The UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said last week that he received assurances from the participants in the Yemeni peace talks taking place in Kuwait that they will continue working for a peaceful durable solution to the conflict in their country during the holy month of Ramadan.
“Despite the differences in their viewpoints, the stakeholders are unanimous on some key issues on the agenda of the talks,” he said in a statement to the press.
The Special Envoy noted that he met the chief delegates of the government, Ansarullah Movement and the General People’s Congress to discuss the security and political arrangements as well as the planned release of detainees.
He also disclosed that he received the ambassadors of 18 countries which are concerned about the situation in Yemen and had thanked them on supporting the UN-mediated peace talks.
To summarize the peace talks: The United Nations declared a truce between the warring factions in Yemen on April 10. Following indications that the truce was holding, the Houthi rebels and government officials decided to meet for peace talks in Kuwait on 21 April.
However, so far, both sides have failed to bridge the main contentious issue of returning state institutions to the government, a resuming the political dialogue and other military and security issues.
The one bright side is that both parties have now begun direct negotiations. Earlier talks were confined to discussions between rival delegations and the UN Special Envoy. Both sides have presented their evaluations on the work of specialized committees tasked with solving key issues in the conflict including security issues, political issues as well as prisoners kept by both sides.
A breakthrough came in mid- May when Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels agreed to free half of the prisoners and detainees held by either side. But, by the end of May, the Yemeni government had walked out of talks in Kuwait saying rebels insisted on violating UN resolutions. However, following the intervention of Qatar, President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi had agreed to return to the negotiating table and resume peace talks. On that occasion, the Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi had said that the government would give the peace talks one last chance after receiving regional and international guarantees.
The UN resolution demands rebels to withdraw their troops from areas under their control, including the capital Sanaa, release political prisoners and hand over state institutions to the Hadi government, which was forced out by the rebels. Both sides accuse each other of ceasefire violations. The main sticking point remains that the rebels want to discuss a political settlement before surrendering arms while the government delegation insists that implementing the UN resolution is a priority. Meanwhile, following a vehement protest from Saudi Arabia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon removed the Saudi-led coalition fighting Al Houthi rebels in Yemen from a list of government forces that committed grave violations against children last year, pending a joint review of cases.
Riyadh had demanded that a UN report be corrected after it concluded that the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 children killed in Yemen last year. Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdullah Al Mouallimi insisted “the removal is unconditional and irreversible”, explaining that the government has no problem with a review and is confident it will conclude that the coalition was “wrongly placed on the list”.
Since the talks with Al Houthis began in Kuwait, the Saudi-led coalition has focused its efforts on weeding out terrorist elements such as Al Qaida and Daesh from the country.
The Saudi-led, US-backed coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government is battling the Iranian-backed Al Houthis and their allies. Al Houthis have held Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, since September 2014, and their advance across the Arab world’s poorest country brought the Saudi-led coalition into the war in March 2015. The UN says more than 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.