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Agreements without implementation

March 12, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Damaged buildings are seen after Saudi Arabia carried out air strikes in Yemen on 1 September 2019 [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]

The wars in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region have demonstrated for years that it is easier for the parties involved to reach political agreements under the auspices of the UN or regional umbrella bodies. However, the problem has always been, and remains, one of implementation of such agreements. It is a mystery without any apparent answer. We might even say that there are those with major interests in such matters who do not want the mystery to be solved.

This is the case with Yemen, where the war is approaching its sixth year since major foreign intervention began. All diplomatic efforts have failed to bring it to an end, despite the many rounds of negotiations, countless agreements and the involvement of UN envoys. It is also the case in Syria, where many mediators and players are involved, and several agreements have been reached. The same is true of Libya, where stakeholders are fighting with each other at the expense of the interests of the internationally-recognised government. We have not seen a single agreement implemented on the ground in these countries.

This could be because the agreements reflect the goals of regional and international allies and supporters, more than those of the local parties. The latter only have a limited margin for decision making that does not allow them to determine whether their country is at war, makes peace or anything else of similar significance.

READ: Yemen Houthi control strategic areas in Marib governorate 

We have seen in these countries how agreements are reached which meet the immediate needs of this or that group, and are used to pass specific policies more than respond to the aspirations of the people affected by war. This explains their failure to address less complex matters such as the humanitarian crises.

It all begins with specific political demands or peaceful demonstrations, followed by complications leading to civil war, or very close to it, and ends with foreign intervention at the request of this or that party. It then progresses to an unpredictable stage, despite the issue of UN Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, to impose a solution and assign international envoys at great financial cost to be mediators, often without success.

Local parties should reconsider and remember that their supposed supporters are thinking more about their own interests than about establishing the locals in the manner that they desire, or restoring their authority over the entire national territory. In this case, we must be fair and put the greater blame and responsibility on the party that led a coup or a civil war in the hope of consolidating their power. In the case of Yemen and Syria that was the Houthis and Bashar Al-Assad respectively. They both refused to listen to the legitimate demands of the people, and forced them to take up arms. In Libya, Khalifa Haftar bears the greatest responsibility for the armed rebellion to fulfil his aim of ruling the country by force rather than the ballot box.

READ: Libya’s losses close to $2.6bn after Haftar’s oil blockade

When weapons are used before words, one side must be victorious over the other in order to speed up the solution. This is the logic based on reality, not just an analysis. However, will allies support them enough to achieve this? Some may, even though they are working with others to prolong the conflict in order to sell more weapons, achieve more goals and involve more countries.

In such a scenario, the role of the UN and its envoys is more about public relations than anything else, with the illusion of a solution being re-branded and marketed year after year. They also attract donors under the pretext of helping the needy, the displaced and refugees, and sponsoring the political solution that is lost in the never-ending negotiation process.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Arab on 12 March 2020 

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