Yemen peace talks in limbo
SANA'A - UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has been shuttling around the region to convince the internationally recognised Yemeni government to return to peace talks in Kuwait.
The negotiations began April 21st but have yielded few results, except for a series of prisoner exchanges. The talks are in limbo with the Yemeni government refusing to participate, although the United Nations has yet to describe the situation as a complete breakdown.
After a July 11th meeting in Riyadh with Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi described the talks in Kuwait as a “mirage” and said, since the onset of talks, the Yemeni government had met all its obligations.
“But we’ve received nothing in return from the coup militia,” Hadi said, referring to the Iran-allied Houthi militia, which took over Sana’a in late 2014.
The latest sticking point is the UN proposal of a national unity government that would include the Houthi rebels. That contradicts the initial agreement for the talks in Kuwait, which required the militia to surrender its arms and withdraw from areas it had occupied, as outlined in UN Resolution 2216.
“We will not return to the talks in Kuwait if the United Nations tries to impose the latest proposal by mediator Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed,” Hadi said while visiting government troops in Yemen’s Marib province ahead of his meeting in Riyadh.
According to government sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, during his meeting with the UN envoy, Hadi reaffirmed his rejection of the proposed unity government that would include the rebels.
Government sources ruled out a compromise on the issue and Hadi’s rhetoric in Marib indicates a return to full military engagement to liberate Sana’a.
The likelihood of talks resuming soon appears slim, according to Yemeni political analyst Mohamed as-Salihi, especially in light of the Yemeni government’s claim that the United Nations has failed to support the original talk framework.
Salihi said rumours of the talks moving to Dhahran in Saudi Arabia gained traction recently, particularly after repeated visits by the head of the Houthi delegation to Riyadh for meetings with officials. According to Salihi, the angry rhetoric from former president’s Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party has exacerbated problems.
“If true the new events might herald the existence of separate bilateral talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis with the exclusion of the ex-president’s party,” he added.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said: “The special envoy remains committed and wants all the parties to remain committed to the political process and we very much hope to see all the parties back in Kuwait… when the talks resume.”
The United Arab Emirates, a main player in the Saudi-led coalition at war with the Houthis, reaffirmed its commitment to the internationally recognised Yemeni government and the fight against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on July 11th said his country was “very much committed” to pursuing al-Qaeda in Yemen but did not elaborate on whether the UAE intended on scaling up its presence in the war against the Houthis.
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.