Every year Crisis Group publishes two additional Watch List editions that complement its annual Watch List for the EU, most recently published in January 2020. These publications identify major crises and conflict situations where the European Union and its member states can generate stronger prospects for peace. The Spring Edition of the Watch List 2020 includes entries on Côte d’Ivoire, Myanmar, northern Syria, Yemen and Venezuela.
Fierce fighting between govt forces and Huthis continued in north while escalating struggle between govt forces and southern separatists threatened to unravel Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement; UN continued efforts at nationwide ceasefire and Saudi Arabia attempted to mediate in south but risk of intensified violence in south and north in June remains high. In north, Saudi Arabia’s 24 April announced extension of its purported unilateral ceasefire failed to halt military activities as fighting between govt forces and Huthis continued in al-Jawf and Marib, as did Saudi airstrikes, albeit without major shifts in territorial control. Huthis’ advance east toward Marib remained stalled in face of resistance from local tribes. In south, following Southern Transition Council’s (STC) 25 April declaration of self-administration, power struggle between govt and separatists centred on Abyan and Socotra island in Gulf of Aden; govt forces and STC 1 May reached de-escalation agreement on Socotra after STC’s attempt to seize checkpoints in Hadibo, capital of Socotra, sparked fighting. Meanwhile, fighting between govt forces and STC forces 11 May erupted in Abyan following govt-led offensive on outskirts of STC-held Zinjibar, capital of Abyan; clashes reportedly killed more than 20 soldiers on both sides. Saudi-led coalition 31 May reportedly downed two Huthi drones they claimed were aimed at civilian targets; Huthis did not claim attacks and same day reported coalition airstrikes in Marib. STC negotiation team 20 May arrived in Riyadh at Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s invitation to discuss implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement. UN envoy Martin Griffiths in address to UN Security Council 14 May reported “significant progress” toward ceasefire agreement, raising hopes for comprehensive cessation of hostilities. World Health Organization early May warned of disastrous consequences of potential COVID-19 outbreak, predicting at least 55% infection rate and more than 40,000 deaths. Huthi authorities 5 May confirmed first COVID-19 cases in areas under its control; govt accused Huthis of covering up outbreak and 11 May declared Aden “infested city” following spike in COVID-19 cases.
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.
A Saudi-led coalition attack on the city of Hodeida risks plunging millions of Yemenis into famine and will meet fierce resistance from Huthi rebels. The U.S. should stop enabling coalition offensives and international stakeholders must quickly place Hodeida under UN control.
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.