Hopes for a political resolution in Yemen dimmed
Sana’a - There are fears that the situation in Yemen is about to turn for the worse, following the announcement of a new government formed by the Iran-allied Houthi rebels and their allies.
The Houthi militia and members of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress party on November 28th announced the formation of the “national salvation” government “(t)asked with putting in order the internal situation and confronting the aggression”, the Houthi-controlled Saba news agency reported.
“The council noted that this comes amid the intransigence of the aggression and its (Yemeni) mercenaries to move within the framework of a national solution… to spare the country further bloodshed and destruction,” the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council added in a statement.
The announcement, which generated worldwide condemnation, appears to end the peace drive launched by the United States and endorsed by the United Nations.
The new government formation “represents a new and concerning obstacle to the peace process and does not serve the interests of the people of Yemen in these difficult times”, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said on his official Twitter account.
“Such unilateral actions contradict” commitments provided to the United Nations and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Muscat, the envoy added about negotiations in Oman.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit described the Houthis’ move as an escalation that reflected an unwillingness by the Houthis to comply responsibly with mediation efforts.
The internationally recognised president of Yemen, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi said the move showed the Houthis’ intent to “spread chaos and destruction” and “destroys any chance of dialogue and peace”.
Speaking from the government’s temporary capital of Aden, Hadi called on the international community to “condemn this move and hold the militia responsible for the collapse of peace efforts”.
Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with Hadi on December 1st. In a video statement, the UN envoy said the aim of the visit was to convey a “message of respect” for the president and to return to “dialogue and a peaceful solution”.
Although Ould Cheikh Ahmed described Hadi as positive, a government-run news site reported that the president gave the UN envoy an official letter rejecting the latest peace proposal, which would leave Hadi as president in name only at best.
Analysts said the Houthis’ action is an opportunity for the Hadi government.
“This step is really in favour of the legitimate government. It can take this opportunity to make some gains on the ground, turning things in their favour since the move by the Houthis relieves the pressures linked with the Kerry-UN proposal.” Yemeni political analyst Zaid al-Salami said.
“The Houthis’ announcement has really torpedoed all UN efforts.”
Additional allegations have surfaced that Tehran has been arming the Houthis when international investigators said they found weapons were being moved from Iran through Somalia and then to Yemen.
The report by the British-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) is based on seizures in the Arabian Sea in February and March.
“CAR’s analysis of the seized materiel… suggests the existence of a weapon pipeline extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen, which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons and weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles,” the report said.
The US government and the Saudi-led coalition at war with the Houthis have called on Iran to stop arming the rebels. Tehran denies it is doing so.
More than 7,000 people have been killed and 2.8 million displaced since the war in Yemen began in March 2015. The Saudi-led Arab coalition, supported by the United States and Britain, began an air campaign against the rebels after they overran Sana’a and seized most of the country.