As diplomacy stalls, fighting intensifies in Yemen

Government supporters view the liberation of Hodeidah as paramount to resolving the conflict.
Sunday 16/09/2018
A pro-government fighter points a Kalashnikov assault rifle towards a Houthi banner painted on a wall on the southern outskirts of Hodeidah.    		              (AFP)
Closing in. A pro-government fighter points a Kalashnikov assault rifle towards a Houthi banner painted on a wall on the southern outskirts of Hodeidah. (AFP)

ADEN - With the Geneva talks failing to take shape, indicators point to a spike in military engagement in Yemen in the battle between Saudi-led coalition and Iran-allied Houthi rebels, whose weapons supply chain has been cut off.

Pro-government forces said they recaptured Kilo 16, the main route linking the port city of Hodeidah to Sana’a, which is controlled by Houthis.

Government supporters view the liberation of Hodeidah as paramount to resolving the conflict. Intelligence reports indicate that the rebels generate up to $40 million a month from Hodeidah. It is their main point for receiving weapons and funds from benefactor Iran, in violation of a UN ban.

Coalition forces pushed to retake the port city in June but halted operations after the United Nations appealed to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to give peace efforts a chance. Fighting resumed later.

“Our argument stands that a change in the calculus is essential for a successful political solution in Yemen,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter. “Hodeidah is the change needed and will ensure an end to Houthi aggression through political means,” he added.

The latest military drive came after UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths failed to get warring factions to the negotiation table, which resulted in a rift between the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Griffiths.

The Yemeni government said it is concerned that Griffiths has not been transparent in public statements regarding the Houthis’ failure to show up at the Geneva talks. During a news conference September 8, Yemeni Foreign Minister Khalid al-Yamani, admonished Griffiths after the envoy stressed that the Houthis had tried to attend the Geneva talks.

“I consider that the statement given just now by the special envoy was, unfortunately, working to satisfy the coupist party and sought to make excuses for them,” Yamani said. “The statements of Mr Martin Griffiths [to] us and the rest of the partners had expressed a dissatisfaction with this unjustified behaviour.”

Griffiths in his statement insisted that the Houthis had wanted to attend the talks in Geneva and that he had made all efforts to make that happen.

On the day talks were to begin, the Houthi delegation refused to travel to Switzerland unless the United Nations met several last-minute demands after having told Griffiths it was attending the talks.

This prompted the Yemeni government delegation, led by Yamani, to give the Houthis 24 hours to show up for talks, which they failed to do.

The Yemeni government released a statement upon leaving Geneva, saying that among the preconditions set by the militia was the insistence on guarantees from the United Nations that “planes can fly freely to and from Sana’a without being searched.”

“Everything that we have been hearing from the special envoy is an expression of regret and frustration because their group did not join the Geneva consultations or carry out its commitments. Unfortunately, we did not see this in the news conference that Mr Martin Griffiths participated in,” Yamani said.

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