Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

‘Time for talk with Houthis is over’

The suggestion of talks was dismissed by loyalist fighters in several provinces, including Aden, Marib and Taez, who said negotiations would work in favour of the Houthis.
A militant and a soldier loyal to Yemen's exiled government stand in an area where they are fighting against the Houthi militia in Yemen's central province of Marib September 14, 2015.  Reuters
A militant and a soldier loyal to Yemen's exiled government stand in an area where they are fighting against the Houthi militia in Yemen's central province of Marib September 14, 2015. Reuters
ADEN // The Houthi rebels missed their chance for peace negotiations and must now face the consequences, fighters loyal to Yemen’s government say.

The comments from anti-Houthi militiamen came as pro-government forces, including Arabian Gulf coalition troops, pressed a major offensive against the rebels in Marib province.

The operation was launched on Sunday, hours after the government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi declared that it would not take part in talks unless the Houthis complied with the terms of a United Nations security council resolution. UN-brokered negotiations had been scheduled in Oman this week.

The suggestion of talks was dismissed by loyalist fighters in several provinces, including Aden, which was liberated in July, and Marib and Taez. They said negotiations would work in favour of the Houthis. Whenever the rebels are losing control on the ground, they try to take advantage of peace talks as an opportunity to regroup, the fighters said.

Salem Al Gifri, 23, a member of the Southern Resistance militia in Aden’s Crater district, told The National that negotiations at this time would be “treason of the martyrs’ blood, who fought the Houthis to overcome [their] mutiny”.

He said that a solution to the crisis could only be achieved through military operations as the Houthis had been given several opportunities to negotiate with Mr Hadi’s government in the past but had refused because they were then in control of most of the provinces.

Members of the Popular Resistance militia in Marib hold similar views.

“We do not rely on negotiations; rather, the Popular Resistance insists on evacuating the Houthis from Marib,” said Captain Shareef Al Ardah. “We know that negotiation gives the Houthis more time to reorder themselves and return again to take control of the provinces.”

Capt Al Ardah said that the Popular Resistance would free all provinces from the Houthis, who “killed the civilians and destroyed the cities”.

Even in the city of Taez where violent clashes show no sign of letting up, members of the Popular Resistance reject negotiation with the Houthis.

One of its fighters, Younis Al Maqtari, 28, recently graduated from the faculty of education at Taez University.

In April he exchanged his pen for a rifle to join the militia and is currently fighting in the Wadi Al Qadhi area of Taez city. But though Mr Al Maqtari has his roots in education, not the military, he too is opposed to negotiations with the Houthis – at least for now.

“When the Houthis return to their stronghold in Sadaa, then I will put my rifle aside and I will support negotiations,” he said. “But right now I am against negotiations while the Houthis are killing us.”

While anti-Houthi militias are opposed to negotiations, however, many of the relatives of those killed in the conflict support a political – not a military – solution.

Suhaib Ahmed, 40, lost his wife in early May as fierce fighting raged for control of Aden .

“We were on the second floor of our house in Crater. A shell hit my wife while she was cooking dinner for us,” Mr Ahmed said. “Then she bled until she died.”

The fighting prevented Mr Ahmed from taking his wife to hospital and so he was forced to watch her die in front of him. He says he does not want anyone else to go through the same thing.

“If the war continues and there are no negotiations then that means there will be new victims, and I do not prefer this choice,” Mr Ahmed said. “For me, blood is the most expensive thing in this world.”

But it is not only the militias who oppose negotiation with the Houthis. Fadhl Al Rabei, a political analyst and head of the Madar Strategic Studies Centre in Aden, also believes that the time for talking is over.

“The time of negotiation was supposed to be during the past year, but the Houthis thought that no one would defeat them and they refused all negotiations,” he said.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

Updated: September 15, 2015 04:00 AM

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