Brokered ceasefire announced for Yemen
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said both sides have agreed to observe a “cessation of hostilities” in the region.
The Yemen war has been going on for over a year, but the United States did not become directly involved until after military sources claimed rebel positions fired on a U.S. warship offshore, and American forces returned fire.
Many experts characterize the conflict as a fight between Sunni and Shia Muslims, two different factions that have been involved in violent altercations all over the region, especially in recent years: for example, in the aftermath of the U.S. war in Iraq.
However, other factors also come into play, with both Saudi Arabia and Iran backing different sides to promote their respective influence in the region.
In announcing the Yemen ceasefire, Kerry said the parties have agreed to work toward establishing a new national unity government in a safe and secure Sanaa by the end of the year.
However, after the announcement, Foreign Minister of Yemen Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi went on record saying that the ceasefire announcement "means nothing" -- and demanding that rebels should lay down arms first.
A Nov. 16 article in Eurasia Review cited al-Mekhlafi as saying that the ceasefire presented by the U.S. “rewards bad behavior” on the part of the Houthis, essentially making it clear that the existing government is not ready to negotiate.
“The government of Yemen is not aware of the statements made by Mr. Kerry and does not consider itself committed to them,” Al-Mekhlafi said, according to the news release.
The claim that this key stakeholder was cut out of the loop undercuts the effectiveness of the deal and throws into question some of the ongoing diplomatic efforts around bringing the Yemen civil war to a close.
Speaking to the Gulf News Journal Thursday, Oya Dursun-Ozkanca explained some of the further dynamics around the tense situation. Dursun-Ozkanca is an associate professor of political science and director of the international studies minor at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania.
“Houthi rebels and the Saudi coalition support the announced ceasefire,” Dursun-Ozkanca said. “It remains to be seen how much the Yemeni government will resist the ceasefire, given the fact that they are backed by the Saudi coalition.”
The conditions on the ground are dire, Dursun-Ozkanca said, and necessitate some form of resolution.
“Food, medical and other supplies are scarce, and the risk of infection and disease is prevalent,” the professor said. “The international community is in a desperate situation to take measures to stop the ongoing violence.”
Releases from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs show that approximately 13.6 million people are in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, both in terms of food and security.
At least 100 international humanitarian partners have been working across the country; however, of the total requested funding of $1.8 billion, only about a quarter has been received.