UN envoy to discuss peace with Yemen’s president in Riyadh

UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrives for a meeting with the president of the Huthi Revolutionary Committee in Sanaa on November 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 November 2018

UN envoy to discuss peace with Yemen’s president in Riyadh

  • Humanitarian organizations are desperate to see the current peace push translate into a more permanent halt to four-year war
  • Previous talks broke down in 2016, when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait failed to yield a deal and left rebel delegates stranded in Oman.

SANAA: UN envoy Martin Griffiths met a Yemeni militia leader in insurgent-held Sanaa on Saturday and is to follow up by holding talks in Riyadh with Yemen’s government in a drive to relaunch a peace process.

In a possible breakthrough despite skepticism on the government side, the envoy has said he has opened a dialogue with Houthi militia officials on “how the UN could contribute to keeping the peace” in the key port city of Hodeida.

A UN source said Griffiths will hold talks on Monday in the Saudi capital, where Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and other officials have taken up residence.

He arrived in the capital on Wednesday ahead of planned peace talks in Sweden in December between the Iran-aligned Shiite Houthi rebels and pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.

No date has yet been set for the negotiations.

The UN-recognized government had not yet received “any information from UN envoy Martin Griffiths about the talks in Sweden and what is to be discussed,” Rajeh Badi, a government spokesman, said on Friday.

“We are certain that the Houthi rebels have not yet taken a strategic and serious decision about peace,” he said. 

“They (Houthis) will not let go of their weapons. They would tell us: ‘You’re dreaming if you think we’re going to disarm.’”

Griffiths, however, struck a positive note on Friday during his first visit to Hodeida.

“I am here to tell you today that we have agreed that the UN should now pursue actively and urgently detailed negotiations for a leading UN role in the port,” he said.

Griffiths urged Yemen’s warring parties to “keep the peace” in the rebel-held Red Sea port city, which serves as the entry point of nearly all imports and humanitarian aid into the impoverished country.

Humanitarian organizations are desperate to see the current peace push translate into a more permanent halt to Yemen’s four-year war.

The current peace push is the biggest since 2016. In September, UN-led peace talks faltered when the Houthis refused to travel to Geneva, accusing the world body of failing to guarantee their delegation’s return to Sanaa or secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.

Previous talks broke down in 2016, when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait failed to yield a deal and left rebel delegates stranded in Oman for three months. 

The Arab coalition joined the conflict to bolster Hadi a year after the Houthis captured Sanaa.


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 25 January 2020

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.