Al Houthi Intransigence Scuppers Peace Efforts in Oman

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Rebels strongly opposed fresh proposals which includepulling out of the western portcity of Hodeida.

The Omani and UN diplomatic efforts to forge a peace settlement between the internationally-recognised government and Al Houthi movement or at least striking a lasting truce during the month of Ramadan have apparently reached a deadlock as the rebels strongly opposed fresh proposals which include pulling out of the western port city of Hodeida, analysts said.

Last week, meetings between Omani officials and Yemen foreign minister rekindled hopes for bringing back warring factions to negotiation table again.

“What is happening nowadaysoutside Yemen is an effort by some countries to find middle ground that could lead to signing a peace deal,” Ali Al Fakih, the editor of Al Masdar newspaper, told Gulf News.

Several peace talks in Geneva and Kuwait in the past failed to reach an agreement that could end more than two years of conflict.

Government officials say that the current discussions in Oman and other locations focus on mounting pressure on Al Houthis to exit the western city of Hodeida in exchange for stopping an imminent military operation.

“The strong remark by Al Houthi-Saleh government on the proposal shows that discussions in Oman have failed to convince them to pull out of Hodeida. They also aggressively attacked the UN envoy for brining up that suggestion.” Al Fakih said.

For months, Yemen president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition, who have the upper hand on the ground, have threatenedto storm the city of Hodeida, accusing the rebels of turning its strategic seaport into an entry point for arms and using its revenues in their military efforts.

The United Nations envoy for Yemen, Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad, said at a Security Council briefing last week that his current efforts yielded “averting military action in Hodeida”.

Yasser Al Yafae, a political analyst based in the southern city of Aden, told Gulf News that the current diplomatic activities in Oman is aimed at reviving peace talks after Hadi’s government agreed to Al Houthi withdrawal from Hodeida as a gesture that would pave the way for a larger peace deal.

“Al Houthis would not pull out of Hodeida as this is their last major finance lifeline. Losing revenues from Hodeida would prevent them from funding their military activities,”Al Yafae said.

He said the UN envoy has taken two advance steps; first byblasting Al Houthi movement and supporters of the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh for not meeting him in Sana’a and then proposing to handing over Hodeida seaport to a neutral party which could include the UN.

“In the past, the UN refused to put the seaport under its supervision.”

Analysts say Hadi’s government and the Saudi-led coalition have many cards to put pressure on Al Houthis to make concessions.

Government forces are in almost full control of western coastline in Taiz and managed to secure the strategic BabAl Mandab Strait from the rebels.

Government forces are making freshgains in Taiz and in Sana’a’s Nehim district.

The rebels are coming underhuge pressure from public servants who have not been paid for several months.

– Source: Gulf News

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