By supporting United Nations plans to hold peace talks between warring Yemen parties in Sweden by the end of the year, the UAE, a key ally of the Yemeni government, has clearly indicated its keenness to stabilise the troubled country. Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, noted that the UAE welcomes the “early convening of UN-led talks in Sweden” and urged warring factions to take advantage of diplomatic efforts. “We are working closely with the UN on expanding humanitarian assistance for all areas of Yemen,” he added. All members of the Saudi-led coalition battling the Al Houthi militia are on the same page when it comes to peace efforts.
After nearly four years of conflict, the battle this month reached militia-held Hodeida, home to Yemen’s lifeline port.
Now, the coalition has ordered a halt in its Hodeida offensive, to give peace a chance and to alleviate the suffering of Yemeni civilians who have been held hostage to the whims and actions of pro-Iran militiamen.
Make no mistake: Freeing Hodeida still remains a coalition objective, as clearly indicated by Yemen’s President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who vowed to liberate the port city regardless of the peace process. In the past year, the coalition-backed troops have gained significant momentum on the front lines along the Red Sea coast, leading northward to Hodeida.
With its initiatives, and its support for talks, the coalition has shown that it backs measures that guarantee the interests of Yemen, insofar as attaining a sustainable peace is concerned.
The ball now is in Al Houthis’ court. UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths is trying to salvage talks between the warring sides in Yemen’s conflict, after the last round in September in Geneva collapsed when representatives of the militia did not show up. It is for Al Houthis to act in good faith and show their willingness to take part in the negotiations in Sweden.
However, the militia, through its actions, has not given too much hope for optimism. The coalition air defence system on Wednesday monitored a ballistic missile falling into the sea. It was launched by Al Houthis towards the Hodeida port. This act is a clear violation of international law, which criminalises targeting of civilian facilities during war. This attempted attack followed their destruction of another key civilian facility — a hospital in Hodeida. The militia, which seized the Hodeida port in 2014, said it was mining across Hodeida province, airing footage late of what it said were landmine explosions.
If Al Houthis want to be considered serious partners in peace, such actions will have to stop immediately.