In Yemen, hopes pinned on talks despite breaches of truce
LONDON - With a Yemen war ceasefire barely holding, attention is on Kuwait as peace talks designed to end the fighting in Yemen are set to start April 18th, bringing a glimmer of hope to Yemen and the region.
Yemen has been the site of a Saudi-led intervention to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power. He was forced to flee the country in March 2015 when Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sana’a and the port city of Aden.
A ceasefire has been in effect since April 10th but both sides have reported violations. The spokesman for the Houthi negotiating committee, Muhammad Abdelsalam, blamed the breaches on “merchants of war and those who hate peace and stability”.
The ceasefire was tested before it even started, with militias loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh escalating attacks in the south-western city of Taiz and Sana’a in an attempt to sabotage talks because of misgivings about Saleh’s representation in Kuwait.
Yemen’s Southern Separatist Movement has also renewed calls for secession and planned a rally that insiders say was promoted out of fear that the movement’s demands would not be a part of the negotiations.
Diplomatic efforts began yielding results, however, after Gulf Cooperation Council member Oman mediated direct talks between the Iran-allied Houthis and Saudi officials in Riyadh. The two sides subsequently exchanged prisoners.
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the talks in Kuwait would focus on several main areas: Houthi withdrawal from Sana’a and other cities; handing over light and heavy weapons to the government; setting temporary security measures; restoring state institutions and ministries to the government; establishing a committee on political prisoners and resumption of a comprehensive political dialogue.
These issues are essentially UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which were the motivations behind the Saudi-led coalition going to war in the first place.
The war in Yemen has resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 people, mostly civilians. The country is suffering a major humanitarian catastrophe, making resolution of the year-old war a matter of utmost urgency.
Another result of the chaos brought about by the fighting has been militant groups, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), strengthening their positions in southern Yemen.