Fragile Yemen talks resume after suspension
LONDON - After a week of ceasefire violations and mutual accusations, talks to end the 14-month war in Yemen have resumed in Kuwait. A peace deal, however, is not in sight.
Negotiations were suspended May 1st for three days after the Iran-allied Houthi militia and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh breached the UN-sponsored ceasefire by seizing a military base north of Sana’a.
The rebels took over the previously neutral Amaliqa military base in Amran province, killing several guards, witnesses said. Houthis ransacked the base’s arms depot at a time they were supposed to be negotiating the surrender of weapons at talks in Kuwait.
An official source in the Yemeni government delegation in Kuwait told The Arab Weekly that the decision to suspend talks was to protest the lack of rebel commitment to the humanitarian pause, their disregard for the ceasefire and the ongoing rebel assault on Taiz.
The seizure of the Amaliqa base equated to a “dangerous escalation”, the source said, coming at a point in negotiations aimed at discussing rebel disarmament.
The internationally recognised Yemeni government boycotted the talks in protest of the seizure, with informed sources telling The Arab Weekly, that both Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al- Sabah and UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed tried to dissuade President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government from refusing to negotiate.
Factions resumed face-to-face negotiations May 4th after the United Nations said a monitoring committee agreed to by both sides would investigate the Amaliqa base takeover.
“The peace talks are continuing. We are determined to reach an agreement and this commitment will not wane over time,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.
“We agreed with the two delegations that the De-escalation and Coordination Committee (DCC) would investigate clashes on the ground and would provide us with detailed reports with the aim of protecting the ongoing peace talks from daily developments on the ground.”
A major sticking point has been Taiz, where civilians and troops loyal to the Yemeni government have been besieged for months amid deteriorating humanitarian conditions.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi demanded UN action regarding continued rebel shelling of Taiz and warned there would be “serious consequences for the peace process” if the situation did not improve.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdessalam put the blame on the Yemeni government, writing on Twitter that “the forces of aggression are blocking political discussions in Kuwait… by invoking false pretexts alongside a serious escalation.”
Meanwhile, Yemeni and the Gulf Arab coalition forces drove al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) from two southern Yemeni towns after the recapture of the port city of Mukalla, which deprived the terrorist network of an estimated $2 million a day in revenue.
Dozens of AQAP fighters left Jaar and Zinjibar in Abyan province without a shot fired, witnesses said.
The US military confirmed it provided military and intelligence support, as well as special operations forces to help in the fight against AQAP. Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the United States is providing “limited support” — planning, airborne surveillance, intelligence gathering and medical support — to the Arab coalition and Yemeni operations in and around Mukalla. He would not confirm or deny if US special operations forces were present in Yemen.
The war in Yemen began in March 2015 when a Saudi-led Arab coalition began air strikes in an effort to restore Hadi’s internationally recognised Yemeni government. The recent ceasefire and diplomatic drive has given the Arab coalition the opportunity to focus on the al- Qaeda threat.