Saudi Arabia’s Yemen peace initiative | By Dr Mehmood-ul-Hassan Khan


Saudi Arabia’s Yemen peace initiative

Most recently, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia presented a comprehensive plan to bring peace in Yemen by launching a wide-ranging initiative to deliver aid to its people and end the country’s six-year war.

It consisted of numerous political, economic, social and administrative measures to bring political stability, economic sustainability and social harmony in the war ragged country Yemen.

The proposed plan based on a nationwide cease-fire supervised by the UN, the reopening of Sanaa airport and new talks to reach a political resolution to the conflict.

Moreover, restrictions on the Red Sea port of Hodeidah would be eased, allowing access for ships and cargo.

Income from the port, including taxes, would go to the central bank in Hodeidah in accordance with the Stockholm Agreement.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan urged all the factions of Yemeni society, especially the Iran backed Houthi militia, to join the initiative.

Highlighting the importance of proposed peace initiative, Saudi Prince Faisal wished that the guns should fall completely silent.

By showing his country’s willingness to talk, he elaborated that the Houthis should now respond for a peaceful dialogue. He urged that Houthis should prefer interest of their country fellows over Iran’s wishful list.

The Saudi peace plan was widely welcomed across the region and the world, and was immediately supported by Yemen’s government which blamed the Houthis for the failure of previous initiatives.

By showcasing the continued human miseries because of widespread inter-ethnic divide, linguistic conflict and political contradiction to achieve and maintain more power in the country, Yemeni Foreign Ministry highlighted importance of ending of the coup and war sparked by the Houthi militia.

The Foreign Ministry upheld its commitment to bring peace through efforts to end the coup, restore the state and reject Iran’s destructive project in Yemen.”

The Saudi initiative seems to be a continuation of Saudi and international efforts to find a lasting peace in Yemen, is an opportunity to end the crisis and for all sides in Yemen to put the interests of the Yemeni people and of Yemen first.

The Biden Administration welcomed the commitment of Saudi Arabia and the internationally recognized government of Yemen to a new cease-fire plan.

The US State Department asserted that all main stakeholders and parties to the conflict should commit seriously to an immediate cease-fire and engage in negotiations under the auspices of the UN.

In this connection, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken supported Saudi Foreign Minister Prince the efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, starting with the need for all parties to commit to a cease-fire and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.

On its part, the United Nation (UN) appreciated the Saudi initiative and terming it replica of its own efforts to end the war.

By showing its commitment to work with all the parties to achieve peace in Yemen the Special envoy Martin Griffiths urged that every effort must be made to end the conflict in a Yemen and addressed the suffering of the Yemeni people.

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Salman said the initiative provided the Houthis the opportunity to uphold their country’s interests “over Iranian expansionist goals.

He tweeted that this initiative demonstrated the KSA interest in the stability of Yemen and its commitment to unifying all Yemeni factions in upholding their national priorities.

In the past, Saudi Arabia has proposed various plans to reach a comprehensive political resolution to the war in Yemen between the UN-recognized government in Aden and the Iran-aligned Houthi militia occupying Sanaa.

On its part, being a responsible country, Saudi Arabia repeatedly showcased a non-military solution to the crisis that has left civilians, commercial shipping and oil infrastructure in the line of fire since 2014.

But with Iran-backed proxies in Yemen and secret alliance with the Houthis the war in Yemen has raged for six long years now, leaving 112,000 dead and 24 million in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Critical analysis of the Yemen war revealed that the seeds of conflict were sown as far back as 2011, when peaceful anti-government protests in Yemen escalated and the country of 23 million people descended into chaos.

Initially, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stepped in to mediate. In November 2011 the then President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a GCC initiative in Riyadh agreeing to a transition of power to his Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi during an interim period leading to elections.

Afterwards, Saudi Arabian peace proposals have been sabotaged by Houthis and its master Iran because of certain geopolitical and geostrategic reasons compelling both to prolong militia activities in Yemen in which millions of innocent people, weaker factions of the society and last but not the least, children scapegoated.

Saudi Arabian peace proposals have been swinging between a plausible political solution consisting of the allocation of seats for a proposed National Dialogue Conference (NDC) in December 2012 to holding of the NDC in April 2013 as part of the GCC initiative, and the UN Security Council (UNSC) welcomed the Peace and National Partnership Agreement to stabilize the situation in Yemen in 2014.

But power obsession of the Houthis derailed the ongoing peace process through the siege of the capital Sanaa on 21 Sept 2014, under the pretext of fighting corruption and fuel price increases.

On the contrary, in January 2015, the Houthis forced Hadi to resign and placed him under house arrest.

The following month, he escaped and fled to the southern port city of Aden, where he vowed to resist the Houthi coup. Meanwhile, the Houthis had advanced to the outskirts of Aden, now the interim capital.

Ultimately, Yemen’s government was forced to call on the international community to help turn the tide.

In April 2015 the UNSC passed resolution 2216, demanding that the Houthis withdraw from Sanaa, disarm and allow Yemen’s government to return to Sanaa.

An arms embargo was imposed and Houthi leaders were placed under sanctions. In parallel, Oman issued a seven-point Muscat Peace Plan.

In May, Saudi Arabia hosted the Riyadh Conference, where pro-government factions met in an effort to salvage the federal state of Yemen and the NDC outcome.

Afterwards, in June, Preliminary Inclusive Consultations took place in Geneva between the Houthis and Yemen’s government.

All sincere efforts of the UN, Saudi Arabia and other main stakeholders remained successful because of belligerent Houthis and zero-sum geopolitical gaming of Iran.

Being a champion of regional peace Saudi Arabia’s current peace initiative of Yemen has once again lightened the prospects of peace.

—The writer is Director, Geopolitics/Economics Member Board of Experts, CGSS.

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