Oman works to relaunch Yemen diplomatic talks as fighting continues

Sunday 11/06/2017
Sights of war. A Yemeni fighter loyal to the internationally recognised government holds a rocket launcher on his shoulder in a mountainous region north-west of Taiz. (AFP)

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.