Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, is planning to invite Yemen’s conflicting parties to Geneva on September 6 in hopes of a peace negotiation.
A Strive for Peace
During the U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday, Griffiths stated that it was time to continue the political process in Yemen in order to solve the crisis there, given that the previous negotiation had failed.
“The talks will provide the opportunity for the parties, among other things, to discuss the framework for negotiations, relevant confidence-building measures and specific plans for moving the process forward,” Griffiths stated.
He also added that the fighting had escalated, especially in the port city of Al Hudaydah, despite the U.N.’s efforts to bring conflicts to a halt.
“We have tried to find a way to avoid a battle for the city and the port of Al Hudaydah, and we are still trying,” Griffiths stated as he briefed the council, describing the Red Sea as a “platform for a war theatre.”
Griffiths urged the heated parties to not take any actions that may worsen the country’s humanitarian situation, and to create a conducive environment for the political process. According to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs data, 75 percent of Yemen’s population (around 22 million Yemenis), are in need of humanitarian aid and protection.
The plea came just a few hours after the Saudi-led coalition launched an airstrike to the rebel-controlled Hudaydah last Thursday. The incident killed at least 28 and wounded 70.
Where Did it All Start?
The war in Yemen erupted in 2015 when Houthi rebel group tried to drive Western-backed President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi out of the country’s capital. The killing of the country’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017 triggered the conflict that claimed the lives of 234 innocent civilians, as reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The situation intensified when Saudi Arabia and its allies decided to launch a military operation aimed at cracking down on the Houthi rebel group, which is allegedly supported by Iran.
The situation in Yemen is one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters within this past century. As of December 22, 2017, the ICRC stated that the cholera outbreak had killed more than one million Yemenis, with another estimated 10,000 killed since the war broke out.
Why Did Previous Talks Fail?
In 2015, five warring parties in Yemen, consisting of President Hadi’s delegates, Houthi rebels, the Union People Congress Party led by former president Saleh, the Yemeni Socialist Party, and the Southern Yemen group, attended a peace talk in Geneva.
Hadi represented the interest of the Saudi-backed coalition that had killed 2,500 civilians by the time of the talk. Saudi Arabia’s plan to quell the Houthis took longer than expected, as the rich oil nation seemed to underestimate the group’s military and political strength.
Talks faltered as Hadi asked the Houthis to surrender their arms, which was an impossible and unrealistic request, given the fact that it was Saudi Arabia who intervened militarily. Giving up their weapons meant that the groups would be the main target of the Saudi-led strike.
The war in Yemen is seen as the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are competing to exert their influence in the Middle East. However, the accusation that Iran provides support to the Houthi rebels “sounds like nonsense” according to Yemeni expert Michael Horton.
What the Conflicting Parties Say
A member of Houthi’s political wing said that the group is willing to attend the U.N.-mediated peace talk next month, even though the group does not expect much to come from the negotiations.
“We are not opposed to traveling to any neutral country to take part in such consultations,” said Salim Meghles, a representative of the Houthi political wing.
Meghles also added a sense of doubt over the upcoming meeting’s outcome, saying that he does not detect any “serious or real action shown by the invaders to reach a political solution.”
He encourages the Saudi-backed alliance that has attacked Yemen since 2015 to restore the internationally-recognized government to power, which has been driven out by the rebel groups.
What Does the U.N. Need To Do?
Military intervention does not solve the problem. Western countries keep supplying their best weapons to the rich kingdom, with a report in March showing that Saudi Arabia has purchased arms from the U.S., France, and Britain.
Reuters reported that France sold weapons to Saudi Arabia worth $2 billion. French citizens and human rights organizations were opposed to the transaction, as those weapons were used to kill civilians in Yemen.
A breakthrough during the U.N. peace talks is needed to end the military intervention. Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen has only led to a failed state, and Yemen needs a productive dialog to make any progress from where they are now.