In Yemen, hopes pinned on talks despite breaches of truce

Sunday 17/04/2016
Yemeni demonstrators calling for end to war

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.