Photo: Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheik Ahmed. UN Photo/Elma Ocik - Photo: 2016

Peace Uncertain When Yemen Talks Resume in September

By Jaya Ramachandran

GENEVA (IDN) – Yemen, an Arab country in Western Asia, has been undergoing a civil war since 2015 causing huge suffering. The United Nations has been at pains to encourage the conflicting parties to come to a lasting agreement in talks that have been hosted by Kuwait for the past three months.

In a statement announcing one-month break in negotiations – between a Yemeni Government delegation and a delegation of the General People’s Congress and Ansar Allah – on August 6, UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed assured that the process will enter a “new phase,” during which “the focus will be on working with each side separately to crystalize precise technical details”.

He cited the most significant compromises arising from the meetings of the previous weeks, touching on the following points:

– Renewal of their commitment to the terms and conditions of the Cessation of Hostilities, and to urgently activate the mechanisms for its implementation;

– Activation of the De-escalation and Coordination Committee in Dhahran al-Janoub and Local Security Committees in order to strengthen respect for the Cessation of Hostilities;

– Facilitation of the adoption of urgent measures to ensure unhindered access for humanitarian aid and basic goods and to address the economic situation;

– Facilitation of the urgent release of all political prisoners, and all individuals under house arrest or arbitrarily detained including those mentioned in UN Security Council Resolution 2216 (2015);

– Abstention from any acts, escalation or decisions likely to undermine the prospects of finalizing these negotiations and reaching an agreement;

– Conducting a series of consultations between the delegations and their respective leaderships in the coming phase on the ideas, which were discussed during the talks and study them in detail;

– Continuation of consultations and resumption of direct talks within one month from the submission of this statement at a place to be agreed upon;

– Reaffirming the continued positive spirit in engaging with any and all matters, which may facilitate reaching a complete, comprehensive and permanent solution to the conflict in Yemen; and

– To that end, addition to the delegations, to the next round of talks, military experts in order to provide technical support and advice in their area of expertise.

UN Special Envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed said: “The structure and mechanism will change during the coming weeks so that we give the parties space to consult with their leaderships.”

“We will work with each party separately to crystalize the precise technical details. I once again repeat that a lasting solution is one which is worked upon with care, study and consideration. Every rushed solution comes truncated and incomplete,” he added.

As for the current round of talks, he said that the biggest dilemma was the deficit in trust between the parties and in that regard, the focus had been on the necessity of offering concessions and advancing a step towards the other side so that the other side can advance a step in return.

“We must continue to urge the parties to initiate a series of confidence-building measures and it is their duty to continue the releases of detainees and refrain from adopting unilateral measures,” he said.

Noting the difficult situation in the country, Ould Cheikh Ahmed raised the alarm regarding the faltering economy, and called on the two sides to unify their efforts to ease the increasing burden of suffering on the Yemeni people.

According to UN News, he stressed that the solution for the economic crisis depends on the political solution: “The economic situation has seen a serious decline and the economic indicators are disconcerting if not dangerous. I am sounding a warning for those involved in the internal affairs of Yemen. The alarm is being sounded strongly for the economy and this is a direct result of the war. There will be no economic solution except through a lasting political solution,” he explained.

Commenting the one-month break, Rene Wadlow, the President of the Association of World Citizens, said, “the talks had been broken off before, but this time the break might be a sign of the future division of the country”. The idea of a “national unity government” had been often mentioned but no serious steps in that direction have been taken.

Wadlow said the UN Special Envoy stated the obvious when he said: “The biggest dilemma we faced was a deficit of trust between the parties.” He urged all to initiate confidence-building measures and to “refrain from adopting unilateral measures”.

By “unilateral measures”, he was thinking of plans to divide the country largely along the lines of the territories now controlled by one faction and the other, added Wadlow. There is a strong bias among government representatives at the UN against the break-up of a State, especially if done only by military means.

Wadlow recalled that the creation of South Sudan was in practice a division along the lines of military control, but the break was “blessed” by a referendum said to express the will of the people. Somalia has for all practical purposes split into three, perhaps four, separate States, but no one wants to say so.

“A return to at least two Yemeni States would not be a radical change as there was never a really functioning single State. However, there are deep set fears that if the UN is willing to accept the divisions of one country, no one knows how many may follow,” said Wadlow.

While the governments in the UN were willing to sanction the break up of the Yugoslav federation and to accept as members the former Yugoslav republics, there has been an unwillingness to accept the break up of the Serbian republic and to admit the existence of Kosovo.

Wadlow said on behalf of the Association of World Citizens, he had stressed the need to start planning for post-war renewal in Yemen, even before there was a post-war condition. Yemeni society is clan-extended family based, and the basic needs approach proposed is a family-focused approach.

A basic needs approach to post-war reconstruction is as valid for two States as for one. I do not in particular advocate the division of Yemen, but division may be the only political structure on which the factions can agree. The crucial issue at hand is to build the foundations of a relatively peaceful society in which socio-economic development can take place. [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 August 2016]

Photo: Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheik Ahmed. UN Photo/Elma Ocik

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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