Home/Daniel Larison/The Start of Very Fragile Negotiations in Yemen

The Start of Very Fragile Negotiations in Yemen

IRIN Photos/Flickr: The UN-administered camp at Mazrak, north-west Yemen, seen on 12 November 2009 is now stretched beyond capacity after a Saudi military offensive against the Huthis starting early November uprooted a fresh wave of IDP families.

There is a chance that negotiations between the warring parties in Yemen may take place:

The United Nations’ special envoy for Yemen said Monday that the government and Houthi rebels would start peace talks in Switzerland next week and that the two sides appeared willing to accept a cease-fire in their nine-month-old war.

The U.N. envoy deserves credit for managing to get the parties to the conflict to agree to even this much. There is no guarantee that these talks will lead to anything, and it is far from certain that the cease-fire will be respected, but this represents the first serious opportunity for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in many months. The deposed Yemeni president Hadi seems to be on board with the cease-fire, but it remains to be seen whether the Saudi-led coalition will respect his requests. In the past, humanitarian “pauses” in the war have been honored mostly in the breach, and the Saudi-led bombing campaign has continued in spite of the cease-fires that have been negotiated. We may hope that it will be different this time, but the behavior of the coalition has not inspired confidence in their desire for a negotiated settlement thus far.

Even if there is a week-long halt to hostilities, Yemen will continue to be strangled by the coalition’s blockade, and the humanitarian crisis in the country can’t be remedied until that blockade ends. Should the war end now, Yemen would still be in dire need of aid to address its major shortages of food, clean water, fuel, and medicine. As long as the blockade continues, the civilian population will be brought ever closer to the brink of famine, and brief cease-fires will not be enough to prevent that. Yemen needed a comprehensive and lasting peace months ago, and the bad news is that the diplomatic process is only just now getting off the ground. If these negotiations fall apart like the last ones did, the entire country faces a disaster that is as horrible as it was avoidable.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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