Negotiations for a peaceful solution in Yemen to resume
On 25 August 2016, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia hosted a series of constructive discussions about the situation in Yemen, including a meeting between the GCC foreign ministers, US Secretary of State John Kerry, UK Minister for the Middle East and Africa Tobias Ellwood and the UN’s Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The participants developed a framework for a peaceful solution in Yemen based on the GCC Initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and UN Resolution 2216. The participating parties offered full support for this roadmap, which would end the war in Yemen and transform the country from war and destruction to reconstruction and stability. The UN special envoy is charged with discussing this framework with the Yemeni parties.
The plan as it stands calls for the following measures to be taken: the swift formation of a new national unity government with power shared among the parties; the withdrawal of forces from Sana’a and other key areas; the transfer of all heavy weapons, including ballistic missiles and launchers, from the Houthis and forces allied with them, to a third party and for the new unity government to respect the security, the integrity, and the sanctity of international borders, prohibiting the deployment of weapons from Yemeni territory that threatened international waterways or the security of Yemen’s neighbours.
At a press conference following the meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir explained the rationale behind the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. “We have responded out of necessity. We responded to remove a threat. We responded to protect the legitimate government. We responded under authority of UN resolution. That’s what we did in order to protect Yemen and in order to protect ourselves and our borders.” He underlined that Saudi Arabia has no interest in extending its borders and has no claims on Yemen: “We want a stable, prosperous, secure, peaceful Yemen.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia and reiterated Riyadh’s right to defend against infractions of its border. “We were deeply troubled by the attacks on Saudi territory. We were deeply troubled by the photographs […] showing missiles that had come from Iran that were being positioned on the Saudi border. And we are deeply concerned about missile attacks that have taken place on border towns.” Secretary Kerry explained that Saudi Arabia must be allowed to defend itself against breaches of international law “The threat additionally posed by the shipment of missiles and other sophisticated weapons into Yemen from Iran extends well beyond Yemen. It is not a threat just to Saudi Arabia; it is a threat to the region, it is a threat to the United States, and it cannot continue.”
This respect for international law and the significance of international border is at the heart of the plan for a political solution to the conflict. “The agreement would require the new unity government [of Yemen] to respect the security, the integrity, and the sanctity of international borders, and it would prohibit the deployment of weapons from Yemeni territory that threatened international waterways or the security of Yemen’s neighbors,” Secretary Kerry stated.
Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir insisted that Saudi-led forces were doing everything within their power to avoid civilian casualities: “Where there have been reports of such casualties, we have a mechanism to investigate. We review our operations; we review our procedures in order to ensure that civilian casualties are minimized. That’s what the international community and law requires, and that’s what we go by. We have no interest in creating animosity with the Yemeni people.”
Both Mr Al-Jubeir and Secretary Kerry agreed on the need to bring the war to an end in a way that protects the rights and the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia and the surrounding region and does not require a compromise on any country’s security.