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Will the Stockholm Consultations Succeed?

Will the Stockholm Consultations Succeed?

Sunday, 9 December, 2018 - 09:00
Salman Al-dossary
Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
In the Johannesburg Palace, where the conference center is situated 60 km north of Stockholm, Sweden, Yemen's warring parties met for the first time since the failure of the Kuwait consultations in April 2016.

The Yemeni government, recognized by the international community, faces Houthi militias that took power in Sanaa four years ago, following a full-scale coup.

The Yemeni government long reached out for any negotiations that would pave the way for peace, however, the Houthis always refused this step, before military operations finally pushed them to accept a new round of consultations.

The United Nations, which sponsors the dialogue between the two parties and is afraid of a new failure, described what is happening in Sweden as "consultations" rather than "negotiations" because no one can guarantee that the Houthis will actually get aboard the faltering peace train, and that they will not be going to Sweden just to throw dust in the eyes.

Through the Stockholm consultations, the UN is namely seeking to reach a negotiated agreement to ensure Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah will be fully operated. For three years now, the legitimate government, along with the Arab Coalition, have been asking the UN to oversee and supervise operations in the port, but to no avail.

The success of such an agreement is expected to maintain the path of major humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people from being obstructed or destroyed, which Houthis have been doing since the beginning of the war. This is considered one of the main dilemmas Yemeni people are forced to face, given the importance of Hodeidah port for the country.

The government relies on the port for about 90 percent of Yemen's food imports, while Houthis continue to create obstacles to prevent aid from reaching the beneficiaries.

The Stockholm consultations aim to end the war through international efforts with a number of confidence measures, but unfortunately, they are limited. The most important measures discussed are the exchange of prisoners, reopening of Sanaa airport, paying salaries of government employees and guaranteeing humanitarian access for all parties.

The two parties will then move on to the second phase of the dialogue towards a political solution until elections are held. The UN is optimistic about signing the long-awaited agreement on a prisoner exchange, which would be the first formal agreement between the two sides since the beginning of this conflict.

But would such a consensus be enough to end the war without considering the major issues that caused this war?

The Stockholm consultations are the fifth between the two parties, after the previous four failed. The last round in September failed even before it was launched.

Given that the Houthis are not interested in a political settlement and they continue to drain the remaining state funds, it is only reasonable to witness an atmosphere that lacks optimism in the consultations, especially since the current talks were not established as peace negotiations, rather as consultations.

The UN envoy has set simple goals for the talks. The exchange of prisoners is one of the main achievements that he expects to be achieved, however, the real issue that everyone is missing is that Iran continues to push for war and up until now, it did not order its Houthi allies to move forward in the peace process.

Is it possible to overlook the fact that the aggression in Yemen had been a Houthi coup against a peaceful political transition of power which was approved by the Yemeni forces?!

Without a real agreement that would guarantee safe borders between Saudi Arabia and Yemen and prevent the establishment of another “Hezbollah” in Yemen, with the three references as part of the political solution, all attempts to end the Yemeni crisis will not achieve a real breakthrough.

The Houthis will take advantage of such consultations again and again, as they have done in the past, to maintain their goal of keeping the war ongoing.

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