Between hope and fear: Fresh prospects for a resolution of the Yemen conflict?

Children near Aden in Yemen

Children near Aden in Yemen, © UN OCHA

19.12.2019 - Article

During the last few weeks there has finally been some movement in the entrenched conflict. Germany is supporting the return to the political process.

Shift in attitude of the parties to the conflict

To date, neither the internationally recognised Government of Yemen nor the Houthi rebels have been able to gain the upper hand militarily. Since the summer, a shift seems to be taking place in the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which supports Yemen’s Government: no party to the conflict still believes that the conflict can be resolved by military means. The United Arab Emirates has withdrawn most of its troops from the country. Saudi Arabia is conducting direct talks with the Houthi rebels, which among other things has resulted in an exchange of prisoners, a marked reduction in air strikes as well as a suspension to attacks on Saudi Arabia’s territory.

Further fragmentation of the country prevented

In November, Saudi Arabia had mediated an agreement between Yemen’s Government and the Southern Transition Council (STC), which is seeking independence or autonomy for southern parts of the country. Among other things, the agreement provides for the formation of a new government in which the political forces from the south would play a part. This prevented the further breakdown of the country – even if the agreement has not been fully implemented so far. The developments of the last few months have created key conditions for the restoration of trust between the parties to the conflict and their backers.

Revival of the political process

The aim now should be a nationwide ceasefire to mark the start of the resumption of a political process. To this end, the German Government is supporting the resumption of talks between the parties to the conflict under the auspices of the United Nations, which take into account the interests of all Yemenites.

Stockholm Agreement: Not yet fully implemented, but partial successes

In December 2018, Houthi rebels and Yemen’s Government agreed in direct talks to a ceasefire in the province of Hodeidah, a demilitarisation of the port city of Hodeidah, a large-scale exchange of prisoners and the formation of a local dialogue forum for all parties in the city of Taiz. To date, the agreement has only been partially implemented. However, the ceasefire in the province of Hodeidah has largely been respected. In the city of Hodeidah, observation posts have been set up, which are manned by representatives of the parties to the conflict and the United Nations. This is especially important because the port of Hodeidah plays a key role in the supply of food and medicine as well as humanitarian goods to the country.

Humanitarian disaster

The Yemen conflict is described by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian disaster of our time. The hostilities are having a dramatic impact on the civilian population and the humanitarian situation is continuing to worsen. More than 80 percent of the population, more than 24 million people, need humanitarian assistance. The food situation is extremely difficult: 20 million people have been hit by food insecurity, while around 250,000 are in acute danger of dying of starvation.

What is Germany doing to help?

Germany is supporting the UN’s efforts to find a political solution financially, politically and in humanitarian terms. Key to Germany’s engagement is the resumption of political talks between representatives of all Yemenites under the auspices of the United Nations.

In Berlin last January, a new fund – the Peace Support Facility for Yemen – was set up at the invitation of Foreign Minister Maas. This will make it possible to provide the financial and technical means required so urgently to implement the agreements reached by the parties. The first measures to reconstruct the ports in and near Hodeidah have already been funded. With commitments of 275 million euros in 2019, Germany is one of the biggest donors to Yemen in the field of humanitarian assistance, stabilisation and development cooperation.


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