Senior STC officials meet UN Envoy Hans Grundberg in Aden, February 8, 2023 (official)

Where Have Peace Efforts Reached in Yemen?


Thu, 09-02-2023 07:13 PM, Aden

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24)

There has been a wide diplomatic and political movement to install an imminent new agreement in Yemen. This came 4 months after the official expiration of the UN truce in Yemen and the subsequent state of the de-facto truce in the country.

Three weeks after his briefing to the UNSC from the Houthi-controlled Sanaa, UN Envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, went to Aden and met with PLC officials Rashad Al-Alimi and Abdulrahman Al Muharrami. On Wednesday, he met with STC officials. 

Grundberg’s visit to Aden came concurrently with the one made by the new UAE Ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Hamad Al Zaabi, who delivered his credentials to PLC Chairman Rashad Al-Alimi.

On the other hand, Ali Asghar Khaji, a senior advisor to the Iranian Foreign Minister met on Wednesday with Mohammed Abdusalam, the head of the Houthi negotiation delegation, in the Omani capital, Muscat. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said: “Khaji traveled to Muscat to discuss the latest political developments in the Yemen crisis.” 

The official website of the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that "Abdulsalam considered the approval by the ‘National Salvation Government' on the initiative to extend the cease-fire as an attempt to keep along with reducing humanitarian problems in Yemen".

Prior to these visits and meetings, ambassadors of EU countries concluded a tour that lasted for days in Aden on Feb 2nd, during which they met with officials from PLC and the Yemeni government. 

Meanwhile, US Envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, held several meetings in Riyadh including the Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al Jaber, PLC Member Sultan Al-Arada. In Muscat, he met with Khalifa Bin Ali Al-Harthi, Undersecretary for Diplomatic Affairs at Oman's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Moreover, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud held a consultative meeting in Muscat with his Omani counterpart according to the Omani Foreign Ministry which has led mediation between the Houthis and Riyadh for months. Other diplomatic meetings were held such as the one between Amr Al Bidh, Special Representative of STC President, and Peter Derrek Hof, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Yemen on Wednesday. 

New agreement?

Over the past months, direct negotiations between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia with Omani mediation topped the moves aiming to install a new truce in Yemen based upon the conditions of the Houthis who ended the previous truce without an agreement. 

On Jan 17th, Associated Press quoted a Saudi official as saying that his country stipulated security guarantees and a buffer zone on the KSA’s southern borders with Yemen in return of paying the salaries of military personnels and civilians in the areas controlled by the Houthis. 

The diplomat said that the Saudis also want the Houthis to pledge joining the official talks with the other Yemeni stakeholders according to the agency. 

The Houthis refused parts of the Saudi proposal, especially the security guarantees according to a Houthi official who spoke to Associated Press. The Houthi official said that the group refuses to resume oil exports from government-controlled areas without paying the salaries. 

He indicated that the Houthis proposed to distribute oil revenues according to the pre-war budget. This means that the areas under the Houthi control would get up to 80% of the revenues as they are the most densely populated. 

In October and November, 4 Houthi drone attacks against oil ports in Hadramout and Shabwa in South Yemen halted producing and exporting oil. 

On Jan 15th, an Omani delegation left Sanaa following meetings with the Houthi officials in the city. The Omanis met with Mahdi Al-Mashat, President of the “Supreme Political Council,” who confirmed the Houthi adherence to these demands which were described by the UNSC as being “maximalist.”

Over the past weeks, the Houthis escalated their accusations to Saudi Arabia of carrying out border artillery bombardment on Saada province which is the Houthi bastion. This allegation was denied by the Arab Coalition Spokesperson and has been seen as an indication of the heated negotiations between the two parties. 

Although the internationally-recognized government has not taken part in these binary negotiations, some of its officials said that they support any such efforts. 

On Feb 2nd, Yemeni Foreign Minister, Ahmed Bin Mubarak, “There are regional efforts to make a convergence of views regarding the implementation of some articles of the UN truce”. He indicated that the efforts “failed to reach an agreement to renew the truce.”

Commenting on the meeting with Rashad Al-Alimi, Office of the Special Envoy to Yemen said: “Grundberg met with Al-Alimi to discuss the latest developments and the importance of the Yemeni parties seizing the current opportunity to bring an end to the conflict in Yemen.” 

Saba New Agency conveyed Al-Alimi’s affirmation that “PLC supports regional and international efforts to push the Houthis for dealing positively with all the benign endeavors to launch a comprehensive UN-led political operation.” 

Southern political analyst Salah Al-Sakaldi believes that “the truce for Saudi Arabia and the Houthis is stable as long as the Houthi air force and missiles don’t target the vital interests of Saudi Arabia and UAE and as long as the military airforce does not attack Sanaa.” 

He added to “South24 Center” that “this situation encouraged Riyadh, Sanaa and the UN to engage in the consultations although the truce has not been officially renewed”. 

Regarding the position of PLC towards these negotiations, Al-Sakaldi said: “PLC and other officially recognized Yemeni bodies don’t have the choice to accept or refuse to talk about a certain stance towards the entire issues including these negotiations.” 

He added: “PLC gets all information about the negotiation path from Saudi Arabia to just put it in the picture. The decision-making is in the hands of the active parties militarily and economically as being de-facto actors who possess the solution.” 

Al-Sakaldi believes that “these parties are limited to Riyadh and Sanaa regarding determining the fate of North Yemen, and between Riyadh and STC regarding South Yemen.” 

Sanaa-based political analyst Rashid Al-Haddad pointed out that the negotiations between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia are “going on and have not been halted for months.” 

He told “South24 Center”: “these talks reflect a Saudi desire to end the conflict in Yemen and move from war to peace”. 

Al-Haddad attributed the failure of efforts over the past period to reach an agreement to the “non-convergence of points of view."

Southern rejection 

Southerners have adopted a stance that refuses any new deal in Yemen which includes responding to the Houthi demands at the expense of the South Yemen’s resources, people, and issue.” 

During the meeting with Grundberg, STC’s Secretary General said:”Any endeavors to renew the truce according to the conditions of the Houthi militias that don’t consider the demands and aspirations of Southerners represented in a two-state solution will not achieve pacification or pave the way for a sustainable peace.”

The Southern official renewed STC's demand that “South Yemen needs to be represented by an independent delegation in the inclusive political process negotiations, as well as enabling Southerners to manage the affairs of their provinces during the negotiations until reaching an all-out peace agreement.” STC’s media quoted Grundberg as saying that “South Yemen issue is central to the political operation and that there is no alternative for comprehensive negotiations.” 

Mohammed Al-Ghaithi, Head of the Consultation and Reconciliation Commission and Head of the STC's General Directorate of Foreign Affairs, warned of “patching solutions.” 

He tweeted that “comprehensive, fair, and permanent peace is desired by everyone. However, this peace has not been achieved by patching solutions and initiatives led by the international and regional community in 1994, 2012, 2013, and 2015 until today”.

He added: "We do not need to overpass our reality again because the outcome will be like its predecessors, a tour of war and conflict.” He indicated that reconciliation and peace begin with designing a framework for an inclusive process that includes an authentic treatment of the roots of the crisis and the reality considerations in which everyone participates to ensure sustainability.” 

Salem Al-Awlaqi, Member of STC’s Presidium said that “Peace will not be a real one until it achieves South Yemen demands. Without this, it will be fragile and unsustainable.” 

On Feb 2nd, STC leaders met with a delegation from the US National Democratic Institute. The southern leaders affirmed that "there is no peace or stability except with the two-state solution and a return to the pre-1990 status". 

Al-Sakaldi believes that STC “is very angry and dissatisfied towards the Saudi arrangements with the Houthis for a cease-fire because STC is an active party on the ground and the only one which achieved a military victory against the Houthis.”

He added that “STC has to be involved in such a decisive phase. Any alienation of it in this stage will necessarily mean its absence from the final phase of political negotiations.” He indicated that "STC’s space of doubt has widened following the latest online campaign by Saudi activists".

Moreover, the French intelligence website “Intelligence Online” claimed that “Abu Dhabi does not accept Riyadh’s attempt to find a direct agreement with the Houthis.” 

Future scenario

Rachid Al-Haddad believes that “the expected political scenarios during the coming period are related to the implementation of the truce in case of reaching an agreement to extend it. 

He added: “There are positive aspects such as the flow of fuel supplies to the Port of Al-Hodeidah, and allowing a weekly three flights from the Sanaa Airport. Such efforts will succeed unless there is a setback in those negotiations.” 

He added: “There are good understandings about paying salaries and lifting the restrictions imposed on the Sanaa Airport and the Port of Aden as well as opening the roads between the provinces according to certain mechanisms which will be discussed with security supervision.” 

Al-Sakaldi said that Saudi Arabia and the Houthis will likely reach understandings during the coming period. He concluded that the two parties became convinced of the political solution after realizing the impossibility of the military solution.” 

However, according to Al-Sakaldi, the big amount of mutual mistrust stands as a barrier adding that “every party, especially the Houthis, attempts to impose its conditions seen by the other party as difficult to be implemented.” 

However, the political analyst believes that “with the presence of a reliable mediator such as Oman, an agreement between KSA and the Saudis will be concluded sooner or later.” He added that an “American-Western consensus towards these efforts would increase the state of optimism".

With the fact that the previous versions of the UN-sponsored truce in Yemen provided more time for armament and arranging ranks, especially for the Houthis, it seems that any similar agreement today with more privileges to the Houthis would have massive negative ramifications.

The Saudi withdrawal policy would encourage the Houthis to exploit any incoming agreement gradually and launch subsequent new battles to achieve their greeds based upon transboundary religious, and doctrinal ideologies. Additionally, this would widen the rift inside PLC. 

Abdullah Al-Shadli

Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

South YemenAdenHans GrundbergSaudi ArabiaHouthisPLCSTC