EU could play a role in a peace deal for Yemen

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The war in Yemen has seen mass murder and other such actions that cannot be justified such as the starvation of children. Now all sides involved in the conflict have agreed to begin negotiations for peaceful reform. It has been proposed the European Union and its member states could have a stake in pushing a UN resolution before a major bloody battle occurs in Hodeida. Hodeida is a Red Sea Port that is a docking point for major shipping lanes. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the legitimate Yemeni government, the Houthis and the Iranians to the table. Even Oman which has had enough sense to remain neutral throughout the war could play a crucial role in bringing about peace.

As the outlines of a new UN peace plan have begun to surface, the EU should use the fact that it has maintained a decent relationship with the warring parties to resume the UN-led peace process, moribund since 2016. This must be done before an assault on the port that could scuttle potential talks, especially if the rebels make good on their threats to attack coalition warships and oil tankers, or if one of their missile strikes on Saudi Arabia results in high civilian casualties. Since Houthi rebels killed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh (their erstwhile wartime ally) in December last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their Yemeni partners have been acting as if the tide has turned in their favour. They have tried to entice Saleh supporters into their camp, encouraged intra-Houthi rifts, and targeted Houthi leadership. In April, they killed Saleh al-Sammad, the de facto Houthi president who was known as a moderate.

The UN has often been known to fail when it comes to passing a binding resolution that could resolve wars and disputes or even prevent them. The conflict in Yemen could see that country splitting in two again. The involvement of Saudi Arabia and the UAE has exacerbated Yemen’s war prolonging it. The result has been that the poorest nation in the Arabian Peninsula, has now seen its infrastructure ruined and children suffering from malnutrition and disease due to a lack of food and medical supplies. President Saleh had been looking for a way to stage a comeback through the Houthis. However, this backfired on him and the former president lost the support of his other allies and met his end in what was possibly the most isolated position in his life.

Abdo Hyder/AFP

The ICRC said on Thursday it had pulled 71 international staff out of Yemen because of security incidents and threats, and moved them to Djibouti. In response, the leadership of the coalition reiterated its commitment to facilitate the work of humanitarian aid workers from international organizations in areas under the control of the Yemeni government, as well as those under the control of the Iran-backed Houthi militia, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The coalition is keen to provide the necessary protection and ensuring the safety for the staff of international organizations undertaking humanitarian work in Yemen, coalition spokesperson Colonel Turki Al-Maliki said, so they can respond to the needs of the Yemeni people safely and freely. He stated that those who break international law and threaten the lives of humanitarian workers should be held responsible and face legal action.

Thursday saw the 71 international staff pulled out of Yemen because of security incidents and threats that were brought about by the war. The conflict has proven to be devastating with the UAE in occupation of most of Southern Yemen. The Saudis are bombing most of the Houthi-held north. The Humanitarian workers face an ongoing battle to deliver supplies to those in need while the Yemenis in the South encounter checkpoints set up by the occupying UAE forces. The coalition of the Saudis, the Emiratis and the Bahrainis has brought nothing but carnage to the region. I fail to see what protection the Yemeni government can provide for humanitarians. They now only have nominal control of the south while the UAE maintains power through its forces on that government’s behalf.

The ICRC pulled 71 international staff out of Yemen because of security incidents and threats, and moved them to Djibouti. (Photo courtesy: ICRC)

The EU indeed has a role to play in bringing about peace to Yemen. They can put an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and also call for a more inclusive approach for all parties to be reconciled in a new transitional government. Oman been Yemen’s eastern neighbor should also be involved in the negotiating process as they have remained neural throughout the conflict. If a battle is not averted in Hodeida then not only will a major shipping lane be disrupted resulting in global oil prices sky rocketing but also a major humanitarian catastrophe for the Yemeni people as well as a major military disaster of apocalyptic proportions for the entire Arabian peninsula.