UN Envoy For Yemen Cites A Major Step In Truce Deal Efforts

On January 16th the UN envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, cited a major step in Yemen truce deal efforts, but warned against a “piecemeal approach.” This approach would entail a focus on individual needs instead of a broader, sustainable agreement between the Saudi Arabia military coalition and Iran-aligned Houthi. This is following the initial UN mediated truce deal that was established in April but expired in October. If successful, these efforts could expand the initial deal to be more inclusive of the outstanding issues not agreed upon by Houthi rebels.

According to Al Jazeera, the UN is “now pushing for an extended and broader deal encompassing a mechanism to pay public sector wages,” which has been heavily criticized by the Houthis for not including members of the military. However, in a surprise remark, the leader of the Houthi Supreme Political Council (HSPC), Mahdi al-Mashat, stated that talks with a negotiating team from Oman were positive and emphasized the Houthi’s wish for regional stability. Since intervening in the conflict, Saudi Arabia has attempted to withdraw itself. Nonetheless, Reuters reported that while speaking in Sanaa, Grundberg expressed that discussions between Saudi Arabia and Oman in the past months have also advanced “options for mutually acceptable solutions to outstanding issues.” In a statement made to the UN Security Council, Grundberg stated that “we are witnessing a potential step change” in the conflict that has been “complex and fluid.” Overall, these developments have given the parties an opportunity to reach an agreement and if done correctly, lead to stability in Yemen.

The conflict between the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebel group has been stable since the initial deal established in April. However, if an agreement does not come out of these truce deal efforts, Yemen risks plunging deeper into violence. Renewing the truce deal will be successful and sustainable if the process is inclusive and has support of the international community. It is vital that the international community and parties involved listen to Grundberg’s warnings about a piecemeal approach.

In 2014, the Houthis seized control of the capital of Yemen, turning into a violent conflict that has spanned for eight years. Since the initial deal, Northern Yemen has been in a peaceful state for the first time since the beginning of the conflict. According to Al Jazeera, while addressing the UN Security Council Grundberg also stated that “the overall military situation in Yemen has remained stable” but the “military activity in particular along the front lines … have regrettably … resulted in civilian casualties.” He noted that aspects of the initial deal were holding but by continuing to limit military activity, political and economic issues could escalate and violence could start again. This conflict has also developed into a humanitarian crisis, with over 21 million Yemen citizens needing humanitarian aid. UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, stressed the importance of this opportunity for a deal as Yemen’s economy and basic services are continuing to weaken.

While this span of peace has been a short-term solution, it is imperative that these parties reach a long-term agreement not only for citizens, but for the economy as well. It is crucial that the international community support the UN’s call for humanitarian aid, as Yemen is at risk of diving deeper into a crisis. This opportunity to reach an agreement and potentially expand the initial truce deal is one that the parties and the state can not afford to miss.