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.
After nearly eight years of war in Yemen, talks are under way between the Huthi rebels and Saudi Arabia. Yet, by themselves, these discussions cannot bring hostilities to a close. The UN should begin laying the groundwork for negotiations that include all the conflict parties.
Backchannel talks between Huthis and Saudi Arabia intensified amid steady rise in skirmishes along front lines, while Saudi-Emirati ten-sions rose over influence in Hadramawt governorate.
Huthis and Saudi Arabia pursued dialogue to reinstate truce. After Omani medi-ators 10 Jan arrived in capital Sanaa, Huthi chief negotiator 15 Jan called talks with Omanis “serious and positive” but group warned of military escalation if their condi-tions are not met. Govt remained excluded from talks, raising fears that Riyadh could make unacceptable concessions. UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg 16 Jan visited Sanaa to discuss truce restoration with Huthi officials and same day briefed UN Se-curity Council, reporting “potential step change” in conflict’s trajectory. Meanwhile, low-scale fighting along key front lines in Saada, Marib, Taiz, al-Dhale and Hodeida continued to steadily rise, raising threat of miscalculation and renewed conflict. Head of Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) Al-Alimi late Jan established Nation Shield Forces, new military units under his direct command.
Emirati-backed groups sought to shift balance of power in Hadramawt. South-ern Transitional Council (STC) – backed by United Arab Emirates (UAE) – 3 Jan mobilised protesters in Seyoun city demanding replacement of Islah-affiliated First Military Region with UAE-aligned Hadrami Elite Forces. Local tribal bloc Hadra-mawt Tribes Confederation denounced STC moves. In sign of unity with First Mili-tary Region, Saudi delegation 10 Jan met Hadramawt governor. STC’s efforts to es-tablish military presence in areas with strong historical ties to Saudi Arabia could mark beginning of UAE-led initiative to uproot Saudi-backed Islah from Hadra-mawt, threatening localised conflict.
Govt continued active diplomatic engagement amid economic deterioration. U.S. Special Envoy Timothy Lenderking and U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Steven Fagin 6 Jan met al-Alimi and PM Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed to mobilise internation-al support for govt; al-Alimi 10 Jan met U.S., UK, French and European Union am-bassadors. PLC members and govt officials 8 Jan met in Saudi capital Riyadh to dis-cuss stabilising economy and govt initiative to lower exchange rates against U.S. dol-lar. Following Huthi-enforced halt to oil exports, govt 8 Jan approved increase of customs exchange rates from 500 to 750 riyals; STC immediately called for reversal as fuel and other commodity prices spiked.
The temporary cessation of hostilities in Yemen, the longest since the start of the war, has given Yemeni civilians much-needed breathing room after eight years of war.
The Huthis and the government [in Yemen] both accuse one another of taking advantage of the unprecedented peace-period to buy time and prepare for a fresh offensive.
The announcement that [Yemen's President] Hadi is ceding his powers to a presidential council made up of key political and military figures with direct roles on the groun...
From an Iranian perspective, their ally in Yemen the Houthis appear very close in effect to winning the war in the north, if not the entire country.
If anything, it is amazing how little the pandemic has affected the fighting [in Yemen].
The Huthis [in Yemen] have gone from being a relatively contained rebel movement to de facto authorities who (control) the capital and territory where more than 20 millio...
Washington Can Help Broker a Lasting Peace
Yemen’s six-month truce is up for renewal on 2 October. The UN and external powers should redouble their efforts to forge agreement on an expanded deal. If those look set to fall short, however, they should propose interim arrangements that avert a return to major combat.
A floating oil storage facility in Yemeni waters is on the verge of breaking or blowing up. Time is running out to raise the remaining $20 million needed for a salvage operation to prevent ecological and economic damage of historic proportions.
Taiz, a city in central Yemen, is besieged by Huthi rebels and practically cut off from the rest of the country. Restored road access would save lives and build trust that could help bring peace to Yemen, but time is short.
Adversaries of Yemen’s Huthi rebels say they will never negotiate in good faith. Others think they might, given the right mix of incentives. With a nationwide truce in place, diplomats should give the latter hypothesis a shot.
The UN has brokered a surprise truce in Yemen’s long-running war, while the country’s internationally recognised president has handed over his powers to an eight-man council. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Peter Salisbury explains the significance of these developments.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group expert Peter Salisbury about the significance of a week of surprises in Yemen: first, an unprecedented truce and then Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi handing over power.
A fight for economic dominance is compounding Yemen’s humanitarian emergency and intractable war. Profiteering and manipulation by both sides risk plunging the country into a steeper decline. Within this complex conflict, the UN should pursue an economic truce just as much as a military one.
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