Yemen peace still elusive

Sunday 03/07/2016
Yemen boy releasing dove as part of campaign to push negotiators to reach peace agreement

LONDON - The troubled talks intended to end the 15-month-old war in Yemen, adjourned for two weeks for Eid el-Fitr with the United Nations expressing hope that the break will usher in a new phase in the negotia­tions, which have yet to yield significant results.
Statements by UN Spe­cial Envoy on Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed still carried an op­timistic tone regarding the new phase in the talks despite the dete­riorating situation in Yemen.
“After extensive discussions with the participants, the main principles that will guide the next phase of Yemeni talks had been established,” said UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq.
“The two delegations will use the coming two weeks to meet their respective leaderships and will then return to Kuwait on July 15th with practical recommenda­tions on how to implement the necessary mechanisms that will enable them to sign a peace accord and end the conflict in Yemen.”
“Delegations must return with practical steps based on the rec­ommendations of the previous dis­cussions they had in Kuwait,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed wrote on his official Twitter account. However, the is­sues plaguing the negotiations and war go beyond that.
A major issue of contention has been the fate of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. In a speech June 25th, Saleh warned against any settlement that did not include him. He called the talks in Kuwait a “waste of time”.
Riyadh has managed to margin­alise the former Yemeni leader, who is viewed by the coalition fighting the Houthis as a chief cause of the issues afflicting the war in Yemen and the UN-spon­sored talks.
Furthermore, the demand by the Houthi rebels to be a part of a tran­sitional coalition government con­tinues to be a non-starter for Yem­eni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his supporters.
Abdullah al-Alaimi, a member of the Yemeni government delegation in Kuwait, rejected “rewarding” the Houthis for trying to take over the country through illegitimate means. In an interview with Arabic news channel, Al Arabiya, Alaimi said that forming a unity govern­ment did not fall under agreed-to negotiation guidelines. He said the Yemeni government could not of­fer further concessions.
As the Kuwait talks prepared for a pause, the situation in Yemen de­teriorated, with both sides mostly ignoring the ceasefire.
Yemeni government sources told The Arab Weekly that the fight­ing escalation is due to the failure of reaching a political settlement in Kuwait because of the rebels’ refusal to make concessions. The source emphasised that cease­fire violations were intended to strengthen the rebels’ hands dur­ing negotiations but that has had opposite effect on proceedings.
According to the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, forces loyal to the internationally recognised government have made advances towards Sana’a and have the main airport in their sights.
“Pro-legitimacy forces made a relative progress in the areas of Fardat Naham and Al-Jouf and are now at the outskirts of Sana’a air­port,” said Major-General Naser al- Tahri, who added that troops were waiting for orders to proceed.
According to Tahri, around 30 high-ranking military officials af­filiated with Saleh have clandes­tinely fled after government forces closed in on the capital.
The war in Yemen began after the Shia Houthis and their allies overran Sana’a in September 2014 and seized most of the country. Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia.
An Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and 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.