Hopes fade for peaceful settlement in Yemen

As the Saudi intervention in Yemen enters its second month none of its goals appear to have been met, writes Abdel Bari Atwan.

The “legitimate” President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi still resides in exile in Saudi and his return to power seems to have stalled. Fighting has spilled onto the Saudi-Yemen border and a bloody war of attrition grinds on.

Hopes of a new phase in the Saudi intervention, named “Restore Hope,” which would have brought negotiations and opened the way for a political settlement, seem to have come and gone. Talk of Oman or even Algeria brokering peace talks seem to have been simply rumour in the newspapers.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen is rapidly deteriorating; even the relief programme sponsored by the UN can no longer distribute aid because of fuel shortages.Yemen is becoming a huge prison from which the people cannot escape.

All the border crossings are closed and the airports have been destroyed – the Saudis bombed the runways at Sanaa international airport so that an Iranian plane flying without permission from Riyadh could not land. There is no electricity and water is hard to come by; the Yemeni Rial is worthless and even if someone has money, there is nothing to buy. Imports have totally ceased and coalition searches delay food distribution.

No dialogue

In a communiqué following the meeting of GCC Foreign Ministers in Riyadh on Monday, it was stipulated that any dialogue to resolve the conflict in Yemen must take place in Riyadh and be under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. This means no neutral state can broker negotiations.

Asking the Houthi rebels to go to Riyadh – which might have been possible prior to “Operation Decisive Storm” (the bombardment of Yemen) – is tantamount to a demand that they surrender. After all the bombing and almost a thousand deaths and three thousand injured since the attack began if the Houthis go to Riyadh it would be as if the Saudis were the victors.

There are no winners in this war. In our opinion, everyone in this sorry tale is a loser.

Saudi jets have been pounding Yemen for  over a month
Saudi jets have been pounding Yemen for over a month

Yemen is not a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It would be more logical, in terms of international diplomacy, if negotiations were brokered by the Arab League or the United nations (UN).

If the GCC want to act as though they have a mandate over Yemen, then they should treat the country as if it is under their protection. For years they have failed to offer financial or any other kind of aid to Yemen where youth unemployment runs at 60%.

Some argue that the GCC Foreign Ministers have a right to oversee negotiations on the future of Yemen because their “Gulf initiative” prevented the revolution becoming bloody and, at a stage where protests were mostly sit-ins, they arranged the peaceful transfer of power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to his Deputy Hadi Mansur.

This is true but the outcome has not been successful and the initiative has failed to procure a lasting solution, or the Saudis would not now be bombing the country to bits.

Peaceful solution

The Saudis and the international community need to broker a peaceful solution to the Yemeni crisis. 120,000 Yemenis have already been displaced by the bombardment and will not be able to return to visit their families during Ramadan.

Perhaps the Saudis will listen to the UN which has become deeply critical of their actions in Yemen, accusing them of “war crimes” because one half of all those killed and one third of all the injured are civilians, many of them women and children.

Social media is also ablaze with outrage at thousands of images of dead and injured Yemenis.

It is time for Saudi Arabia to extract itself from this unseemly battle where its state-of-the-art planes and weapons rain down death on one of the poorest and most backward countries in the developing world. The time has come to talk in a manner which safeguards the pride and integrity of all the parties involved.

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