Peace Talks in Yemen Back on After Pressure from World Leaders
Amid the convoluted conflicts ravaging the Middle East at the moment, one country that often gets lost in the headlines is Yemen, where Iran-supported Houthi rebels have been battling the Saudi Arabia-backed government since the rebels took over Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in late 2014.
Peace talks between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, are back on track for Wednesday. The Houthis pulled out over the weekend due to government launched flights over Houthi held territory, which the rebel group claimed breached a truce that was reached on April 10 in efforts to spur a peace agreement.
The two sides first met on Friday, which U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed called “constructive” with a “positive atmosphere.” Nothing concrete was reached, with a permanent ceasefire as the ultimate goal.
Wednesday’s talks, which will be held in Kuwait, are a top priority for the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China. The UNSC members applied pressure to both sides, which led to reinstating Wednesday’s talks.
“The diplomats were quite tough and used harsh language, telling them that peace in Yemen was important for regional security and that no one would be allowed to leave Kuwait without an agreement,” a source close to the discussions told Reuters.
Yemen, which sits at the tip of the Arabian peninsula, to the west of Oman and the south of Saudi Arabia, is paramount in preventing further destabilization of the region. The vacuum left by the war has seen both al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS, or ISIL, vying for influence.
America has been criticized by human rights groups for its role in the 13-month conflict, which has seen 6,200 civilian deaths, 35,000 wounded, and more than 2.5 million people displaced. The U.S. has provided arms to the Yemen military, which receives direct support from Saudi Arabia, an important American ally in a region where reliable friends are few and far between, though that relationship has also been under pressure.
The most recent battleground development came on Tuesday morning, when a U.S. drone reportedly killed a local al Qaeda leader and five of his operatives, according to Reuters.
Syria’s civil war and the atrocities associated with ISIS and other terrorist cells might grab the most headlines, but the way things shake out in Yemen could have wide-ranging consequences for the stability of the region and beyond.