Jafar Ghanadbashi, an expert on West Asia affairs, in an interview with the news website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, reviewed the process of Yemeni peace talks, which began in Stockholm, Sweden on Thursday with the mediation of the United Nations to end the four-year crisis.
The expert analyzes the scope and context of these negotiations and anticipates its future course. A translation of the full text of the interview follows:
What’s the difference between the new round of peace talks on Yemen and the previous round held in September?
The first difference between the current talks and the September negotiations concerns the composition or the attendance of the delegations because, in the September 5 talks, the Yemeni representatives (the Yemeni High Political Council) were not able to attend the negotiations due to Saudi and Emirati obstructions. In those talks only representatives of the anti-Yemeni coalition and several UN officials participated in the talks; therefore, the September talks were doomed before staring. Meanwhile, in the talks that began on Thursday, December 6, the Yemeni delegation has been able to attend despite all the difficulties.
But the second difference is in the place of the talks which has been shifted from Geneva to Stockholm. The Stockholm talks and the Geneva talks are the same with the difference that this time the Yemeni representatives have also been able to attend.
What is the position of Ansar Allah and the other group to negotiate?
The Ansar Allah movement or, in other words, the Yemeni High Political Council (the legal government), despite the significant victories in the Hudaydah battles as well as other awesome military victories on the eastern fronts, underlines the need for peace as soon as possible in order to prepare the grounds for helping the wounded and patients needing medication. This is while, the opposition, that is the anti-Yemeni coalition, is convinced that by continuing the five-month battles in Hudaydah and continuing the economic siege it will eventually be able to receive winning cards to gain concessions even small ones.
However, the insistence of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia on the necessity of continuation of the war has another very important reason: The leaders of Abu Dhabi and Riyadh as well as their supporters consider the end of the Yemeni war under the current situation admission of victory of the Ansar Allah movement, which could have negative and widespread consequences for the reactionary regimes in the region, the West and the Zionist regime, especially in the first stage, Saudi and Emirati governments will internally be faced with defeated military men who have returned from fruitless battlefields in Yemen and have no answers to many questions.
What are the demands of Ansar Allah and how will the Saudi-led coalition react to these demands?
Generally speaking and as has been the case in the past, the Ansar Allah movement calls for measures to be taken to end the clashes as soon as possible (to stop the daily bombing of residential areas) and to lift the siege to help the wounded and the sick, and in the meantime set some principles for the resumption of the Yemen-Yemen talks.
Of course, under the status quo, Ansar Allah movement in these talks calls for the adoption of decisions to take serious action to end the human and economic crises, as well as strike an agreement on the exchange of prisoners between the popular committees and the anti-Yemeni coalition mercenaries. Therefore, talks on political issues, especially the Yemeni Presidency and military and security issues, are among the issues that from Ansar Allah perspective will take place in the next round of the talks.
But in these talks, the Saudi coalition not only calls for recognition of its puppet groups as the warring Yemeni parties but also wants the other party to hand over the key and strategic harbour of Hudaydah. In other words, all that it has failed to achieve by military means, it wants to attain by imposing its demands in the negotiations.
What is the status of the aggressor coalition from the public point of view?
From the public perspective, the coalition of the aggressors of Yemen is in the worst possible position; a large part of this originates from the crimes committed over the nearly four years in this war-torn country, including the massacres of civilians. Of course, the brutal murder of Saudi critic journalist Jamal Khashoggi which hurt the sentiment of the public caused that the massacre of Yemeni civilians be publicized more strongly in the global and regional media, so much so that the United Nations has been forced to abandon its past indifference and emphasize on the need to end the war in Yemen.