Yemen: push on second day of Riyadh talks to unite war-torn country

UN calling for truce by start of Ramadan this week

UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg speaks during a conference on Yemen's war hosted by the GCC in Riyadh, Saudi  Arabia. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Negotiations to find a peaceful solution to the Yemen crisis continued into their second day on Thursday.

Politicians, civil society representatives, military officials and Yemen experts are attending the week-long consultation in Riyadh in the hope of reviving UN-led peace talks to end the war.

The talks are being held under the auspices of the Gulf Co-operation Council.

Representatives of the Houthi militias have not shown up despite being invited by the GCC.

The internationally recognised government, diplomats and the international community have expressed optimism about the renewed effort to unite the country.

“The opening was very successful and big with key speakers from the Gulf states, the US and the UN envoy, we are hopeful and stress the importance of these consultations,” Majed Al Fadhil, Yemen’s deputy human rights minister, told The National.

“These are really important talks as they will come up with solutions to the economic, political, humanitarian and security issues we are facing to unite all political parties together,” he said.

Mr Al Fadhil will be consulting officials in the groups discussing political and humanitarian issues to reach “the best outcome for Yemen”.

.

The rebels' refusal to join the discussions in Saudi Arabia reflects the “fact that they want the war to continue by serving the Iranians and spreading chaos across the region”, the Yemeni official said.

The second day of discussions focused on several issues including political dynamics, the economic crisis and humanitarian aid. The social and media fields were also being discussed, as well as the overall development of Yemen.

“There will be two sessions for each issue, the duration of each session is two hours which will be separated by a half-hour break,” Mr Fadhil said.

Discussion on these topics will represent a platform for the people of Yemen to understand the difficulties on the ground and to overcome them, he said.

The bid by the GCC is seen as a potentially significant breakthrough in Yemen’s seven-year-old war civil war, which has claimed thousands of lives and left millions of people on the brink of starvation.

The British Ambassador to Yemen, Richard Oppenheim, said it should “encourage all parties to engage in dialogue".

"I thank the GCC for taking the initiative which comes under the auspices of the UN envoy in bringing together the parties to discuss ideas for a truce, which again I think is very positive," he said.

"I hope this will feed ideas in to a wider set of discussions which the UN special envoy Hans Grundberg is leading separately."

The UN and US welcomed a unilateral truce announced by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Yemen's Houthis.

Mr Grundberg and his US counterpart Tim Lenderking said the move could serve as a first step towards a comprehensive ceasefire.

Mr Grundberg, addressing a gathering of allied Yemeni factions in Riyadh on Wednesday, said he was engaging with the parties to reach this truce by the beginning of Ramadan.

"Yemen needs a truce," said Mr Grundberg. "I am engaging with the parties with a sense of urgency to reach this truce by the beginning of Ramadan. The truce will ease the fuel crisis and facilitate the freedom of movement."

The two envoys have been pressing Riyadh to ease sea and air restrictions imposed by the coalition on areas held by the Houthis, who ousted the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene months later.

They have also urged the Houthis to end an offensive in energy-producing Marib province, the internationally recognised government's last stronghold in northern Yemen.

Mr Lenderking said the UN proposal could serve as a first step towards a comprehensive ceasefire and a "new, more inclusive political process".

Truce to allow fuel ships to dock

Two sources had said the proposal was for a temporary truce in exchange for allowing fuel ships to dock at Houthi-held Hodeidah port and a small number of commercial flights to operate from Sanaa airport, Reuters reported.

A senior US State Department official said there were "real opportunities" for progress because there was "buy in" within Yemen and from countries in the region.

"We've seen positive statements from the Houthis that they would be willing to engage," the official said.

A permanent ceasefire has proved elusive as both sides have resisted compromise. The Houthis want the coalition to lift its blockade ahead of any truce talks while the alliance, which controls Yemen's seas and air space, wants a simultaneous deal.

Angelina Jolie in Yemen - in pictures

Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters the group had been discussing a "humanitarian truce" with Mr Grundberg for more than a month and hoped "those efforts will succeed".

"On Riyadh's dialogue, we are not concerned about it nor its outcomes," he said.

Updated: March 31, 2022, 3:25 PM