Oman works to relaunch Yemen diplomatic talks as fighting continues
Sana’a- With the humanitarian situation deteriorating and fighting between warring factions raging on, diplomatic efforts led by Oman to end the war in Yemen have begun.
Muscat is mediating between the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Iran-allied Houthi rebels to implement the peace plan championed by UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
Yemeni Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulmalik al-Makhlafi met with General Sultan bin Mohammed al- Nuamani, minister of the Royal Office and Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Alawi, in Muscat to “discuss ways to bridge differences with the Houthis,” based on the UN envoy’s latest initiative.
Yemen’s SABA news agency reported that the officials discussed facilitating transit of Yemenis through Oman, particularly Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) residence permit holders and students. The Omani side pledged its “readiness to offer more facilities for Yemenis in these harsh circumstances.”
Ould Cheikh Ahmed has been involved in shuttle diplomacy to generate support for the plan. However, during an update to the UN Security Council, he said a breakthrough was far away.
“We are not close,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed said. “The reluctance of the key parties to embrace the concessions needed for peace or even discuss them remains extremely troubling.”
Confidence-building measures suggested by the United Nations include turning the strategic port of Hodeida over to a neutral third party, paying civil servants’ salaries and opening Sana’a airport.
It remains to be seen whether the Hadi government would accept such concessions due to fears of Iran continuing to arm the Houthi militia.
Fighting continued in several important locations, with government forces reportedly making gains in Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city.
Dubai-based Al Arabiya reported that fighting between forces loyal to Hadi and the Houthi rebels over control of the Republican Palace continued, with the militia barely holding on.
Gaining control of Taiz is important to government forces’ plans, said political analyst Faris al-Bel, who added: “The liberation of important areas in Taiz and the progress of the army there, albeit slow, is a significant shift in the conflict due to the strategic geographical importance of Taiz in liberating the entire west coast of Yemen.”
The London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported that troops loyal to Hadi were preparing for offensives on several rebel-held parts of the country, including the Red Sea port of Hodeida.
Yemeni Army Chief of Staff Major- General Mohammed al-Makdishi said: “The armed forces have put in place plans to liberate the remaining cities” controlled by the Houthi rebels and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Several Gulf states made efforts to combat the growing cholera outbreak in Yemen. The first wave spread in September 2016, with about 23,425 suspected cases. An estimated 301 new cases were registered from April 27-May 18, World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics indicate.
The Emirates Red Crescent (ERC) delivered urgent medical assistance to contain the cholera outbreak, particularly in southern Yemen. The ERC, WHO and the Yemeni Ministry of Health worked to contain the latest wave of cholera, which has spread across 18 Yemeni governorates.
A Saudi agency was the first to respond to the UN appeal for help with regards to the cholera outbreak, donating $274 million and setting up an urgent response team to deliver rapid intervention programmes, diagnosis of the epidemic, treatment and control and work on prevention while cooperating with UAE Ministry of Health.
Kuwait rushed medical supplies from hospitals in the Abyan governorate as part of its Kuwait Beside You programme. In a statement, Dr Emad Abdulrahim, a campaign official, said the initiative was keen on helping Yemeni people stop the spread of the deadly disease, adding that medical supplies comprise necessary medications and equipment to deal with the cholera spread.