Leading Yemeni politician suggests 4-point formula to end fighting

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Mohammed Abulahoum at Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
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Mohammed Abulahoum, chairman of Justice and Building Party in Yemen, explained his formula during a talk at Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
Updated 18 April 2017

Leading Yemeni politician suggests 4-point formula to end fighting

JEDDAH: One of Yemen’s leading politicians has called on all parties to put an end to the fighting in his country.
Mohammed Abulahoum, chairman of Justice and Building Party in Yemen, made a series of recommendations during his lecture at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
“Enough of this fighting,” he told Arab News on Monday as he explained his proposals. “Now is the time to get to the table (for talks). Let us put our differences aside and let us go forward.”
He hoped all parties would come to their senses “and deliver something positive to the Yemeni people before the onset of Ramadan.” The holy month begins around May 27.
Abulahoum reiterated that Yemenis have never counted Tehran as an ally.
“Iran has never been, and can never be, an ally of Yemen,” he said. “Our permanent allies have always been, and will always be, the Saudis and the Gulf states.”
During his visit to Washington, Abulahoum met with senior members of the Trump administration.
The lecture at the Middle East Institute was delivered last week and Abulahoum’s message of reconciliation was met with positive response.
Opening the lecture, he said: “I’m not here to defend or attack. My main objective today is to find ways to help ordinary citizens who are affected the most rather than to help the conflicting factions.”
He said Iran had played a negative role in the region. “We can’t deny that they have ambitions in the region and have played a destabilizing role by supporting non-state armed groups,” he said. “Yemenis don’t view Iran as an ally.”
He blamed his country and other regional powers for “mishandling” the situation and inadvertently helping Iran. “Iran’s investment in Yemen is minimal, (but) the return has been high due to us and other regional powers mishandling the situation,” he said.
He said Yemen will always be “either a point of strength or weakness” to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. “It is about time that we all work together to ensure that Yemen is a source of stability — after all, this is the only option we have,” said Abulahoum.
He urged the new US administration to play its part. “The Trump administration has a critical role to play,” he said. “Not only in Yemen but the whole region.”
Addressing the Trump administration directly, he said: “Our region is waiting to see what you will do in an area facing many challenges. You can start by helping Yemen become a success story in an area that desperately needs hope.”
He listed the challenges that stared the region in the face. “There is a humanitarian challenge as a result of hunger,” he said. “If not properly dealt with immediately, we will face a catastrophic situation.”
Then, he said, there is the danger of the expansion of radical groups, such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as a result of fighting and the absence of a state.
“There is no time to waste; Yemenis have suffered enough,” he said. “This conflict has torn the country apart. In order to move forward, we need direct constructive talks with all conflicting groups, including the side led by (Ali Abdullah) Saleh.”
He said one needed to accept the situation in order to move forward. “We might not like the idea of talking to all sides. However, we have to put everything aside and have constructive talks. We need no spoilers,” he said.
The UN special envoy needs the support and pressure from all sides in order to go back into negotiations with the willingness to compromise, he said.
“Here, I suggest we should include Russia, France and China in the Group of 4, plus Oman, since the five members of the UN Security Council have had a united and a positive position since the first day of the conflict in Yemen,” he said.
In the south, he said, the legitimate government has to play a more productive role with all sides and not favor one over the other, especially not favoring the ones that sacrificed most in Aden during liberation.
He suggested a four-point formula to end the fighting. “One, a temporary cease-fire that will allow humanitarian access to all parts of the country on the condition that airstrikes will come to a halt, cross-border fighting and attacks will stop, no missiles will be fired, and that the Houthis will deliver a security plan for Sanaa in no later than 30 days,” he said.
Abulahoum’s second point concerns the port of Hodeidah. “It should be kept open and operate fully for all cargo under UN supervision and the Houthis should pull back from the port to an agreed upon location. After a UN inspection, shipments at the port should be handed to business people who will then distribute them to different parts of the country,” he said, and added: “Any interception by the Houthis will result in the deal being canceled.”
Point No. 3 of the Abulahoum plan is for Sanaa airport to resume flights with clear conditions and satisfactory inspections in order to serve those most in need.
Lastly, the formation of an interim government that will work with the GCC with a clear mandate to focus on reconciliation, stabilizing and preparing the country for elections within a specified time frame.
“These four points should pave the way for going back to the negotiating table with the intent of reaching a political solution that is desperately needed,” added Abulahoum.

Daesh defends final pocket of dying ‘caliphate’ in Syria

Updated 18 February 2019

Daesh defends final pocket of dying ‘caliphate’ in Syria

  • Diehard extremist fighters are now trapped in a patch of territory of less than half a square kilometer in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border
  • Thousands of people have streamed out of the so-called ‘Baghouz pocket’ in recent weeks, but no civilians have made it out in the last three days

OMAR OIL FIELD, Syria: Extremists defending their last dreg of territory in Syria have no choice but to surrender, a Kurdish-led force said on Monday, ahead of a victory declaration expected within days.

The warning by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) comes as EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the repatriation of European nationals in Syria, which Germany said would be “extremely difficult” to do.

Diehard extremist fighters are now trapped in their last patch of territory of less than half a square kilometer in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.

The SDF are moving cautiously on the extremist holdout, saying Daesh is increasingly using civilians as “human shields” to block the advance.

“The clashes are sporadic and very limited,” SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali told AFP on Monday.

“So far there have been no significant changes on the ground,” he said, adding that coalition warplanes have reduced air strikes on Daesh positions over the past two days.

The SDF “are still working on trying to get civilians out,” the spokesman said.

Thousands of people have streamed out of the so-called “Baghouz pocket” in recent weeks, but no civilians have made it out in the last three days.

An informed source told AFP that holdout Daesh fighters are seeking safe passage to the extremist-held city of Idlib in northwestern Syria.

“They want to take the remaining civilians with them as human shields. But the SDF are not willing to discuss this option,” said the source who asked not to be named.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the SDF have turned down the request.

AFP could not confirm this with an SDF official, but a commander with the alliance said that Daesh has no leverage to negotiate.

“They are besieged in a very tight area and they have no other choice but to surrender,” said the SDF commander, who asked not to be named.

The group declared a “caliphate” across large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, which at its height spanned an area the size of United Kingdom.

Successive offensives in both countries have since shattered the proto-state, but the extremist group still retains a presence in Syria’s vast Badia desert and has claimed deadly attacks in SDF-held territory.

After years of fighting Daesh, the Kurdish-led SDF hold hundreds of foreign suspected Daesh fighters, as well as related women and children.

Syria’s Kurds have long urged their home countries to take them back, but these nations have been reluctant.

The issue has taken on greater urgency, however, amid fears of a security vacuum since US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement in December that American troops would withdraw.

The subject is to be raised on Monday at a meeting of European foreign ministers called to discuss among other issues “the situation in Syria, in particular the recent developments on the ground,” according to an agenda for the talks.

The meeting comes after Trump on Sunday called on his European allies to take back their citizens who are being held by the Kurds in Syria.

“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 Daesh fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” Trump said in a tweet.

His appeal sparked a reaction from Berlin, Paris, and Brussels.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that it would be “extremely difficult” to organize the repatriation of European nationals from Syria.

A return could only be possible if “we can guarantee that these people can be immediately sent here to appear in court and that they will be detained,” he said.

Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen stressed the difficulties however of putting the ex-fighters on trial.

“We must be able to ensure that prosecution is possible,” she said.

French junior interior minister Laurent Nunez said Sunday that, if suspected extremists return, “they will all be tried, and incarcerated.”

In Belgium, justice minister Koen Geens called for a collective “European solution.”

Meanwhile, a top Kurdish official called on Europe not to abandon Syrian Kurds.

European powers “have a political and moral responsibility” to the Kurds, Aldar Khalil told AFP in an interview in Paris late Sunday.

The Kurds would seek the protection of Syrian President Bashar Assad if failed by Europe and the United States, he said.