Weeklong Ceasefire In Yemen Ahead Of Peace Talks In Geneva — Enough To End The Civil War In The Region?

A weeklong ceasefire in Yemen is set to begin on Monday. The seven days of peace have been brokered to start a day before the peace talks begin in Geneva, Switzerland. The U.N sponsored talks will be attended by senior officials from both sides of the gruesome civil war that has ravaged the region and claimed almost 6,000 lives.

A day prior to the scheduled peace talks in Switzerland, a ceasefire has been agreed upon by both the warring parties in Yemen. Senior leaders from Yemen’s internationally-recognized government and Shiite rebels who have controlled the capital San’a for nearly a year, have jointly agreed not to take up arms for seven days or at least till the direct talks in Geneva continue.

The president of the internationally recognized government, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is expected to order his commanders to cease all firing five minutes before midnight on Monday, shared officials in Mr. Hadi’s office, on condition of anonymity, reported the Wall Street Journal. One of the high-level attendees is Yemen’s new Foreign Minister, Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, who will also lead Hadi’s delegation to the U.N. talks. Confirming the ceasefire, he said the following.

“We are going to the talks with serious intentions and we hope that the other side to abide by that.”

Meanwhile, as the Houthi delegation prepared to depart for Geneva, Mohammed Abdel Salam, the spokesman of the Shiite rebels known as Houthis, confirmed the ceasefire at a live news conference in San’a, saying the following.

“Based on what had been agreed upon, there will be a halt of the aggression on the 14th of this month. We have agreed to the cease-fire to lift the suffering of our people and to deliver humanitarian assistance to them.”

The long-drawn civil war has been fought between Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and Hadi’s loyalists. The war was being fought with renewed aggression for the past nine months and has claimed about 6,000 lives, while displacing thousands from their homes in Yemen and neighboring regions.

The Houthis allied with Iranian forces and have engaged forces that are loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s exiled government. The internationally recognized government has been militarily backed by airstrikes and ground forces from a mainly Gulf Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, reported Yahoo.

The exiled Yemeni government has long sought the unconditional implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution finalized April of this year. The resolution calls for complete withdrawal of rebel forces from all the areas they control, in addition to surrendering arms captured in months of fighting. The resolution was approved after the Saudi Arabia-led coalition had launched multiple airstrikes against the Houthi rebels and was supported by Hadi’s government and its troops.

As expected, the Houthi rebels have always viewed the coalition’s military operations in Yemen as sign of direct aggression, but the alliance maintains it intervened only after it was formally requested by Hadi.

Incidentally, while Abdel Salam stated that the Houthi delegation will discuss the resolution at the peace talks in Switzerland while the ceasefire is in effect back in Yemen, the rebels haven’t confirmed their acceptance to its terms. Hence, some regional experts fear these talks could end in a stalemate, which has been the case for the past few years. Incidentally, peace talks held in June had failed to reach any conclusion because both the parties started hurling accusations for not offering any acceptable compromises that would end the conflict. Subsequently in the month of July, the two sides did agree on a ceasefire that lasted for just five days, and even during that time, both sides continued to accusing each other for allegedly violating the mutually agreed upon truce.

It is interesting to note both sides confirmed they are “determined to end the crisis.” Hadi’s administration even added that the ceasefire in Yemen would be subjected to automatically renewal if the Houthis abided by it.

[Photo by Mohammed Huwais/Getty Images]