Int'l community pushing for peace in Yemen despite major obstacles

Hanan Al-Hakry , Sunday 2 Dec 2018

While the international community is trying to pave the way for Yemeni peace talks, the reality on the ground is completely different

Martin Griffiths, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths (R) meets with Mohammed Ali al-Houthi (L), President of the Huthi Revolutionary Committee, in the capital Sanaa, on November 24, 2018 (Photo: AFP)

Countries and international organisations are moving to lay the groundwork for peace talks as UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths works to set the tone for peace negotiations in Sweden early December.

Meanwhile, Houthi militias have violated the implicit ceasefire in Hodaida, which Griffiths visited 23 November. The Houthis raided residential neighbourhoods in Hodaida in an attempt to infiltrate Yemeni army posts.

In Sanaa — otherwise called Amanat Al-Asima, or the Capital Municipality — rifts are dividing Houthi militia leaders, and the General People’s Congress is suffering a trust issue among its prominent figures.

While the war in Yemen is still raging, conflicts are rising between the Houthis regarding finances and administrative posts.

The series of disagreements all started when Houthi militias toppled the government of Abdel-Aziz Habtour, despite the fact that Yemen and the world don’t officially recognise this government.

After visiting Hodaida, Griffiths said: “The UN should now pursue actively and urgently detailed negotiations for a leading UN role in the port, and more broadly. We believe that such a role will preserve the essential humanitarian pipeline that starts here and serves the people of Yemen.”

The Yemeni Al-Youm Al-Thamen newspaper reported, “Griffiths’ visit to Amanat Al-Asima and Hodaida yielded opposite results to the ceasefire Griffiths sought in anticipation of peace talks.

The internationally recognised government was discontent.” The newspaper said that UN participation in managing the port of Hodaida is believed to consolidate the status quo and help the Houthis further extend their control over the strategic city.

Yemeni Minister of Information Muammar Al-Iryani wrote on Twitter, as reported by the Yemen Press Website: “The government awaits the UN envoy to embark on a tour of Taiz to see for himself the destruction Houthi militias wreaked there.” Al-Iryani also questioned what he described as “UN bias”.

Hodaida witnessed relative calm in the past few days in tandem with Griffiths’ visit to Sanaa on 21 November to hold peace talks with the Houthis.

After visiting Hodaida city on Friday, calling for maintaining peace in the city, Griffiths flew to Saudi Arabia Saturday to meet with members of the Yemeni government.

In Riyadh, Griffiths convened with Vice President General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar on Monday. Al-Ahmar revealed to Griffiths a number of decisions adopted by the legitimate government about its vision for peace in Yemen.

Concerning the Houthis’ latest escalation, on Sunday the militias launched a ballistic missile towards areas under the control of government forces in Nihm district, located 40 kilometres east of Sanaa.

Colonel Turki Al-Malki, spokesman of the Arab Coalition, stated Monday, as reported by Aden Al-Hadath Website, that the coalition will not allow the militias to continue threatening international Red Sea navigation through control over Hodaida.

Al-Malki stated that 36 naval mines were discovered and detonated south of the Red Sea. The mines were planted by Houthi militias to threaten international marine routes in the area.

”The Houthi militias’ actions threaten the safety of the international maritime and commercial lines of conduct and are a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” Al-Malki said.

Leaders of the Khawlan tribes called upon their people in Marib city with the sponsorship of the Supreme Council for the Resistance in Sanaa, under the title “Marching to the Fronts to Continue Liberating Yemen”, as reported on Yemen’s Huna Al-Baida Website.

Social media networks in Yemen were rife with criticism over a photo of Griffiths and a Houthi leader sitting next to a table under which is placed a weapon. The photo stirred controversy and was titled “Negotiation with a weapon under the table.”

International organisations calling for an end to the war fear the repercussions of famine. Five of the largest international relief organisations working in Yemen called on the US to halt its military support of coalition forces, and warned that continuing the US support will make Washington responsible for what could possibly be the worst famine for decades, reported the CNN.

A relief group called on the US to “end the suffering of Yemen” through a bill approved by the Democratic and Republican parties calling for an immediate halt to violence and US support of coalition forces.

The bill is being studied by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and is supported by five of the largest US charity organisations functioning in Yemen that published a joint message calling for an end to supporting the coalition in Yemen.

On Monday, The Telegraph published “War in Yemen: Desperate civilians trapped inside Hodaida fear what comes next if truce fails” in which Mohamed Ali Kalfood, from Hodaida, and Josie Ensor, wrote: “Civilians in the Red Sea city of Hodaida are trapped between Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and the coalition, who have been locked in a five-month battle that mediators are struggling to end.”

The writers added that, “Save the Children reported last week that 85,000 children under the age of five are already thought to have starved to death since the start of the war in 2015.

Meanwhile, only 50 per cent of health facilities are functioning.” The crisis is compounded by deteriorated healthcare services, smuggled medicines and doctors and pharmacists exploiting the suffering of Yemenis to achieve personal gains.

Avril Patterson, a nurse from Ireland who recently returned from Yemen, told the Telegraph: “They were eating a bit of rice or a bit of bread, or flour mixed with water once a day. They didn’t have a mat to sleep on, they really didn’t have anything. It’s very dramatic when you see it… small children with no shoes on their feet.”

Amid international moves, events on the local front and conflicts of interests, the most significant question is where is the war in Yemen going? Is there a way to ease the suffering of Yemenis that are dying of hunger? Or are there more important interests than the survival of a people?

The Yemeni nation awaits an answer as the date for the Stockholm talks approaches and as hopes rise that varied interests will finally align for the good of humanity and lifting the suffering of Yemenis.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 November, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: End the suffering in Yemen

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