Time is ripe for Houthis to pursue peace, observers say

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Yemeni Houthi prisoners are greeted upon their arrival at Sanaa airport, following their release by the Arab Coalition, on November 28th. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

It is time for the Houthis (Ansarallah) to act in the best interest of the Yemeni people and build on a recent thaw in relations with the Yemeni government and its backers, the Arab coalition, observers and politicians said.

The militia should sever relations with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), they said, and put its energy into achieving a peace agreement.

There have been recent signals of rapprochement, including the November 28th release of some 128 Houthi prisoners who had been detained in Saudi Arabia.

The prisoners were transported to Sanaa in three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) planes and were met at the airport by Houthi commanders and some family members, AFP reported.

The Arab coalition also said it would allow patients needing medical care to be flown out of Sanaa airport, which has been closed to commercial flights since 2016.

"The ICRC sees the release as a positive step and hopes that it will spur further releases and repatriations of conflict-related detainees," the global body said.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths also welcomed the decision to release the prisoners and to open Sanaa airport "for mercy flights that would allow Yemenis to receive much-needed medical treatment abroad".

Invitations to dialogue

Kuwait on November 23rd reiterated its willingness to host a new round of UN-sponsored talks between the parties to the conflict in Yemen.

Kuwaiti delegate Mansour al-Oteibi told the UN Security Council this overture was encouraged by recent "positive and constructive indications" for resolving the Yemeni crisis.

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir later raised the possibility of achieving a truce followed by a settlement in Yemen during a December 6th speech at the Mediterranean Dialogues in Rome.

Al-Jubeir noted the trust-building measures that Griffiths has played an important role in advancing, including the opening of Sanaa airport, the entry of ships to al-Hodeidah port and the recent prisoner exchanges.

The prisoner release and abatement of Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia would seem to indicate "that consultations are being secretly held between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis in Oman", said political analyst Waddah al-Jalil.

These consultations may well result in an agreement between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia as a first stage that paves the way for a comprehensive agreement, he told Al-Mashareq.

A positive sign that a peace agreement will be reached in Yemen would be if both sides make concessions, he said.

It is in Saudi Arabia's interest to stop the war, he said, while at the same time the suffering endured by the Yemeni people should spur the Houthis into making concessions and abandoning their subservience to the IRGC.

Oman has been attempting to pave the way for the two sides to enter into upcoming negotiations hosted by Kuwait, Yemeni diplomat Abdul Wahab Tawaf told Al-Mashareq.

Need to make concessions

It is important that "the next peace agreement be fair, agreeable to all Yemenis and in keeping with their interests, because Yemenis have suffered immensely and severely from the war", Tawaf said.

"The war displaced and rendered homeless millions of Yemenis and caused impoverishment that triggered the flight of foreign companies and Yemeni capital abroad," he added.

It also destroyed government institutions, including the educational system, he said, leaving Yemeni children vulnerable to various social ills.

It is time, after nearly five years of war, for the Houthis to abandon their subservience to Iran and make their peace with their compatriots and neighbours, political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

It is in their interest to make concessions to facilitate a peace agreement that puts an ends to Yemen's war while they are in a position to do so, he said, rather than waiting until after a military defeat, when their position is weaker.

If the Houthis do not break their allegiance to the IRGC, which is pursuing Iran's interests at the expense of the Yemeni people, "the coalition and national army forces will have no other option but to defeat the Houthis militarily", he said.

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"... the coalition will have no other option but to defeat them militarily." Hehehehehehe! They have tried many times, but failed!