Yemen fighting puts diplomacy in doubt
SANA'A - With talks to end the conflict in Yemen suspended, counterproductive political and military actions have escalated, leaving the likelihood of a peaceful resolution in doubt.
Iran-allied Houthi rebels and the General People’s Congress party affiliated with former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh attempted to establish their Supreme Political Council August 13th with a parliamentary session in Sana’a, a move described by UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as a violation of commitments to the peace process.
According to sources in attendance, the Houthi/Saleh alliance was unable to gather a sufficient number of members to fill parliamentary seats. Local media and minor officials were asked to fill seats for a photo opportunity at the end of the session.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that in the week before the session, which the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi condemned, Saleh frantically called members of parliament affiliated with the General People’s Congress to coax them to attend the session.
However, with the majority of them either outside the country or in Riyadh having switched affiliation to the Yemeni government, the required number of at least 151 members out of the 301-seat council was not met. The sources said no more than 90 people attended.
As diplomatic efforts appeared to founder, the military aspect of the conflict became more acute. The Saudi Civil Defence Ministry on August 16th reported the deaths of four citizens and three foreigners after a missile was fired from Houthi-controlled territory across the kingdom’s southern border.
The day before the attack, an air raid by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis hit a number of targets, including a hospital, resulting in the death of 14 people. The coalition claimed it had targeted a militia training camp; however, Doctors Without Borders, working out of the hospital, stated otherwise, generating international condemnation.
Speaking with CNN, spokesman for the Saudi Defence Ministry Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asseri said the aircraft bombed a training camp for coup militias in Saada. Asseri said a major Houthi leader was killed in the attack. Saudi media identified the slain leader as Saleh al-Houthi Mouawad Kibsi.
The coalition has launched its own investigation into the air raids.
With peace talks in Kuwait yielding no tangible results, Asseri said negotiations had been used as a grace period for rearming the Houthis and that there was no intention of finding a political solution.
“They were deceiving people by this negotiation, to reorganise their force, resupplying their forces and getting back to fighting. They don’t have any political agenda,” Asseri, told Agence France-Presse.
The war in Yemen began when Shia Houthis and their allies overran Sana’a in September 2014, seizing most of the country. Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition, supported by the United States and Britain, began an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Arab coalition ground troops later entered the fight. According to UN estimates, more than 6,400 people have been killed since the fighting started, with 2.8 million people displaced as a consequence.