Yemen-Geneva Peace Talks Stall After Houthi Absence

The most recent talks between Yemen and the rebel Houthi group have recently fallen through in Geneva. The UN-sponsored talks between the Yemen ambassador and the rebel delegates was left unable to commence due to logistics issues stalling the Houthi representatives from attending the talks. The inability of the United Nations to bring the Houthi to the table was harshly criticized by Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, who believes the United Nations was too lenient on the group. Minister Al-Yamani’s statements have been denied by the United Nations representatives, while the Houthi-run Saba News has reported that the Houthi delegation’s flight from Sanaa was unable to leave the airport but this was denied as well.

Minister Khaled Al-Yamani’s statements have been critical of how the peace talks were handled, especially with the lack of presence from the Houthi representatives. In a press release, he stated, “The lack of pressure on this group of coup-plotters has encouraged them to continue blackmailing the international community…When was a special envoy given such flexibility as to disregard a UN resolution?” The special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, responded to criticisms by stating, “There were issues of how to get here, we were not able to resolve that…it’s not the first time we have difficulties of logistics in Yemen.”

The failure of the Houthi delegates to attend the meeting is an issue that is likely to colour future attempts at peace talks between them and Yemen. It has made the Houthi appear that the talks are not important to them, especially as this is the third day in a row that the talks have had to be postponed which has further vexed an already frustrated Yemen government. The difficulties in bringing Yemen to the table in the near future remain uncertain as, when asked about it, Minister Al-Yamani mentioned that “We will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

The Houthi movement, formally known as Ansar Allah, has been in conflict with the state of Yemen ever since the reign of then President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 1994. The talks in Geneva were the first that had been planned in over two years, but it has suffered two delays since Thursday. In their attendance of the talks, the Houthi delegation had three demands if they were to attend the talks: Transportion of wounded rebels to Oman, the return of past rebels that had sought treatment there, and a guarantee that the delegation would be able to return safely to the rebel held city of Sanaa.

The violence in Yemen has been steadily escalating ever since the Houthi group has claimed Sanaa in 2014. With these talks presently falling through, this violence seems set to continue, putting more lives at risk not only in Yemen, but is also impacting on the livelihoods of others in surrounding territories and beyond, as proven with the attacks on the red sea trade lanes last month. In a region that is already beset by tensions and conflict, in addition to ongoing economic strife, the continued conflict between the people of Yemen and Ansar Allah remains a key issue that must be resolved to return stability to the troubled state.

Joshua Robinson