ADEN // Yemenis reacted with little enthusiasm to the new peace initiative proposed by American secretary of state John Kerry.
After a meeting with GCC foreign ministers in Jeddah, Mr Kerry said a unity government, including members from the Houthi rebels should be formed “swiftly” to work towards an end to the civil war which has torn the country apart for 18 months. The Houthis — Shiite rebels who oppose the elected government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi — must also withdraw from the capital, Sanaa and “other key areas” and hand over all heavy weapons, including missiles and; aunchers, to a third party.
However, policy experts said the proposal amounted to little more than what Yemen had been told in the past.
“This is not a new step to end the war in Yemen. Rather it is a repetition of former initiatives but with a new shape,” said Fadhi Al Rabei, head of the Madar Strategic Studies Centre in Aden. He said that many would find it too difficult to share power with the rebels who have wrought such disaster on the country.
“Yemenis feel vengeful towards the Houthis. They will not be able to accept them as partners in the future,” Mr Rabei told The National. “There have been other similar initiatives over the past 18 months but any and all solutions which include the Houthis in the future regime will not end the war. “
He added that Yemenis wanted to see the implementation of UN resolution 2216, which calls on the rebels to give up arms. “Without it, it is difficult for Yemenis to accept the Houthis as partners in the government. Even if the political sides accept this step, the fighters on the ground will not because they re fighting to liberate the country from the Houthis. No one can persuade the fighters to accept such a solution,” said Mr Rabei.
In Taez, the scene of bitter fighting between rebels and government forces, teacher Sameer Abdulkareem, a supporter of the internationally-recognised Hadi government, said America’s peace proposal would “reward” killers.
“The Houthis are killing civilians in Taez and other provinces and Kerry wants to reward killers by making them partners of the future regime. As far as I know, killers have to be killed in their turn or go for trial,” he told The National.
Taez resident Mohammed Taher said, “A peaceful solution is always preferable but the UN must come up with a fair solution for Yemen, not a solution that turns a coup into an official regime.”
The rebels have so far not responded to Mr Kerry’s announcement but have previously declared they cannot comply with the demand to surrender their weaponry.
during his meeting in Saudi Arabia, Mr Kerry said he was “deeply troubled” by Saudi photographs showing missiles supplied by Iran being positioned along the Saudi-Yemeni border — a claim which the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed as “baseless accusations.”
Meanwhile in Geneva, the UN’s human rights chief insisted that a domestic panel charged with investigating human rights abuses and violence in Yemen’s civil war was not up to the job and called for an international investigation.
The call from Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein came as his Geneva office released a 22-page report chronicling abuses on both sides in the conflict, which pits the internationally recognised Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, against Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies.
In a statement, Zeid’s office said he “called on the international community to establish an international, independent body to carry out comprehensive investigations in Yemen,” noting in particular “challenges” faced by the national panel set up under President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi — notably, security concerns. Mr Zeid, who is also a member of the Jordanian royal family, did not specify who would set up the international body, but he is expected to present the report’s findings to the UN Human Rights Council at its session next month.
Last year, the council passed a resolution — brought by Saudi Arabia and its allies — that deferred to national investigators to report on rights abuses.
with additional reporting by Associated Press