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Stockholm Yemen Peace Talks: Challenges, Grounds

Alwaght– Yemen is witnessing new developments and after months-long aggression on the southern city of al-Hudaydah by the Saudi-led Arab forces, conflicting sides are talking about ceasefire. The British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt this week visited Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and then Tehran to discuss Yemen war ceasefire. The Yemeni Army and the popular committees, on the other side, have announced readiness to stop missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia to give peace a chance.

All these developments shows that Western allies have opened their eyes to the realities after nearly four years of war and devastation in Yemen and being ready to start serious peace negotiations with the presence of all Yemeni sides including the influential Ansarullah movement, the main party of the popular revolution.

Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy to Yemen peace, who is in Yemen trip since Wednesday and is visiting the battleground city of Al-Hudaydah, during the last week’s United Nations Security Council meeting said that the warring sides in Yemen now assured him that they will take part in the upcoming peace talks. On the other sides, the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said recently that a new round of Yemen peace talks will be held in early December in Sweden.

But the recent wave of air raids by the Saudi coalition on the Yemeni port city and the joint missile response by the Yemeni army and the revolutionary forces appear to undercut the optimism about the restart of the negotiations.

Peace obstacles

The main cause for the war to continue for over three years with no signs of sustainable peace is the coalition’s lack of interest in ending the aggression in any near future. The Saudis, deeming Yemen as their backyard and a traditional base of their influence in the Arabian Peninsula, will never accede to rise to power of a pro-independence government with Ansarullah movement on its top. In the eyes of Riyadh, rise of such a government will pose a set of potential threats, among them are the alliance with the Iran-led Axis of Resistance, control of the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and a challenge to the security environment of the kingdom by allowing the political Islam to expand to the Saudi borders and mainly in Shiite-majority regions where there are major oil reserves of the Arab monarchy.

Definitely, the aggressors now find the balance of power and the dialogue climate turned in Ansarullah favor and so they resort to any action to avoid accepting this fact. As a result, while Yemen’s forces as a gesture of good faith to the UN envoy announced support for his ceasefire proposal, the Saudis and their Emirati allies stepped up their campaign on the Al-Hudaydah port all of a sudden.

Their strategy now is to gain control of the significant port at any price before the negotiations resume in a bid to go to Stockholm peace talks with something in hand and probably with preconditions for peace which will not be accepted by Ansarullah. Such a play card will empower them to press on with blockade of the already-impoverished country to bring to their knees the resistant Yemenis.

On the other side, there are disagreements surrounding the negotiations’ topics and conditions. Ansarullah leaders insist that before the start of the peace talks, the aggressive countries should lift the all-out siege and end the air raids on Al-Hudaydah. They, furthermore, want the negotiations to be intra-Yemeni, with no interventionist power on the negotiating table.

Over the past few years, the UN representatives showed lack of neutrality in their mission and only took the side of the resigned President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the occupying foreign forces. This bias is also present in the proposals for peace which show no attention to the Yemeni people’s demands and are mainly compliant with the interests of the foreign actors. The UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed on Thursday during a visit to Paris said the Arab coalition was ready to facilitate the conditions for a solution to the crisis but the matter needed a Yemen framework approved by the regional countries and the UN.

Division inside the alliance caused by support to rival power seekers is part of the obstacles ahead of serious peace negotiations. Reports talk about worsening health of Mansour Hadi as a result of disease. And once he dies his deputy Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar will take over. A report by the Washington Post claimed the US and the UAE oppose the leadership of al-Ahmar, who was picked by Saudi Arabia as vice-president in February and is currently in charge of political and military administration.

Stockholm talks’ grounds

The aggressors may lack the will to end the four-year-long war and bloodshed in Yemen, but the international pressures on the coalition to stop its campaign in the impoverishment and famine-hit nation may at the end of the road persuade Saudi, Emirati, and the American leaders to entertain a political solution.

On Wednesday, Save the Children Fund reported that some 85,000 of the below-5-year-old Yemeni children may have died of hunger. The nonprofit organization added that some 14 million Yemenis, or about half of the country’s population, are at risk of famine. Such reports, combined with the pressures Saud Arabia is exposed to because of the killing of the prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi, have put the global public opinion in the confrontation of the anti-Yemeni coalition members. Over the past few days, Germany and Denmark’s governments promised to halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Under increasing pressure at home, Trump, although reluctantly, had to cut support to the Arab alliance.

The four-year-old campaign, creating scenes of heinous crimes against the civilians by the US-backed Saudi and Emirati forces, has turned into a war of attrition with no concrete outcomes but heavy costs to the alliance. Add to this the enlarging anti-occupation protests of the Yemenis of the south who are presenting a serious challenge to Mansour Hadi and Riyadh.

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