7 Years on the Yemeni Crisis... What is next?


Sun, 06-06-2021 12:19 AM, Aden Time

Badr Mohammed (South24)

The crisis of the Yemeni conflict has entered its seventh year in a row dragging behind it the worst humanitarian and economic disaster in its history. (1) The situation may devolve to the worst if the conflicting parties don’t cease fighting. On the other hand, the humanitarian UN organizations are working hard in order to protect Yemenis in the face of such a disaster.

Recently, the crisis has received unprecedented international attention aiming at ending the war and reaching a political comprehensive settlement including all active parties in addition to the efforts of the UN envoy to Yemen, Mr Martin Griffiths, to solve the crisis. There are international efforts that try to reach a comprehensive political solution in Yemen.

UN path to solve the crisis

Early this year, the United Nations adopted the option of “a comprehensive political solution” to Yemen crisis concurrently with a dissimilar political approach of the new US administration different from its predecessor and aiming at activating the American and UN diplomacy in Yemen at the expense of abolishing the military Saudi role.

These developments caused negative consequences related to the Yemeni crisis by linking it to the Iranian role in a context in which the US urges Tehran to return to its nuclear program negotiations.

Consequently, this encouraged   Iran- backed Houthis to continue their military assault on Marib, exposing it to the biggest humanitarian disaster according to international organizations.

All such shifts which have occurred during the Yemen crisis have enhanced the war destructive machine and produced the worst humanitarian crisis which forced UN and the international community to talk about the necessity of ceasing war and reaching a comprehensive political solution.

In a context related to the Yemeni crisis, it is not encouraging when the humanitarian crisis mingled with the frustration of the UN envoy to Yemen caused by the disagreement of the conflicting parties on a political solution.(2) Late last May, Mr Martin Griffiths resumed his efforts to solve the Yemeni crisis as he made a diplomatic tour starting in Riyadh, passing through Muscat and ending with Sana’a in which he conducted a series of meetings with conflicting parties.

It is worth mentioning that such a meeting occurred in conjunction with resuming talks between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council about implementing the remains of the Riyadh Agreement. (3)

However, Muscat meeting between the UN envoy and the Houthis delegation just paved the way for Mr. Griffiths to go to Sana’a and meet Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi. Prior to that, the UN envoy met with the US envoy to Yemen and the ambassadors representing the five states who expressed their full support to the efforts aiming at implementing a comprehensive peace in Yemen. (4) Nevertheless, such a gesture was not enough to convince Abdul-malik al-Houthi to stop his war on Marib.

In a later press conference held by the UN envoy before leaving Sana’a, it was clear that the Houthis repeated their condition to separate the humanitarian aspect from any political deal. (5) It could be understood that the Houthis refused to stop war and they attempted to evoke the humanitarian side in a context related to international humanitarian law. This refusal made Mr. Griffiths say that the acceptance to stop war is also a humanitarian principle. (6)

At the same time that the U.N envoy and the Houthis differ about stopping war, they agree about the harmful effects of the humanitarian scene in Yemen. While the UN envoy calls for ceasing war based on humanitarian point of view, the Houthis' calls for stopping the siege is based on humanitarian aspects too.

This complication in the Yemeni crisis necessarily summons the need of the international community to support the efforts of the United Nations and its envoy to Yemen theoretically and practically.

The international paths to solve the Yemen crisis

There are three international paths (tracks) in addition to United Nation which support UN envoy to solve the Yemeni crisis.

1- The Swedish track

The Yemeni crisis witnessed a lot of troubles and transformation since the UN envoy started his mission in April 2018.

In the middle of 2018, in relation to the raging military conflict in the West Coast front, Giant Brigades forces, which consists of the Southerners, the Tuhami Resistance Forces and others, backed by the Arab Coalition made advances towards Al Hudaydah. The attacking forces were about to wrest control over Al Hudaydah and its port from the grip of the Houthis.

However, fearing possible humanitarian implications caused by the Al Hudaydah battle, Stockholm Agreement was signed on 13th December 2018. 

Patroned by Sweden, this agreement was considered a qualitative leap from the military level to the political engagement based on humanitarian motives. In its attempt to deny the legitimacy of the Houthis, the Yemeni government considered it just a humanitarian deal.

On the other hand, moving from the western scene in the Yemeni crisis (Al Hudaydah), to the Eastern scene (Marib), is related to the same reasons and the outcome as the war between the Yemeni government and the Houthis in Marib risks the occurrence of a humanitarian disaster requiring both parties to abide by ceasing fire and to sign a political deal in Marib like Stockholm Agreement.

It is worth mentioning that concurrently with the Marib battle, the Swedish diplomacy made a series of meetings with the conflicting parties hoping to reach a political deal with an aim of settling the conflict over Marib which risked humanitarian consequences.

2- The Saudi track 

The end of the first year of Martin Griffiths’ mission in 2018 witnessed a political transformation in the Yemeni crisis, sponsored by Sweden. The following year witnessed military and political shifts in South Yemen which ended through signing a political agreement called “the Riyadh Agreement” on 5th November 2019 similar to Stockholm Agreement.

The Yemeni government, loyal to president Hady signed the agreement, sponsored by Saudi, with the Southern Transitional Council (STC).

The Saudi sponsorship to the Riyadh Agreement and its latest appeal for its two parties to resume talks and to implement its remaining items in addition to the international diplomatic moves to solve the Yemeni crisis indicates that the Saudi track and reaching the Riyadh Agreement part and parcel of the international and Un efforts to the political solution and peace prevailing.

3- The Russian track

Russia enjoys good relations with all the Yemeni crisis parties as it stands at the same distance from each and that enabled it to play the role of a mediator. (7) In contrast to the five countries, Russia recognizes the Yemeni government and at the same time, it has a good relationship with Iran which makes it easy to communicate with The Houthis.

On the other side, Russia still has good relations with South Yemen which justifies its closeness to the STC. Moreover, the current Russian administration is adopting a pragmatic approach in an area which is devoid of other international powers.

Consequently, the Russian role plays a catalyst factor in the process of reaching balances on the international and Yemeni fields.Therefore, Russia is closer than any other external parties in reaching a political solution to the Yemeni crisis.

The Russian diplomacy plays an active role in meeting with the delegations of the main actors in the Yemeni conflict which gives Moscow a unique political track that walks separately towards reaching a political solution to the Yemeni crisis.

The course of the Yemeni crisis

Making the conflicting parties engage in negotiations for a comprehensive political solution seems a target for all international tracks to solve the Yemeni crisis. The sub-particles solutions such as ceasing war and implementing the Riyadh Agreement are heading towards a comprehensive political solution.

The Swedish and Russian roles seem to enhance the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement with Saudi sponsorship in order to support the UN role aiming at solving the Yemeni crisis. On the other hand, and for achieving the same motive, there is a consensus about the necessity of stopping the Houthis' attack on Marib.

The relentless pursuit towards a comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis may postpone points of disagreements in the Riyadh agreement which enhances heading or complete the political matrix which paves the way to enter the comprehensive political solution negotiations.

It is worth mentioning that the Riyadh Agreement was subjected previously to the postponement of both the military and security items and to give the priority to the political ones.

This may happen again in the face of any problems related to the implementation of both military and security items. This means that the political solution is superior to the military one in the Yemeni crisis.

Resident fellow at South24 Center for News and Studies, researcher on Yemeni political affairs

- Read on (عربي)
- Photo: Yemeni children fleeing war zones with their families (Reuters)

YemenHouthisMaribSaudi coalitionSouthern Transitional CouncilRiyadh Agreement