Yemen war: 7 years and counting, peace talks bear no results

On March 27, the war in Yemen entered its eighth year as the military escalation continues between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the Yemeni government, and the Saudi-led Arab coalition on various fronts.

Yemeni cities, the most important of which is the Marib governorate, are witnessing a military escalation, coinciding with the continuous firing of missiles and drones on Saudi and UAE lands.

During the past seven years, Yemeni parties entered into long unsuccessful talks, while Saudi Arabia hopes to end this war with “Yemeni” understandings, which the Houthis reject as they feel that “Riyadh is their enemy”.

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Over the last seven years, a number of attempts have been made to bring together the parties in conflict, and to end a crisis that the United Nations describes as the “world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe”.

Geneva talks 1

Three months after the war broke out on March 26, 2015, talks were held in the Swiss city of Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations, in June 2015, between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels.

The Houthis had almost complete field control at that time, with the exception of the western part, a small part of the northern side of the city of Aden, in addition to the oil port in Brega in Aden. The target of Saudi-led airstrikes since March has been Houthi rebels and their allies who are loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

During those battles that reduced control of the Houthis, the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, controlled the airspace and imposed a sea, land, and air blockade on the former.

At that time, it was officially announced that those talks had failed, and the then Yemeni Foreign Minister , Riyad Yassin, said the Houthi delegation was responsible for the failure to reach an agreement to end the conflict.

Geneva 2 and role of Oman

After the failure of the Geneva 1 talks, it seemed that there was a chance to create a balance of power by forcing the Houthis and Saleh to sit at the negotiating table.  

The military map changed in favor of the coalition, while the Houthis and Saleh militias lost and retreated militarily. The Houthis took control of Al-Dhalea, Aden, parts of Taiz and Marib, Lahj Governorate and Bab al-Mandab, one of the most important main gates in the world.

On December 15, 2015, negotiations were held in the Swiss city of Biel between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, after announcing a truce that did not last long. The consultations ended without reaching an agreement.

Between 2015 and 2016, the Sultanate of Oman sought to mediate and resolve the crisis. Unannounced talks were reportedly held in May 2015, between US officials and a Houthi delegation to discuss ways to reach a solution between the parties to the Yemeni conflict.

In November 2016, Muscat also hosted other talks between the Houthis and former US Secretary of State John Kerry, who urged them to engage in new negotiations. However, all of these efforts failed due to the Houthis’ elusiveness.

The longest talk in Kuwait

Over the course of more than four months, four rounds of talks were held in the Kuwaiti capital, which began on April 21, 2016. It continued until August 7 of the same year, without results.

The party of legitimacy and the Yemeni government adhered to Security Council Resolution 2216 as a prerequisite for launching any political process in Yemen, which is the most important international resolution issued on April 14, 2015. It later turned into a governmental condition for peace, while the Houthis were demanding a ceasefire before any move.

The Houthis were quick to announce the failure of the agreement early, by announcing in July 2016 the formation of a “political council” to rule the country, in a move many consider the main reason for that failure. 

The agreement at the time, which was concluded between the Houthi militia, Saleh and their allies, stipulated the formation of a “Supreme Political Council” consisting of ten members equally; with the aim of managing the state’s affairs in the country politically, militarily, security, economically, administratively and socially.

Geneva talks 3 and the Stockholm agreement 

During the first week of September 2018, another round of talks was supposed to be held between the Yemeni government and the Houthi militia in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations. But the international envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, announced the failure of these talks before they began, due to the absence of the Houthi delegation. 

Three months later in December 2018, peace talks began in the Swedish city of Stockholm, and resulted in the Yemeni government and the Houthis reaching an agreement to withdraw the militia from the city of Hodeidah and its three ports (Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa). It also included a ceasefire as well as an agreement to release prisoners.

On the other hand, the Arab coalition in Yemen committed itself to providing all facilities for the success of the Sweden talks and the resulting agreements. 

Despite all this, the Houthis, as usual, violated what was agreed upon in Sweden, and continued their violations of ceasefire in Hodeidah, not withdrawing from it. They also obstructed the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemenis, while they still control the city to this day. 

Saudi and Gulf initiatives 

In March 2021, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) announced an initiative to end the crisis in Yemen with the aim of reaching a comprehensive political agreement. 

The initiative included a ceasefire under the supervision of the United Nations, the reopening of Sanaa International Airport, and the allowing of fuel and food imports through the Hodeidah port. 

The Saudi initiative includes re-launching the political talks to end the crisis in Yemen, but the Houthis rejected this initiative, and demanded an end to the siege on them above all, which was considered an end to the initiative. 

On March 15, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has announced hosting consultations for the Yemeni parties that started on Tuesday, March 29, in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with the aim of achieving a ceasefire. 

Meanwhile, the Houthi group announced at the time, in a statement, that it welcomed any dialogue with the coalition countries, provided that it is in a neutral country that is not involved in the aggression against Yemen, which means its absence from Riyadh’s consultations. 

On Saturday, March 26, the Houthis announced that they would stop their strikes on Saudi Arabia and the confrontations in Yemen for three days. 

On March 29, Arab Coalition in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia announced that it will halt military operations in Yemen starting from Wednesday morning to help create a positive atmosphere during the upcoming month of Ramzan. 

GCC host peace talks between Yemeni factions begins in Riyadh

The announcement of the coalition coincided with the launch of Yemeni consultations, on Wednesday, March 30, under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council, at the headquarters of the General Secretariat in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in the absence of the Houthis.

Hundreds of Yemeni politicians, tribal leaders, and current and former military and security officials, took part in the conference.

At the opening of the conference, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf urged the participants to put aside their differences and find a comprehensive solution to end the war.

The war has killed hundreds of thousands of people directly or indirectly and has left millions on the brink of starvation in what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. 

This tragic war also led to the loss of the country’s economy 126 billion dollars, in one of the worst humanitarian and economic crises in the world.

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