Yemen: achieving power balance only way to end war, says former top official

Houthi rebels continue deadly offensive to seize Marib, where two million civilians are trapped

Peace in Yemen will be realised only when a power balance is achieved between the warring parties, former prime minister Khaled Bahah told The National on Sunday.

Houthi rebels launched an offensive on Marib, the provincial capital, earlier this year and have stepped up their attacks in recent weeks. The oil-rich province is the largest stronghold of the internationally recognised government.

Marib has become the focal point of the war in Yemen — a conflict which has already killed tens of thousands of civilians and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

“A balance of power will be able to get people to negotiate, the Houthi rebels are trying to create an imbalance of power which will backfire on them and on the country,” Mr Bahah said on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate.

“The international community and regional states must interfere to stop the rebels from advancing in Marib to create a form of a balance of power that would lead to some kind of peace,” he said.

“Peace can only be achieved if there is a form of balance of power to pull people on to the negotiating table.”

If the battle continues and the rebels are determined to seize Marib then “this will drag the country into further instability and destruction,” said the former prime minister.

Mr Bahah believes there is a real opportunity for the war to end seven years after it started but the international community must intervene.

“There is a chance for the Houthis to transform from being a regional agent into a national actor that wants stability for its nation,” he said.

The battle for Marib has raised concerns about civilian safety including about two million people displaced from other parts of the country during more than six years of civil war.

Mr Bahah said there is a “real concern” for the fate of millions trapped inside.

“Our attention today, which involves the international community and the government of Yemen, is on Marib's western part, as it is suffering the most, we must be able to save civilians who are stuck,” he said.

It is the government's biggest challenge, which requires the majority of attention, he said.

“The international community is trying but regional states would probably be more able to get closer to resolving this problem through international groups that are found on the ground,” he added.

Civilians who have arrived in Marib city since fighting intensified in the province face severe food shortages, he said, but international agencies are trying their best to meet civilians' needs.

“At a time where the world is calling for an end to the war the Houthis are adamant on seizing Marib, which presents a challenge to the government,” he said.

Updated: November 14th 2021, 3:40 PM