Advances in Yemen Peace Process Remain “Difficult and Challenging,” says US Special Envoy
The US special envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, has acknowledged the progress made in the peace process in Yemen over the past 18 months but emphasized that the path forward remains “difficult and challenging.” Lenderking’s comments came during an online briefing hosted by the US State Department, following his recent trip to the Middle East for talks on Yemen.
Restoration of Diplomatic Ties Between Saudi Arabia and Iran
Lenderking highlighted the recent restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs and provides arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. He emphasized the need for Iran to follow through on its commitments regarding Yemen. This includes refraining from smuggling lethal equipment or war equipment into Yemen and supporting a political resolution of the conflict.
The War in Yemen and the Truce Agreement
The war in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, seized the capital city of Sanaa. The conflict has since escalated, leading to cross-border violence. In April 2022, Iran and the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen negotiated a two-month truce agreement, which has been extended twice. Although the truce expired in October last year, it continues to offer hope for a more permanent settlement.
Positive Developments in Yemen
Lenderking highlighted several positive developments in Yemen, including the longest period of deescalation since the war began. Thousands of lives have been saved, cross-border attacks and airstrikes have stopped, and freedom of movement has improved. Commercial flights from Sanaa Airport have also resumed for the first time since 2016.
The Need for a Political Agreement and International Support
Despite these positive developments, Lenderking emphasized that much more is needed to resolve the civil conflict in Yemen. He stressed that only a Yemeni-Yemeni political agreement can durably resolve the conflict. Additionally, a comprehensive recovery and reconstruction effort with strong support from regional and international donors is necessary to address the humanitarian and economic crisis facing Yemenis.
Encouraging the Houthis to Seize the Opportunity for Peace
Lenderking expressed optimism about the prospects for further progress in the peace process and urged the Houthi rebels to seize the opportunity to sit down with the Republic of Yemen government and chart a better future for Yemen.
Four Main Aspects of Ongoing Negotiations
Lenderking outlined four main aspects of the ongoing negotiations. These include commitments to refrain from cross-border attacks, expand commercial capacity at Sanaa Airport, reduce bureaucratic processes for moving oil and humanitarian supplies into Yemen, and facilitate the payment of salaries to Yemeni public-sector workers who have gone without pay since the conflict began.
Salvage Operation of the Safer Oil Tanker
Lenderking praised the UN-led salvage operation to remove more than 1.1 million barrels of oil from the decaying Safer oil tanker. The vessel has been moored off the coast of Yemen since the conflict began, with little maintenance, raising concerns about an environmental catastrophe. While the immediate crisis has been averted, Lenderking highlighted the need for additional funding to complete the scrapping of the Safer.
In conclusion, while there have been positive developments in the peace process in Yemen, the path forward remains challenging. The restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran is seen as a crucial step, and Iran’s commitment to its promises regarding Yemen is essential. A political agreement and international support are necessary to resolve the conflict and address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The ongoing negotiations focus on various aspects, including cross-border attacks, commercial capacity, bureaucratic processes, and salary payments. The salvage operation of the Safer oil tanker has also been praised but requires additional funding to complete. Despite the challenges, there is optimism about the prospects for further progress in the peace process in Yemen.