The war in Yemen, which escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the internationally recognised government against Huthi rebels aligned with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has turned a poor country into a humanitarian catastrophe: hunger and fighting could provoke mass famine and waves of refugees; the conflict could destabilise Saudi Arabia; and both sides appear locked in a cycle of escalating violence, derailing UN peace talks. Crisis Group’s focus is on the negotiations: introducing ourselves at key points, shaping the debate, proposing solutions and encouraging stakeholders to modify positions based on our analysis. Concerted effort is required to convince the parties to accept the UN’s roadmap as the basis for a compromise that would end foreign intervention and allow Yemenis to make peace.
The international community has mediated in the Yemen war since its outbreak. Although the efforts have yielded some results, none have resulted in a lasting de-escalation of violence or real progress toward political solutions. A new international approach could change that.
Originally published in Yemen Policy Center
Huthi military campaign continued in north amid renewed clashes around Hodeida port; in south, govt and separatists resumed talks. In north, Huthis throughout month made new gains in oil-rich Marib governorate and consolidated control over territory in neighbouring al-Bayda governorate. Huthis mid-Sept negotiated truce with elements of Murad tribe in al-Mahaliya, thereafter claiming to control the territory. Huthis also continued to launch cross-border missile attacks on Saudi Arabia in apparent attempt to force Riyadh into renewing direct talks that they hoped would allow them to side-step Hadi govt in peace process; Huthis early Sept claimed communications channels with Saudis had become more active. In Taiz in north, clashes early Sept broke out between United Arab Emirates (UAE)-affiliated and govt forces on one hand and Islah-backed military and security forces on other; UAE-backed forces also clashed with Huthi fighters around Red Sea port city of Hodeida throughout month, raising prospect that govt may withdraw from Dec 2018 Stockholm agreement that prevented govt assault on Hodeida. Hadi govt continued to halt fuel imports to Hodeida port amid ongoing spat with Huthis over collection of revenues. In south, govt and separatist Southern Transition Council (STC) mid-Sept resumed power-sharing talks after STC withdrew from talks late Aug citing govt attacks on its forces; both sides, however, continued tit-for-tat attacks in Abyan governorate. Meanwhile, on diplomatic front, UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths mid-Sept presented latest draft of his “Joint Declaration” initiative to Huthis and Hadi govt; initiative calls for nationwide ceasefire, economic and humanitarian confidence-building measures and national political talks. Hadi govt and Huthis 27 Sept agreed on prisoner exchange deal first outlined in Stockholm agreement following talks in Geneva, Switzerland; Huthis to release 400 prisoners while govt will release 681 prisoners in deal Griffiths hailed as “very important milestone”; exchanges to take place mid-Oct.
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.
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.
In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Aaron Miller, a veteran U.S. diplomat, unpacks President Trump’s unconventional foreign relations with our President Rob Malley and co-host Naz Modirzadeh, a Harvard professor of international law and armed conflict.
In this podcast series, Crisis Group President Rob Malley and Board Member Naz Modirzadeh, a Harvard professor of international law and armed conflict, dive deep into the conflicts that rage around the globe, along with Crisis Group field analysts and special guests. This week, they discuss U.S. support for the Yemen war and the absence of the Palestinian issue from the normalisation agreement among Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, Will Davison, also joins them to discuss the challenges facing Ethiopia.
In Yemen, COVID-19 threatens to ravage what is already one of the world’s most vulnerable populations. In this excerpt from the Spring Edition of our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage greater inclusion in UN-led efforts to secure a ceasefire and settlement talks, and to increase humanitarian funding for Yemen in light of the pandemic.
Separatists have announced self-administration in southern Yemen, angering the internationally recognised government. The last thing the country needs is more fighting. Gulf powers and the UN should help implement a stalled 2019 agreement so that national ceasefire talks can go ahead.
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.