Riyadh-based Yemen government in exile Thursday pulled out of the peace talks underway in Kuwait after Houthi militants and their allies formed a 10-member “supreme council” to run the war-torn nation.
“The negotiations have completely ended,” said Abdallah al-Olaimi, a member of the exile government team to the talks.
UN special envoy Ismail Ahmad Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who has been brokering the talks aimed at a peaceful settlement, condemned the move without formally announcing the collapse of negotiations.
The Houthi militants and the General People’s Congress of former president Ali Abdallah Saleh earlier Thursday announced the formation of “a supreme political council of 10 members”. They did not name the council’s members.
“The aim is to unify efforts to confront the aggression by Saudi Arabia and its allies,” they said, in reference to the Riyadh-led Arab coalition, backed by the US and UK, that launched air strikes against the militants in March 2015 to restore Hadi’s government.
More than 6,400 people have been killed in Yemen since Saudi Arabia launched brutal airstrikes against the targets in Yemen. Another 2.8 million people have been displaced and more than 80 percent of the population urgently needs humanitarian aid, according to UN figures.
UN Security Council Resolution 2216
UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad said the rebels’ move to form a ruling council “represents a grave violation” of UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
The UN Security Council resolution was approved on April 14, 2015 where Russia abstained. Explaining the abstention, the Russian delegate said it had abstained because the resolution was not fully in line with what was required by the crisis in Yemen. “The text failed to take into account proposals his country had made and to call on all sides to halt fire, did not provide for due reflection on consequences and lacked clarity on a humanitarian pause. There were also inappropriate references to sanctions, he added, stating that the resolution must not result in an escalation of the crisis. He stressed that there was no alternative to a political solution and action by the Council must be engendered from already-existing documents.”
Not surprising, the resolution, co-sponsored by France, the United Kingdom and the United States, was silent on the Saudi air strikes but mentioned the Houthis and Houthi 18 times.
The resolution demanded that the Houthis, withdraw from all areas seized during the latest conflict, relinquish arms seized from military and security institutions, cease all actions falling exclusively within the authority of the ‘legitimate Government of Yemen’ and fully implement previous Council resolutions.
The resolution also called upon the Houthis to refrain from any provocations or threats to neighboring States, release the Minister for Defence, all political prisoners and individuals under house arrest or arbitrarily detained, and end the recruitment of children.
Imposing sanctions, including a general assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, on Abdulmalik al-Houthi, who it called the Houthi leader, and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, son of the president who stepped down in 2011.
Ironically, the United States, Britain, and others, meanwhile, have continued to supply a steady stream of weaponry and logistical support to Saudi Arabia and its coalition. Britain, the United States, and France continue to authorize lucrative arms deals with the Saudi-led coalition — apparently without batting an eyelash.
Since November 2013, the U.S. Defense Department has authorized more than $35.7 billion in major arms deals to Saudi Arabia.
Since November 2013, the U.S. Defense Department has authorized more than $35.7 billion in major arms deals to Saudi Arabia. This includes the announcement of a $1.29 billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia in November 2015 that will supply Riyadh with 18,440 bombs and 1,500 warheads. Meanwhile, during his time in office, British Prime Minister David Cameron has overseen the sale of more than $9 billion worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, including nearly $4 billion since airstrikes on Yemen began, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, a London-based NGO.
Who are the Houthis?
The rise of the Houthi militants began to pick up momentum in August, 2014, when thousands of supporters of the movement protested in the streets of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, urging the government to step down.
As reported by Al-Jazeera, among other demands, Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi requested that fuel subsidies, which had been cut significantly in late July, be reinstated. If the government failed to meet an ultimatum, he said, “other steps” would be taken. The Houthis were also demanding a more representative form of government that would reflect the seats allocated to political groups and independent activists during Yemen’s 10-month National Dialogue Conference, which mapped out the political future of Yemen after its 2011 uprising.
“This government is a puppet in the hands of influential forces, which are indifferent to the rightful and sincere demands of these people,” al-Houthi said in his speech, referring to the United States. The rebels subsequently raided key government institutions in the capital.
Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi had called for dialogue with the Houthis, inviting the group to join a “unity government”, and the two sides ultimately signed a peace deal brokered by the UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar. It demanded that the Houthis withdraw from Sanaa and cease hostilities in other provinces in exchange for their demands being met. But the rebels did not comply, as their fighters pushed into other provinces, taking over the strategic port city of Hodeida on the Red Sea.
In October, Hadi named the country’s envoy to the US, Khaled Bahah, as the new prime minister. The rebels initially welcomed the appointment, but tensions flared in January when a constitution-drafting panel presented the first draft of the constitution. The Houthis rejected terms about dividing the country into six regions.
When Hadi refused to concede, the rebels stormed his palace, galvanizing his resignation. Hadi accused the rebels of pressuring him to install affiliate figures in key positions in the government bodies. The Houthis put Hadi, the prime minister and two other ministers under house arrest and in February, declared that Hadi was being replaced with a temporary five-member presidential council.
Hadi fled to Aden on February 21, declaring himself the legitimate president of Yemen. Just over a month later the Saudi-led coalition began bombing the country, giving sanctuary to Hadi in Riyadh.
It may be pointed out that the Houthis fought six wars with former military strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced out of the presidency in 2012. Hadi, his vice president, took over and largely ignored the Houthis.
Yemeni civilians are losing the most.
As reported by the Foreign Policy magazine, more than one year on, it still remains unclear who is winning the war. Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners claim to have regained control of more than 80 percent of the country, but the Houthis remain in control of the key strongholds of Sanaa, Ibb, and Taiz. One thing is clear: Yemeni civilians are losing the most.
The Houthis and their allies —groups loyal to Saleh — are the declared targets of the coalition’s air campaign. In reality, however, it is the civilians who are predominantly the victims of this protracted war. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in airstrikes while asleep in their homes, when going about their daily activities, or in the very places where they had sought refuge from the conflict.
The Saudi-led coalition’s response to reports of civilians unlawfully killed — and homes, schools, and infrastructure destroyed — has been to constantly repeat the mantra that “only military targets are hit by airstrikes.” The situation on the ground tells a very different story. With each unlawful coalition airstrike, it becomes more evident that Saudi Arabia and other coalition members either do not care about respecting international humanitarian law or are incapable of adhering to its fundamental rules, the Foreign Policy Magazine said.
The Saudi-led Arab coalition accused of war crimes in Yemen
In October 2015, Amnesty International accused the (Saudi-led) Arab coalition fighting in Yemen of carrying out unlawful air strikes, some of which amount to war crimes. Amnesty said in a report that it had examined 13 deadly air strikes by the coalition, assembled by Saudi Arabia, that had killed about 100 civilians, including 59 children. “This report uncovers yet more evidence of unlawful air strikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, some of which amount to war crimes. It demonstrates in harrowing detail how crucial it is to stop arms being used to commit serious violations of this kind,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera, who headed the group’s fact-finding mission to Yemen.
Amnesty said its researchers had found remnants of two types of internationally banned cluster bombs as it investigated attacks on Saada, a Houthi stronghold in northeastern Yemen. Another rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, in August accused Saudi forces of using cluster bombs in Yemen.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the chief editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com