Tactical moves on Yemen’s front

Ahmed Eleiba , Wednesday 21 Nov 2018

International efforts are intensifying to reach a ceasefire in Yemen before the warring parties meet in Sweden

Martin Griffiths
United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths sepaks during an interview with Reuters in Abu Dhabi, UAE, October 4, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

International efforts are ongoing to launch a new round of Yemen negotiations in Sweden next month amid mediations to cease continuing firefights. The Houthi Movement announced Sunday night a halt of missile and drone attacks on the borders of Saudi Arabia.

Nonetheless, military conflict didn’t cease on the domestic front. Local Yemeni sources said the situation in Al-Hodeida has reached a complicated juncture, further highlighting the need to focus on efforts to reach a ceasefire.

Saudi King Salman said, “our standing by Yemen was not an option but a duty to support the Yemeni people in confronting the aggression of Iranian-backed militias.”

His remarks were addressed to the Saudi Shura Council, a top governmental advisory body, confirming his support for a political solution in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2216, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative to end the political stalemate in Yemen, and the results of the Comprehensive National Dialogue conference.

He added his kingdom would continue fighting extremism and terrorism and rise to its role of leadership in the region.

UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths proposed at the latest Security Council meeting a resolution – the details of which are still unpublished – based on UN Resolution 2216, the GCC initiative and the outcomes of the Comprehensive National Dialogue in addition to talks in Kuwait, considered the longest round of negotiations to broker a peace agreement in Yemen.

It appears, however, that Griffiths has merely passed the proposed resolution to international concerned parties.

Russian Ambassador to Yemen Vladimir Dedushkin called on the international community and conflicting parties in Yemen to support the resolution drafted by Griffiths.

He told the Russian news agency TASS on Saturday, “for the first time in three years since the conflict in Yemen started, a specific document has been presented, which must be supported by all sides of the conflict and by the international community represented by the UN Security Council.”

“The document must be mandatory, this is of fundamental importance. Besides, this will be a difficult compromise, during which the sides have to make significant concessions,” he added.

“We are talking about basic security parameters and political steps that ultimately would put an end to the conflict and restore Yemen’s statehood. Naturally, the document outlines the task of creating the corresponding political and military mechanisms to realise these objectives, as well as necessary guarantees,” the ambassador stated.

Dedushkin added that achieving this is no easy task given current conditions. “We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

Earlier this week, the head of Griffiths’ office, Nicola Davis, met with the Houthi Foreign Minister in the movement’s unofficial and unrecognised cabinet Hisham Sharaf.

Yemeni sources suggested the meeting was preparatory to a visit by Griffiths to put the finishing touches on the schedule of a next round of negotiations, in addition to laying out some tactical moves to set the mood to discuss the issue of detainees.

Griffiths announced he was close to striking a deal with Yemeni parties to release prisoners.

Davis’s meeting in Sanaa resulted in the Houthis’ cessation of escalation, but only on the borders. Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi, head of the Houthis’ so-called Revolutionary Committee, wrote on Twitter that halting the fighting was in compliance with the UN envoy’s request.

The movement, hours later, released a military communique in support of the move, expressing its readiness to halt military operations on all fronts to reach a just and honourable peace, as long as the other side showed the same commitment.

Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Washington have seen similar efforts to establish peace in Yemen.

Griffiths met with Reem Al-Hashemi, the UAE minister of international cooperation, and Youssef Al-Oteiba, the UAE ambassador in Washington. Reports of these meetings focused on efforts to stop the war in Al-Hodeida.

Based on current developments, it is believed the issue of Al-Hodeida will be the focus of rounds of talks to establish a ceasefire between the warring parties.

Yemeni analyst Abdel-Aziz Al-Maguidi told Al-Ahram Weekly: “It looks like the parties involved in the conflict have been exhausted. Furthermore, they are falling under international pressure after the latest escalation in Al-Hodeida, and the deteriorating humanitarian conditions of the Yemenis.”

He added: “A ceasefire on the domestic front has not materialised and is expected to remain fragile even if it happens, because of the complicated situation on the field, putting into consideration that the battle in Al-Hodeida has turned into street fights.”

Political analyst Mohamed Al-Shemiri concurred. He told the Weekly, “the Houthis’ tactical moves can’t be trusted. It is an attempt to negotiate a price with international powers within the frame of the West’s mood, specifically to contain the Houthi Movement.

Thus, what is happening now is an attempt [of the Houthi Movement] to save itself from collapsing after its retreat in the field.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 22 November, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Tactical moves on Yemen’s front

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