Yemen’s terrible war grinds on, despite a COVID-19 epidemic that has deepened what was already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Stopping the fighting is urgent. Diplomats should adopt an inclusive, multiparty framework for talks to replace today’s flawed model.
Amid rapid spread of COVID-19, Huthis stepped up attacks in north as well as cross-border strikes into Saudi-Arabia, while govt forces and southern separatists forged ceasefire after renewed fighting. In north, Huthi forces mid-June pursued offensive in west of Marib, pushing toward Marib city while consolidating control over territory in north despite Saudi airstrikes; Saudi-led coalition 26 June carried out series of airstrikes targeting al-Bayda and Marib. Govt forces 25 June reportedly surrounded Huthi-held al-Hazm in al-Jawf governorate. Meanwhile, simmering tensions between Huthis and local tribes in north of al-Bayda escalated mid-June; Huthis took control of village after clashes 17-18 June reportedly killed at least 23 people from both sides. Huthis mid-June intensified cross-border attacks into Saudi-Arabia: Saudi-led coalition 13, 22, 23 June reportedly intercepted Huthi drones and missiles they claimed were aimed at civilian targets in provinces along border; no casualties reported but one attack allegedly left some people injured. Huthi forces 23 June reportedly launched missiles at Saudi Defence Ministry, military base in Saudi capital Riyadh and military positions in Jizan and Najran cities; no casualties reported. In south, after Saudi Arabia 18 June reportedly presented new proposal to govt and Southern Transitional Council (STC) on implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement, tensions escalated when STC forces 19 June captured Hadibo, capital of contested Socotra island in Gulf of Aden. Govt and southern separatists 22 June agreed to ceasefire in Abyan province, de-escalation in Socotra and talks on implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement in Riyadh; President Hadi 27 June urged STC to adhere to agreement and “stop the bloodshed”. Meanwhile, UN Envoy Martin Griffiths 21 June condemned military escalation across Yemen, urging parties to “engage constructively with the UN efforts to reach an agreement”. Health authorities as of 21 June recorded over 1,000 COVID-19 cases and 250 deaths; fatality rate four times higher than global average. Donor countries 2 June pledged $1.35bn in funding for UN humanitarian projects in Yemen, falling $1bn short of what UN aid agencies sought.
A Huthi offensive threatens to engulf Marib, a province controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognised government and full of internally displaced people. Outside powers should act now to halt the fighting, which could deepen the existing humanitarian crisis and ruin peace efforts elsewhere in the country.
The UN General Assembly kicks off on 17 September amid general scepticism about the world body’s effectiveness in an era of rising great-power competition. But the UN is far from paralysed. Here are seven crisis spots where it can make a positive difference for peace.
Yemen’s anti-Huthi coalition has begun to splinter, with sharp fighting between Saudi- and Emirati-backed elements in the country’s south. With UN assistance, the Gulf monarchies should urgently broker a ceasefire as a prelude to an expanded peace process encompassing southern secessionists and others now excluded.
The UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement to stop fighting around Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeida is faltering as violence on other front lines and across the Saudi border escalates. The UN and P5 should stabilise the Stockholm Agreement and push conflict parties toward national peace talks.
Two successive U.S. administrations have backed the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen, helping deepen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Congress should continue pressing the White House to end this support, while working to strengthen its war powers role in the future.
The prospect of the coronavirus spreading in Yemen offers a moment and indeed a humanitarian imperative to revive a political process.
Implementing a cease-fire [between Saudi Arabia and Yemen] is no small matter, and the first test of this is going to be whether the parties show up for this virtual meeting.
Now [Yemen's] fate is linked to a much bigger picture in a three-dimensional chess game.
[The Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] hasn’t posed the kind of threat to the West it did a decade ago in a number of years.
For now, neither the Houthis nor the Saudis wish to abandon the talks, but the de-escalation process is under severe strain.
A successful agreement [between the Yemeni government and southern secessionists] would keep a lid on violence long enough to allow progress in other parts of the country.
Just before major battles in northern Yemen and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Crisis Group expert Peter Salisbury travelled to Marib, the government’s last stronghold. He found a region coping well with massive displacement but fearing a settlement that would favour the advancing Huthis.
Heavy fighting has started again in Yemen after one of the war’s quietest months. Battles on the northern front lines highlight the flaws of the piecemeal approach to negotiating an end to the war – and the pressing need for a coordinated multi-track effort.
Out of a Moment of Crisis, a Chance for a Solution.
Originally published in Foreign Affairs
For the first time in years, a viable pathway to peace in Yemen is in view. But obstacles remain, chiefly the gaps between the conflict parties’ positions.