Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 June 2019

Talks are the path to peace for Yemen

There can be no solution to the crisis until the Houthis come to the table in good faith
Tribesmen loyal to the Houthi rebels ride on a pickup truck during a gathering aimed at mobilising more fighters. Hani Mohammed / AP
Tribesmen loyal to the Houthi rebels ride on a pickup truck during a gathering aimed at mobilising more fighters. Hani Mohammed / AP

Despite the United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait, the death toll in Yemen continues to mount. On Sunday, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called on the parties – the internationally recognised government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi on one side and the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on the other – to come together to accept a peace plan. It is an admirable aim, and one we should all embrace. Except that there is one major roadblock on the path to peace and that is the intransigence of the Iran-backed Houthis.

There can be no resolution to any dispute until people of goodwill sit together, talk through their differences and resolve them. That requires compromise on all sides. In Yemen, there will be no peace when one party is being deliberately obstructionist, as the Iran-backed Houthis have proven to be again and again. Not only have they vetoed all attempts to find a political solution to the crisis, but they have also regularly defied the ceasefire that began on April 11 and continued their campaign of violence.

Over the weekend, 41 people died as the Houthis continued their push towards the Al Anad airbase in the southern province of Lahj. Dozens more have died in other clashes over the past week, including an incident where Houthi rebels reportedly shot seven farm workers while looking for the leader of a pro-government militia. There are regular reports of kidnappings and bombings in rebel-held areas. Clearly, ordinary Yemenis are suffering, and they will continue to suffer starvation, deprivation and dislocation until the fighting stops once and for all.

The legitimate Yemeni government has signalled its willingness to negotiate, and the UN and regional governments, including the UAE, are standing by to do what they can to help. But, after two months of talks, nothing at all has been agreed. Of course it will not be easy to resolve all the issues, but when the Houthis continually obstruct, there can be no progress at all.

The priority here must be what is good for the vast majority of the Yemeni people who want only to live in a peaceful and stable society. Their rights must be put first and foremost. The UAE and others have provided humanitarian aid, but this is only a band-aid solution. It is only when the rebels put down their weapons and come to the table in good faith that any progress towards a lasting peace can be made.

Updated: June 27, 2016 04:00 AM

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