Absent rebels, unilateral truces: mixed consultations for Yemen

Intra-Emenite consultations are held on Wednesday in Riyadh, in the absence of the Houthi rebels refusing any dialogue in the territory “enemy“, in a context however of unilateral announcements by the two parties of a ceasefire in the war which is ravaging Yemen.

The anti-rebel military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which has been intervening in Yemen since 2015 in support of pro-government forces, declared a ceasefire on Tuesday evening from Wednesday for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. On Saturday, the Houthis, Yemeni rebels backed by Iran and fighting the government recognized by the international community, announced a three-day truce extendable under certain conditions.

Multilateral truce

During the launch on Wednesday morning of the Riyadh consultations, which should last a week, the UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, estimated that the announcements of “temporary cessation of military operations are a step in the right direction“. “The peace process in Yemen has been stalled for too long“, Lamented the UN official. “The longer the conflict drags on, the worse the impact on civilians becomes and the more difficult it is to repair the damage. The Yemeni people need to see a clear way out“. The Swedish diplomat said he would resume his own consultations “in the coming weeks“, hoping that “all major Yemeni players will participate“.

Noting “positive developments“, he also assured to be engaged with the parties to reach a multilateral truce “before the start of Ramadan“, At the beginning of April. After seven years of intervention in Yemen, the coalition has failed to dislodge Houthi rebels from the north of the country, whom they have largely wrested from the government, starting with the capital Sanaa taken in 2014. And violence like their humanitarian consequences have killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions more and pushed much of the population into near-starvation conditions.

“Not clear”

The United States envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, also present in Riyadh, assured that Washington supported “firmly the UN’s immediate truce proposal“. “We welcome the restraint shown by the parties over the past few days, in particular the coalition’s announcement to halt military operations in Yemen during Ramadan.“, did he declare. The Riyadh talks were announced in mid-March by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which brings together six states including the two main members of the anti-Houthi coalition, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The headquarters of this regional organization is located in Riyadh.

The solution in Yemen is in the hands of the Yemenis“said Nayef al-Hajraf, the secretary general of the GCC, believing that”the path to security and peace is not impossible“. “The success of the intra-emeni consultations is not an option, it is a reality to be achieved“, he hammered. On Tuesday, the coalition said its ceasefire coincided with the start of those consultations with the aim of “create the conditions conducive to their success“. Experts remain skeptical, however, due to the absence of major protagonists in the conflict, the rebels.

For Maged al-Madhaji, director of the think tank Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, the eventual outcome of this meeting does not appear “not clear“, with a “very general agenda” and “single-party talks, not including the Houthis“. “Therefore, as far as the peace process is concerned, it will lead nowhere because the Houthis are not present.“, he told AFP. The unilateral truce announcements nevertheless bring a rare glimmer of hope in this endless war that has caused one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in the world.

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