File Photo: Yemeni pro-government fighters gather in the back of a pick up truck near the district of Harib on last January. AFP
The past week has been an exciting time for diplomacy led by the UN and US envoys in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Sultanate of Oman.
The envoys met with the Presidential Leadership Council, the Secretary-General of the Southern Transitional Council in Yemen, the Saudi ambassador to Yemen and other Saudi officials in Riyadh. Later, they met separately with Omani officials and the chief of the Houthi negotiating delegation, Mohammed Abdulsalam.
The situation is apparently heading towards re-extending the truce, which officially ended last October, but has since remained in effect. At that time, the Houthis refused to extend it and set conditions, including paying the salaries of their military personnel from oil and gas revenues in Hadramout, Shabwa and Marib, which are areas controlled by the Yemeni government. They also refused to transfer the revenues of Hodeidah ports to a special account that would pay the salaries of port employees.
On the table is a draft agreement that was leaked to Yemeni media a few weeks ago and confirmed by the Associated Press. This draft, which was put forward by a regional country, incorporated the conditions of the Houthi group. The draft reportedly includes clauses for a comprehensive political solution, but these clauses do not address the effects of the coup and are far from the references agreed upon locally and internationally, and go towards consolidating the coup as a fait accompli in Yemen.
Based on the proposed draft, the Houthi group could control the fate of the decision, as they control the weapons and much of the territory, just like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Furthermore, the consultations of this draft took place far from the other actors in the Yemeni scene, such as the Southern Transitional Council, which has carried the southern issue for almost three decades.
As for the Yemeni government, it is the weakest link in this draft of the agreement. It loses more sovereignty over the country, the same thing it experienced during the signing of the Stockholm Agreement in 2018.
The government gained nothing from the agreement that stopped the battles in Hodeidah and the joint forces loyal to it at the gates of the city. In the name of the humanitarian situation in the province, the international community has pressed to stop the battle and enter into an agreement that was only beneficial to the Houthi group.
According to the terms of the agreement, the Houthi group had to deposit the revenues of Hodeidah ports into a joint account to pay the salaries of employees in the areas controlled by the Houthi group, and they would withdraw from the governorate with local forces providing security.
However, the Houthi group did not implement the agreement and remained in control of the governorate, collecting taxes from the three ports in it, estimated at tens of billions of riyals per month. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the governorate continued to deteriorate. The Iranian-backed group resumed a massive looting campaign targeting fertile agricultural lands and the citizens in the governorate.
What is certain is that this draft and consultations do not address the existing problem in Yemen but rather consolidate the presence of the Houthis and adjourn contentious issues and wars to the future. Therefore, these efforts are not aimed at building a sustainable peace, but rather booby-trapping the future of Yemen and prolonging its tragedy.
The interventions of regional and international countries in the crisis from outside the Arab coalition, which has been handling the Yemeni issue since its inception, certainly increases the complexities of this crisis, since their intentions are not in the interest of the stability of this Arab country.
Since 2014, the armed conflict in Yemen has produced one of the world’s most intractable humanitarian crises. The humanitarian situation in Yemen has led to considerable suffering across the country. According to the 2022 Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview, an estimated 4.3 million internally-displaced-persons, 300,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and millions of conflict-affected host community members are caught in the midst of an active armed conflict where the most basic resources are not available to ensure safety, dignity or protection, the UN reported.
Fighting has exacerbated high-risk coping mechanisms, stalled development gains made in the preceding years and driven the country to the brink of famine. An estimated 81 percent of Yemenis live below the poverty line, which has increased competition over resources and diminished opportunities for sustainable gains in livelihoods, according to the UN.