Cover Photo: Yemen, May 2016, by Franca Corona, available at Flickr
Peace talks between Houthi rebels backed by Iran and a Saudi Arabia led coalition could mark the end of the Yemen Civil War. If the peace talks fail, it could prove disastrous for the countries civilian population: since fighting began in 2015, 100,000 people have lost their lives due to the conflict, according to ACLED.
Indirect talks between the two sides have been taking place for the last two months in Oman, the AP reports. There are hopes the talks will achieve goals such as the re-opening of Yemen’s main international airport in Sana’a, the countries capital city, which the Houthis have held since late 2014; along with the potential creation of a buffer zone between Saudi Arabia and Yemen in territory under Houthi control.
It follows attacks by Houthi’s on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including against the biggest petroleum processing facility in the world which was targeted last September, Reuters reported. The attacks which damaged more than half of the Kingdom’s oil output are thought to have prompted the recent peace talks.
The success of the talks will likely depend on assurances the Saudi’s can get that Iran will cease to continue to influence Houthi forces. Iran has been accused of backing the Houthi fighters, who are majority Shia Muslims, like Iran, though it denies involvement. Iran’s influence has raised concerns from the Saudi’s who are anxious that the Islamic Republic could have too-great an influence in the Arabian Peninsula. Other Arab states have been drawn into the conflict against Iran, including UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash is optimistic a settlement between the Houthis and the Arab coalition can be reached, stating on Sunday that “further escalation at this point serves no one and we strongly believe that there is room for collective diplomacy to succeed.” He also emphasised the need to “deal with” Iran, to remove its influence.
The war has devasted the Yemeni civilian population, with 24.1 million of the 28.7 million population in need of humanitarian assistance (18.2 million of this figure are women and children). 1.25 million people are facing ‘severe’ food shortages as of July, according to the World Food Programme.
Photo: WFP trucks north of Sana’a, July 2015, by OCHA / Charlotte Cans, Flickr.
The United Nations OCHA reported 460,000 suspected cases of cholera this year as of July, which has resulted in 705 deaths, up from 75 last year; including approximately 200,000 suspected cases of cholera in children, 193 of whom have died: the worst epidemic of the disease in recorded history.
A UN Report released in September cited evidence of starvation being used deliberately as a method of warfare by belligerents, particularly by the Saudi led coalition, who the report also found to have deliberately targeted the civilian population in air strikes targeting farming land, water facilities and essential port infrastructure. Between 2015 and 2019 these air strikes hit “indispensable food and water facilities”, along with reports of “airstrikes hitting mostly crowded marketplaces”.
The report also criticised ´third states’ that have indirectly contributed to supporting these alleged war-crimes. In particular it found evidence against the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, which have all supplied arms to the Saudi coalition, in contravention of the Geneva convention. The report states “the continued supply of weapons to parties involved in the conflict in Yemen perpetuates the conflict and the suffering of the population”. Despite court proceedings and parliamentary debates in these ‘third states’ against the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, little has seemed to prevent it.
In the UK in September, the International Trade Secretary Liz Truss admitted the UK breached a court order banning the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia for a third time, and that more evidence of arms sales is likely to emerge.
If the peace talks in Oman between the Saudi’s and Houthi’s are successful, then it could give the country a chance to rebuild after four years of ongoing war. If unsuccessful however, it will likely be the civilian population who bear the brunt of further conflict.
Timeline of Yemen Civil War
January 2011 – Anti-government protests against then President Ali Abdullah Saleh begin, inspired by other countries in the Arab Spring.
September 2011 – Two million protesters across the country demand Saleh be removed from power.
November 2011 – Saleh transfers his executive powers to Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
February 2012 – Elections are held to formally replace the ousted President with only one candidate on the ballot-paper, Hadi.
2012 – 2014 – Violence between Shia Houthi’s and Sunni Tribes.
September 2014 – A ceasefire deal is agreed between belligerents.
January 2015 – Houthi’s seize control of the presidential palace in Sana’a, and President Hadi resigns. The Houthi’s demand constitutional changes. No agreement is reached.
March 2015 – Air strikes begin from Arab coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia.
April-August 2016 – Attempted peace talks fail as Houthi’s reject UN proposal.
November 2017 – Houthi rebels fire missiles into Saudi Arabia, including at King Khalid Airport in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia retaliates by preventing aid planes landing in Yemen.
December 2017 – Saleh is killed by Houthi’s as he attempts to flee the capital.
December 2017 – One-million cases of cholera are reported to have occurred since the conflict began.
April 2018 – UN Secretary General notes that three-quarters of Yemeni population require humanitarian aid.
November 2018 – Save the Children reports 85,000 children under 5 may have died from starvation or disease since the war began.
October 2019 – ACLED reports that the death toll of the war since 2015 is over 100,000.
August 2019 – Yemeni separatists, originally backed by UAE, take control of the city Aden, frustrated with the Saudi backed President Hadi.
September 2019 – UN publishes report criticising states supplying arms to Saudi Arabia, including: the US, UK, and France.
November 2019 – Peace talks revealed between the Saudi led coalition and the Houthi rebels.
Source – CNN