killed when UAE aircraft carried out airstrikes against a residential neighborhood in Yemen’s southern province of Shabwah on Friday.
A local source told MintPress that al-Nukhbah Shabwah, a paramilitary group loyal to the UAE, attacked al-Hajjrah in the Markhah area, and engaged in fierce armed confrontations with scores of local tribesmen. The source added that the skirmishes lasted for several hours, before an Emirati Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter fired several missiles at a number of homes in the area, killing seven people.
Since the war on Yemen began in 2015, the UAE has supported the creation of paramilitary groups in southern Yemen, including in Shabwah, Aden, Lahj, Abyan, Hadramout, Mahara and Socotra. Most of the groups, thought to number around 30,000 members total, subscribe to the same Salafi (Wahhabi) ideology as ISIS and al-Qaeda.
To fulfill its strategic interests in al-Shabwah, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also using militias for reprisal attacks against opponents and parties who refuse to subject themselves to the coalition. Hence the attack on the village of al-Hajjrah after its residents refused to permit the presence of the Saudi-led coalition in their district
The province of Shabwa contains Yemen’s largest natural-gas reserves and is home to the port of Balha natural-gas refinery, which is under UAE control. The province also produces over 100,000 barrels of oil per day.
Top Photo | Martin Griffiths, UN special envoy to Yemen, speaks during a visit to Yemen’s port city of Hodeida on Nov. 23, 2018. Photo | Reuters
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.