A Yemeni military helicopter searches over the waters off the southern coastal city of Aden for the remains of a United Arab Emirates helicopter from the Saudi-led coalition backing government forces in Yemen after it crashed on June 13, 2016, killing both crew. (AFP)
Al-Ahram Weekly has learned that negotiations underway in Kuwait for the past two months on the political crisis in Yemen have made no progress as the two sides have been unable to find common ground.
Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohamed Said Al-Jaber, has put forth an initiative to form a military committee to monitor the ceasefire on the battlefront. This would entail establishing an organisational structure of the main committee for the coordination of the ceasefire, with local subcommittees in each governorate.
A team would be attached to each local committee, working on all fronts and connecting the different subcommittees. Each truce team would be made up of two delegates representing the government and the Houthis.
The parties to the Yemen crisis ostensibly concluded a prior agreement in Dhahran, located in southern Saudi Arabia, on the operation of the truce committee. Riyadh has allocated one million riyals to cover operating costs, and the process will be overseen and implemented under a UN aegis.
Abd Al-Azizi Al-Jabari, Yemen’s deputy prime minister and vice-chair of the government delegation in the Kuwait negotiations, told the Weekly in a phone interview that the latest developments in the negotiations demonstrate that the Houthi-Saleh delegation has not complied with the framework and agenda of the negotiations, and is seeking to put forth a new proposal unrelated to the core of UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
Al-Jabari stressed that any resolution must put an end to militias in the country, ensure the surrender of weapons, most of which were looted from army camps, and entail the turnover of state institutions the Houthis control. Anything less is unacceptable, he said.
Al-Jabari added that the Houthi-Saleh delegation is seeking to “legitimise the coup” by submitting new proposals for the basis of dialogue in Kuwait. “But no party will accept this because they’re not serious about the peace process,” he said. Speaking of the Saudi initiative, Al-Jabari said the government will rally around all attempts with the goal of making a breakthrough.
“They [the Houthis] did not engage with [the initiative] and want to promote other proposals,” Al-Jabari said. “But I don’t think any international party will accept this.”
Khaled Alyan, an advisor to the Yemeni presidency who is familiar with the talks, revealed to the Weekly one detail that sparked a dispute around the acceptance of the Saudi initiative.
“When talk turned to the matter of later forming a committee for the withdrawal of weapons after the truce, we suggested that there be an impartial committee of senior military personnel who did not participate in the war,” he said. “The Houthi response was that they reject this.
They want a committee divided between them and the legitimate government, and insisted on appointing Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi, the head of the so-called Houthi Revolutionary Committees, as the official on their side. This undermines the legitimacy of President Hadi and his government.”
Alyan added: “These revolutionary committees were also supposed to cede state institutions, with any of their decisions not based on legal or constitutional legitimacy voided. But they don’t want this. They say the starting point should be the formation of a consensus government to which the institutions can be surrendered.
“But there is an agenda that first requires implementing the terms of UN Resolution 2216, which calls for an end to militia control of the state and the reinstatement of legitimacy. Then we can move toward a new transitional phase based on the Gulf Initiative and the outcome of the national dialogue.”
Based on information from the presidency of the delegation, Alyan said that the legitimacy delegation submitted a written commitment that the government will resign in the event of a consensus based on the agenda.
In contrast, the Houthi movement and Saleh’s National Congress are insisting on starting with the political process rather than the security issue, as Al-Jabari confirmed to the Weekly, and that a consensus government should be formed to receive surrendered weapons.
Ahmed Rafiq, who is close to the Houthi delegation and part of the working group of the National Congress, said in phone interview from Sanaa, “No one in the Houthi and Saleh delegations will accept Hadi again ruling Yemen, so there must first be a consensus government.
“How can a military committee be formed under an unacceptable government, which is a party to the conflict, without members from the National Congress and Houthi movement? There must either be a joint military committee or a consensus government.”
*This article was originally published on 16 June in Al-Ahram Weekly.