Photo: OSESGY/Sara Sadik

Is There Peace on the Horizon in Yemen?


Tue, 17-01-2023 12:38 AM, Aden Time

New York (South24)

The United Nations announced an intense diplomatic movement to end the conflict in Yemen, coinciding with information regarding ongoing dialogues between the Saudis and Yemen's Houthis, and amid optimism among top Houthi officials that the war will end this year.

The UN Envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg said yesterday in a briefing to the UN Security Council, "I am pleased to deliver the first briefing of the year from Yemen. Today I have held positive and constructive discussions with the leadership here in Sanaa, represented by Mahdi al-Mashat, and I look forward to continuing these conversations. In recent weeks, I have also had fruitful discussions with the President of the Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad al-Alimi, as well as with regional stakeholders in Riyadh and Muscat".

The Swedish diplomat revealed a broader approach within the mediation efforts he is leading in Yemen, as "discussions have focused on options to secure agreement on military de-escalation and measures to prevent further economic deterioration and mitigate the impact of the conflict on civilians." Pointing on "embedding these immediate-term measures in a more holistic vision and ensuring movement towards a more comprehensive settlement."

Grundberg noted that there is a " potential step-change" to the course of "the 8-year conflict." Considering what he described as "the ongoing dialogues are a possibility that should not be wasted and that demands responsible actions," praising the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman in this regard.

While emphasizing the importance of the regional role in mediation efforts, he said, " Many of the issues on the table, especially those related to sovereignty issues, can only be sustainably resolved through an inclusive, intra-Yemeni dialogue."

Observers considered that he means "the withdrawal of the Coalition forces and the termination of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter".

Sanaa meetings

It is noteworthy that Grundberg gave his briefing from Sanaa only a day after the delegation of the Sultanate of Oman left the city and after meetings with the head of the Houthi Political Council Mahdi Al-Mashat and other officials of the Iranian-backed group.

Indeed, Houthi-affiliated media spoke of an agreement with the group, which included the delivery of employee salaries and the full opening of Sanaa airport and Hodeidah port.

The Houthi Saba Agency said that Al-Mashat indicated, in a meeting in Sanaa, that the consultations "brought positive ideas related to the humanitarian file, foremost of which is the payment of salaries to all state employees from oil and gas revenues, the full opening of Sanaa airport and the port of Hodeidah, the opening of roads and the exchange of prisoners."

Last October, these Houthi demands were described as "maximalist" by the UN Security Council, and the council said that they impeded the extension of the UN truce, which lasted for 6 months and ended on October 2.

During a speech before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa in the US House of Representatives on December 6, the US Envoy to Yemen criticized the same demands.

"The Houthis' last-minute demand that the Yemeni government divert its limited oil export revenues to pay active Houthi fighters prevented the UN from securing a new truce agreement in October," said Tim Lenderking.

In a tweet, the Houthi negotiating delegation member, Abdulmalik Al-Ajeri, said yesterday that "with the efforts of philanthropists, headed by the brothers in the Sultanate of Oman, we hope that this year will be the beginning of the end of this war of aggression."

The absence of the "PLC"

Political observers and analysts read Grundberg's speech regarding the ongoing talks as he indicator to a direct negotiations between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, mediated by Oman, in light of the absence of a tangible role for Yemen's PLC, which represents legitimacy in Yemen.

Political analyst Salah Al-Saqladi commented on this, saying: "The intense dialogues that are taking place with Omani mediation are taking place between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, while the other parties are on the bench." 

A previous report by the International Crisis Group reinforced this Saudi approach, saying that "the Yemeni government sought to halt fuel imports to the port of Hodeidah, which is located on the Red Sea and is under the control of the Houthis, but Riyadh prevented it from doing so."

Last October 12, Saudi Arabia and the Houthis exchanged two delegations that visited Riyadh and Sanaa to inspect the prisoners, according to the official media of the two parties. In mid-November, a Gulf source revealed to "South24 Center" that the Houthis had rejected an offer made by Saudi Arabia through Amman, which included Saudi Arabia's commitment to paying the salaries of civil servants.

During the past few days, PLC members met, separately, with diplomats and ambassadors of Western countries in Riyadh.

On January 10, PLC member Aidrous Al-Zubaidi said during his meeting with the US ambassador to Yemen Steven Fagin that a comprehensive peace will only be achieved by addressing the roots of the conflict and dealing with the reality on the ground. He called for a position on "the Houthi attacks against economic facilities."

In a meeting yesterday with the European Union's ambassador to Yemen Gabriel Munuera Viñals, PLC member Sultan Al-Arada stressed "the need to translate the EU's positions into more practical steps to apply pressure on the Houthis."

Yesterday, the UAE's deputy delegate to the Security Council announced that the international community and the Yemeni factions are determined to end the war in Yemen.

While the Yemenis welcome any agreement that provides for a cease-fire and an end to the tragic war in Yemen, fears arise that any agreement that does not take into account the interests of the prominent parties and the basic issues in Yemen, especially the issue of South, in parallel with the interest of the region with the same approach, may transfer the differences and complicate international efforts and exacerbate the crisis in the future.

Grundberg agreed yesterday that "some issues on the negotiation table cannot be viewed in isolation," and said: " There are sequencing challenges as well as concerns around guarantees for all sides, and these need to be addressed".

South24 Center

YemenSouth YemenUN EnvoyHans GrundbergSanaaArab CoalitionSaudi ArabiaUAEIran