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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Hopes remain for Yemeni peace at UNGA

Only a UN-backed political solution can bring the country's tragic war to an end

Yemeni children holding weapons in Sanaa  in a show of support for the Houthis against the Saudi-led coalition. Mohammed Huwais / AFP
Yemeni children holding weapons in Sanaa  in a show of support for the Houthis against the Saudi-led coalition. Mohammed Huwais / AFP

At the United Nations General Assembly in New York – the world’s greatest forum for diplomacy – the UAE is driving Yemen’s tragic war to the top of the agenda.

Four years since the coup d’etat that overthrew Yemen’s government, the people of Yemen still experience daily suffering, particularly in Hodeidah and Sanaa. And it is the Saudi-led coalition that is promoting a political solution, to ease the suffering and put Yemen on the road to recovery. That commitment was clear on Tuesday, when the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, met UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths on the sidelines of UNGA. “Reaffirmed our strong support for the UN-led peace process,” Dr Gargash tweeted.

Only a political solution can end a war that has claimed the lives of nearly 10,000 people. But such an outcome has been thwarted at every turn by the Houthis.

It took months of negotiation to arrange the Yemen peace summit in Geneva on September 8. But following a series of ludicrous last-minute demands, the Houthis did not turn up, confirming what the coalition already knew – that the rebels are stalling for time, entrenching themselves and planting up to a million landmines in an effort to retain the lands they cruelly seized from the legitimate government of Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

Addressing the United Nations general assembly on Wednesday, Mr Hadi – who the coalition is battling to reinstate – accused the Houthis of “gangster tactics”, from recruiting child soldiers to extorting local residents.

The road to peace is lined with obstacles, but it begins with confidence-building measures supported by the coalition and Mr Hadi’s government. UN Resolution 2216, which demands an end to the violence, must be urgently respected. And in the meantime, vital aid must be brought to the people of Yemen, who are suffocating under the weight of Houthi rule. Hodeidah port, through which 70 per cent Yemen’s imports pass, is still under Houthi control after the coalition paused its offensive there to facilitate the peace talks.

Yet UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation Reem Al Hashemy has used her time in New York to meet the head of the United Nations Development Programme to discuss the UAE’s efforts, alongside NGOs, to deliver humanitarian assistance. The UAE is Yemen’s biggest donor, having pledged $4bn since 2015.

Only when Yemen’s desperate war ends will the immense suffering abate. And at the world’s greatest meeting of the leaders of nations and international organisations, the world must get behind the UN’s efforts to restart peace talks and push back against the Houthis’ wasting of time and precious lives.