Yemen: false hope?

THERE appeared to be a window of opportunity opening up for peaceful resolution of the Yemeni crisis when the Saudiled coalition announced on Tuesday that it was suspending air strikes on Houthi rebel positions inside Yemen. Yet just how complicated finding a negotiated path out of this quagmire is going to be was proved when reports surfaced on Wednesday that the Saudis had resumed bombing raids targeting the city of Taiz.

Riyadh`s campaign has been ongoing now for close to a month, but as yet it is unclear if anything positive has been achieved to bring Yemen`s warring factions principally forces loyal to the selfexiled president Hadi and the Houthi militia that opposes him to the negotiating table. If anything, it appears as if all sides have dug in for a long, open-ended battle. What is clear, though, is that a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Yemen: as per the UN`s figures, over 900 people have been killed since the air strikes were launched, while the global body`s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says there are currently around 12 million food-insecure people in Yemen, while 150,000 have been internally displaced in the impoverished state.

If the coalition`s aim was to cripple the Houthis and pave the way for Mr Hadi`s return, that mission has obviously not been accomplished.

In fact, it is highly doubtful if external intervention whether it is the coalition`s support for Mr Hadi or Iran`s reported backing of the Houthis will pacify Yemen. Recent examples abound Libya, Iraq, Syria where foreign interventionism has only further destabilised local matters. Riyadh had done the right thing to call off the strikes, hence the coalition should hold its fire and give diplomacy a chance to succeed. Things in the region are heating up, with US warships moving into waters off Yemen to reportedly prevent Iranian vessels from reaching the country. In such a scenario, brinkmanship from any quarter could spark an ugly confrontation. Therefore, the factions inside Yemen, as well as their external backers, must eschew further violence and provide the space for a negotiated settlement.

The UN and the OIC who have been conspicuous by their absence must do much more to bring the warring sides to the table and help work out a peaceful solution. The Yemeni people must be the ones to decide who should rule them, free from external pressures and an atmosphere of violence and intimidation.

Dawn Editorial