Friday,17 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)
Friday,17 August, 2018
Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Coming to consensus on Yemen

UN Security Council Resolution 2216 provides the basis for a political exit to Yemen’s current crisis if the warring parties respect it, writes Hussein Haridy

Al-Ahram Weekly

On 22 April 2015, the government of Saudi Arabia took almost everyone by surprise when it announced the end of military operations in Yemen codenamed “Decisive Storm” and the beginning of “Operation Restore Hope”. The decision raised questions more than it provided answers. A few days later, air strikes by the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, resumed against the Houthis while the former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh called on his Houthi allies to cease fire and implement relevant Security Council resolutions in particular, Resolution 2216 adopted 14 April 2015.

The Saudi decision was immediately welcomed by the White House. US National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan issued a statement on the conclusion of Operation Decisive Storm in which the United States reaffirmed the obligation of all governments to implement Security Council Resolution 2216. The statement said that the US administration would “continue to support efforts to build international cooperation to seek to prevent violations of this resolution ... We will continue to closely monitor terrorist threats posed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and other terrorist threats that have sought to benefit from the deterioration of the political and security situation in Yemen.”

Despite the official conclusion of Operation Decisive Storm, military operations are still ongoing as of time of writing. Meanwhile, the UN secretary-general has appointed a successor to Gamal Benomar, the former UN emissary to Yemen who had submitted his resignation after four years of working with Yemeni political parties and forces, including the Houthis. The new envoy, a Mauritanian official, will have a difficult and sensitive job to do in the months to come, provided all concerned parties abide by Resolution 2216, whether its provisions related to an “arms embargo” or those dealing with the political transition process that is based on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative, its implementation mechanism, and the outcomes of the Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference. In this respect, the Security Council resolution urged all Yemeni parties to “respond positively to the request of the president of Yemen to attend a conference in Riyadh, under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council ... and to complement and support the United Nations-brokered negotiations.”

Resolution 2216 also requested that the secretary-general of the United Nations “intensify his good offices role in order to enable a resumption of a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people, including women, for peaceful change and meaningful political, economic and social reforms, as set out in the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative ... and the outcomes of the Comprehensive National Dialogue Conference”


Hopefully, a regional consensus will be reached in the next few days to urge all Yemeni political parties without exception to reaffirm their commitment to the national dialogue process. Barring such a consensus, I am afraid the chances of a peaceful political transition in Yemen would be weak, which would be a great gift to AQAP and any other terrorist group that is planning to gain a foothold in Yemen in an attempt to threaten Saudi Arabia from the south. This week, the Saudi police thwarted a large-scale terrorist attack involving seven explosives-laden cars. It further acknowledged that two Saudi policemen had been shot by a Saudi recruit of Daesh (the Islamic State organisation).

This regional consensus should be encouraged by American diplomacy whose priority in the Middle East, the Gulf and the Arab Peninsula has become understandably the fight against terrorism. A political solution in Yemen, accepted and adhered to by every political party, including the Houthis, would greatly help in this endeavour. Failure in Yemen would prove costly in terms of the security and stability of all powers and countries in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia and, consequently, other members of the GCC. Egypt, too, would be in a difficult situation. Right now, the Egyptian army is fighting terrorism on two fronts: the Sinai Peninsula and in the West, along its borders with Libya. Adding a third front, to the south and the Red Sea, is something that must be prevented at all costs. That is why I believe the immediate cessation of hostilities in Yemen and the resumption of the national dialogue, according to the provisions of Security Council Resolution 2216, is of paramount importance to Egypt’s security and stability. I have no doubt that Egypt is working towards this end.

On the other hand, the summit that will take place at the White House and Camp David 13-14 May between President Obama and the leaders of the GCC will definitely deal with the situation in Yemen, among other regional challenges, and no doubt will reaffirm respective commitments to a peaceful political transition in Yemen. That itself will bring pressure to bear on Yemeni political parties. In this context, I think the US administration will host this summit after reaching an understanding with Tehran that the Houthis must respect all the provisions of Security Council Resolution 2216. In this case, what will remain left, if not resolved before the summit, will be the fate of former president Saleh and his son, Ahmed. A safe haven for the two would not be difficult to find.

The writer is former assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister.

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