Rethinking peacemaking in Yemen | Opinion

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After seven years of crisis in Yemen, the warring parties are left with no choice but to settle on a political solution. The heavy price of the war on the people reveals the need to consider new ways to find a feasible solution for the war in Yemen.

The failure of the military solution in the past years guarantees that it is now time to find a political solution that may not favor every party’s demands but will surely reduce the ongoing human suffering and put the country back on the right track to peace and stability.

As time passes, a political settlement between the internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels appears more likely to be the only way to end the conflict and bring peace to the war-torn country.

In a new and surprising move, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi dismissed his Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and transferred his “full power” to a newly established presidential council.

This Saudi-backed move aims to revive negotiations with the Houthi rebels and complete the implementation of the transition process in Yemen.

Setting the agenda of this new council, its head, Rashad al-Alimi, promised in his first address to the people that the body will “work to end the war and establish peace,” describing it as a “peace council.” Al-Alimi stated that the council is also a “defense, strength and unity council, its mission is to defend the sovereignty of the country and protect the citizens.”

For sure, establishing peace in Yemen is not going to be easy, but I believe that the formation of this council could be the first effective step to pushing all warring parties to sit for negotiations and reach an agreement to bring back stability and security to Yemen.

This council came to recognize the necessity to reactivate Yemen’s institutions and prevent the individual monopolization of power witnessed for the last 10 years, and the importance of instituting more collective decision-making in a body that represents Yemen’s major social and political groups.

Saudi keenness to end war

Saudi Arabia has been trying to find a solution to the conflict in Yemen since the Arab Spring hit the country in 2011 and has made efforts to bring the warring parties together while supporting the country’s stability. Riyadh has always offered a space for dialogue between conflicting parties in Yemen, which led to the signing of important agreements, such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative in 2011 between the government and the opposition and the 2018 Riyadh agreement between the government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC).

As the main political and military backer of Yemen’s internationally recognized government, Saudi Arabia hosted the recent intra-Yemeni talks in Riyadh, which marks another step in the Saudi effort to establish lasting peace in the country.

Moreover, a few hours after the announcement of the new presidential council, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) met with the council members and voiced hope that the new council will “move Yemen from the state of war to the state of peace and development.” MBS stressed the kingdom’s keenness to see Yemen enjoying security and stability, and urged the new body to “start negotiations with the Houthis under the U.N. auspices for a final and comprehensive solution.”

To show its full support to resolve the crisis in Yemen, Riyadh pledged $3 billion in emergency aid to the Yemeni economy, $1 billion of which will be provided by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as $300 million to fund the U.N. humanitarian operation in the country.

One more chance

Although the conflict in Yemen is described internationally as a “forgotten war,” I believe it has been forgotten by its own people, too. During the last 10 years, the warring parties increased escalations and put more obstacles on the road to peace by rejecting regional and international offers for settlement.

This new council came as a reminder to all Yemenis that the conflict is not over yet, and that creating new ideas to resolve the situation is still possible.

Turkey, along with the United States, France and other countries, expressed its support for the council and optimism that it would lead the country to peace. Recently, the United Nations Security Council welcomed the peaceful transfer of power to the presidential council and expressed hope that this would “constitute an important step towards stability and a comprehensive Yemeni-led political settlement” under the auspices of the United Nations.

I believe that the formation of this council is a step that will help revive the political process in Yemen and move the country forward, saving it from the brink of famine and stopping the war. I am optimistic that with this step, the whole country will enter a new stage where all parties must reconcile with each other and open a new gateway to just, lasting and honorable peace. The new stage, where there is no winner or loser, is another opportunity to put the weapons aside and provide more space for talks, hopefully.

While this new council is yet to prove its success, given the Houthis’ initial rejection to sit for negotiations, its priority must be ensuring good governance and fixing the country’s devastated economy.

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