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article imageOp-Ed: Geneva peace talks on Yemen end without ceasefire agreement

By Ken Hanly     Jun 20, 2015 in Politics
Geneva - The Yemen peace talks in Geneva have broken down with foreign minister Riad Yassin of the government in exile telling Al Jazeera his delegation will leave negotiations and return to Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
Yassin blamed the Houthi rebel representatives for the collapse claiming that they would not meet with their delegation. That could be but the talks were to start with separate meetings of the UN with each group. The Houthis want to talk to Saudi Arabia since they consider the Saudis plus the Gulf Cooperation Council the real power behind the government in exile headed by President Mansour Hadi.
The basic problem from the start is that the Hadi delegation just wants to discuss implementing UN resolutions, and particularly one that demands the Houthis withdraw from the territories they have taken and lay down their arms. Yassin's remarks confirm this stance in that he complains that the Houthis have not complied with UN demands: "Until this time we have not achieved anything. Unfortunately, still the Houthis have not complied with anything." If the Houthis did withdraw and lay down their arms, then the Hadi government says there could be a permanent ceasefire and not a temporary truce as Ban Ki-moon sought during Ramadan. The Houthis would only agree to such a move only if there were an agreement on a government and political solution acceptable to them.The Hadi group says that a temporary truce would be used by Houthis to regroup and perhaps even capture more territory. Given this Hadi position it would seem pointless for the Houthis to meet with the Hadi delegation. What the Houthis wanted was to have agreement on a humanitarian cease fire as the UN and many western countries probably including the US want. The bombing has created a humanitarian disaster and many western allies of the Saudis would like to see a humanitarian pause in the battle at the very least. Even Yassin suggested that though the talks did not result in a ceasefire, discussions would be ongoing and the breakup did not mean the talks were a failure. During a temporary cease fire further talks could take place while Yemenis were spared even more havoc.
Ismail Ahmed, UN special envoy to Yemen said that a ceasefire should come before any new negotiations start. This seems quite sensible. He said he would redouble his efforts to achieve a ceasefire and hoped that an agreement could be reached soon. A UN spokesperson said that although no date had been set for a second round of talks, discussions could still be ongoing without any joint meetings as in Geneva. John Kirby a spokesperson for the US state department said that the talks were "a useful start to what will probably be a lengthy process." These remarks suggest that the talks were actually premature given the positions of the parties in the conflict. The same results could have been achieved by separate negotiations between the two parties. No doubt the UN hoped for a breakthrough before Ramadan.
Even as the talks took place, the Saudis continued bombing and clashes with the rebels also continued. The UN has called for $1.6 billion in aid to help alleviate the humanitarian disaster in Yemen. If there is no ceasefire it will be virtually impossible to deliver aid to many rebel-held areas.
At a news conference in Geneva, UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O'Brien, warned of a "looming humanitarian catastrophe" in Yemen. It appears the catastrophe is already there. There is a sharp rise in hunger and disease, including an outbreak of dengue fever in the port city of Aden where there is a shortage of potable water. O'Brien said that millions of Yemenis "no longer have access to clean water, proper sanitation, or basic health care." Since March, the bombing and clashes have killed more than 2,500 people and displaced almost a million with many attempting to flee the country and even more internally displaced. The appended video is from Press TV an Iranian TV outlet.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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