The outgoing United Nations special envoy for Yemen says the warring sides in the Arabian Peninsula have so far failed to hammer out their differences and reach a truce deal, expressing hope that the peace efforts undertaken by Oman will “bear fruit.”
In his final briefing to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Martin Griffiths despite his three-year-long efforts to broker an end to the Saudi-led war on Yemen, the parties to the conflict — namely the Houthi Ansarullah movement and the forces loyal to a former Riyadh-friendly government — “have yet to overcome their differences.”
“I hope very, very much indeed ... that the efforts undertaken by the Sultanate of Oman, as well as others, but the Sultanate of Oman in particular, following my visits to Sana’a and Riyadh, will bear fruit,” the British diplomat told the 15-member council.
A high-ranking Omani government delegation visited the Yemeni capital Sanaa last week, and held talks with the Ansarullah leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.
Mohammad Abdul Salam, the spokesman for the Ansarullah movement, confirmed the visit and said they came to discuss the situation in Yemen on the basis of “good neighborliness and common interests.”
Oman launched its diplomatic efforts after the US and UN envoys for the war-ravaged country failed to make any progress on the peace process, apparently due to the obstinacy of Saudi Arabia.
“Yemeni men, women and children are suffering every day because people with power have missed the opportunities presented to them to make the necessary concessions to end the war,” Griffiths told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.
Importantly, Griffiths had in late May expressed frustration over a lack of progress in the peace talks.
“We have spent a year and a half on things which are relatively simple to describe, the cease-fire, the opening of Sana'a airport, the opening of Hodeida ports, the much-delayed start of the political negotiations,” he said back then.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is yet to announce the replacement for Griffiths, but reports suggest the European Union ambassador to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, and former British diplomat and ex-UN Somalia envoy Nicholas Kay are frontrunners.
Saudi bombing campaign
Saudi Arabia, backed by the Western powers and regional allies, launched the devastating bombing campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with an aim to reinstall the pro-Riyadh government of ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who had resigned months earlier and fled to Riyadh amid the conflict with the Houthi movement.
The protracted war has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and displaced millions of others. It has also destroyed the country’s vital infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, leading to the worst humanitarian crisis.
However, the unwavering resistance shown by Yemen’s Ansarullah movement and the retaliatory strikes at Saudi targets has pushed Riyadh on the back foot.
The kingdom’s embattled Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the mastermind of the Yemen war, especially came under fire at home recently after more than 70 Saudi forces were killed in a successful Yemeni army operation in the southwestern port city of Jizan.
The massive aerial and ground operation by the Yemeni forces, backed by allied fighters from the popular committees, came as a major setback to the Riyadh-led coalition in its war on Yemen.
Yemeni forces managed to seize control of at least 40 sites in the mountainous region, after which the Saudi air force sent warplanes that inflicted damage on their own military equipment.
Yemen’s retaliatory attacks have also reached the Saudi soil, hitting vital targets in the kingdom, including its oil facilities and airports.