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The UN solution in Yemen

November 11, 2015 at 10:02 am

The UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has said that the conditions for the political solution in the country are in place. Hence, he seems to be optimistic about a meeting being held soon between the rivalling Yemeni parties, face to face, at the same negotiation table. Given the complications of the situation in Yemen, his optimism seems cautious and his calculations careful. This is because the fierceness of the fighting is growing the longer that the war goes on, and the humanitarian crises are increasing, with the majority of the Yemeni people on the verge of starvation and disease.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s optimism is supported by a number of elements that would make a political solution more likely than the continuation of the war. The first is the exhaustion of those who are fighting on both sides. Despite the fact that the legitimate government has some tangible achievements and victories against the Houthis and forces loyal to the ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, it still finds it hard to make any progress on the ground. If it were not for the military and financial support provided by some Gulf countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, the achievements on the ground would have been modest. Since these countries are strongly committed to supporting Yemeni legitimacy, they would prefer the Yemenis to reach a solution that would stop the bloodshed from which all sides are suffering.

As for the rebel camp, the picture is disastrous, as the Houthis and Saleh’s troops appear to be on a suicide mission reaping neither military nor political fruits. Instead, it translates into daily human and economic losses as well as discord within the ranks. Hence, they are also leaning towards a face-saving solution which gives them a role in any future political arrangements. There is no doubt that they believe that the foundations for the upcoming meeting in Geneva set by Ould Cheikh Ahmed are very suitable, because they have given the other parties the chance to put their cards on the negotiations table without any pre-conditions. The UN will provide an atmosphere that will help absorb the tension, and it is working hard to avoid a repeat of the last Geneva conference, the organisation of which was characterised by haste and improvisation. This led to a catastrophic failure and further exacerbated the crisis.

The second element providing cause for optimism is the rebels’ agreement to implement UN resolution 2216. In an exclusive interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Ould Cheikh Ahmed confirmed that he received a promise from both sides that they would uphold the terms of the resolution as a part of a comprehensive deal, to include accepting observers of a ceasefire.

The third element boils down to the alignment of the positions of the international and regional parties and their discussion of the formulation of the solution. In this regard, we can take a look at the Iranian position in general, as there are many indicators that Tehran is on the verge of giving in and accepting defeat.

It is also very important that all of the parties have agreed to adopt the Syrian approach to terrorism. This formula dismisses any doubt about their unity over the war on Al-Qaeda and Daesh. It explains the American pressure on the Yemeni government over the past few months to give priority to the war on Al-Qaeda over the military confrontation with the Houthis. This has particular relevance because Washington has given Al-Qaeda in Yemen special interest over the past few years and is engaged in an open war against it, which has resulted in the elimination of most of its icons, such as Anwar Al-Awlaki, Said Al-Shihri and Nasser Al-Wuhayshi.

Finally, there is also the element of the Yemeni people suffering from a number of humanitarian crises as a direct result of the war. The number of those in poverty has risen dramatically, and now stands at almost 90 per cent of the population. Not only is food difficult to obtain in Yemen, but so too is water, medicine and medical treatment. This has pushed the battling parties in both camps to stop the war, for which the civilians on each side have been, and still are, paying a very heavy price.

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 6 November 2015.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.