U.N. Secretary-General Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed speaks to the media after the Yemen peace talks in Switzerland in Bern December 20, 2015.
The United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, deserves appreciation for planning an integrated project to end the war in Yemen. The plan will start with a ceasefire on the 10th of April. Ould Cheikh has laid down a roadmap for the three committees of the parties involved and has set the foundation for dialogue among warring factions based on Security Council Resolution 2216.
Eight days after the truce begins, negotiations will be held in Kuwait. Ould Cheikh has defined five themes to be discussed then, which are withdrawal of militias, handover of heavy and medium weapons to the government, agree on temporary security arrangements, activate state institutions through public dialogue among Yemenis and form a committee to resolve the issues of detainees and prisoners.
Of course, no one can guarantee that things will work out exactly as per the detailed plan, which was developed by the international mediator. However, it is clear that Ould Cheikh has reached out to all Yemeni parties and then announced his plan in New York. He has also received support from various powers, including the United States and Russia.
This plan constitutes future political plan. However, on the ground, today’s map reveals that the rebels, Houthi militia and the forces of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have lost control and have started defending their areas of origins, in Sana’a and some governorates like Saada. The new important development on the ground lies in the fact that many of the local forces are joining the military coalition; thus, rebels can no longer return to fight in areas they lost or withdrew from.
Nevertheless, the answer for why rebels would accept negotiating now, knowing well that they will lose, is simply because it is their only chance. After failing to take over the country, they had two choices, either participate and get a stake in the governance or end up with nothing.
Similarly, why would the coalition accept to negotiate if they are the winners in this battle? One of the participants in the plan asked: “Why doesn’t the campaign continue as most of the 22 provinces that make up this country have been liberated, considering that the area of Yemen is more than that of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan combined?” His answer was that the goal of the military campaign was not to neutralize any party but rather to restore the country’s legitimacy.
“We did not want Yemen to be left in the hands of Yemeni groups by force of arms,” he added. “If they accept to negotiate in accordance with the Security Council resolution, it means that we have achieved the desired objective of this war as neither of us wants to fight, and we don’t want to neutralize any party.” It is better to resolve the conflict through negotiating and making compromises. It is much better than a military victory without a political solution.
Ould Cheikh’s plan is based on the re-adoption of the GCC initiative, based on which Saleh signed his resignation and gave Houthis the chance to participate in the government. If parties in Yemen travel to Kuwait next month and agree on the essentials, I think they will come up with reasonable solutions that can end the war and restore legitimacy. Yemeni people would then reconstruct the country and resume normal life. At least that is our hope.