Riyadh Agreement sends a message of peace

Riyadh Agreement sends a message of peace

Representatives of Yemen’s government and the Southern Transitional Council after signing a Saudi Arabian-brokered deal to end a power struggle in the southern port of Aden. (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia seeks the safety, security and stability of Yemen. That is what has propelled it to help its southern neighbor for many decades.

Saudi Arabia led the Arab coalition in Yemen at the invitation of the country’s internationally recognized legitimate government. The primary and ultimate goal of the coalition was, and still is, to restore the legitimate government to power in Sanaa and to reverse the coup carried out by the Iran-aligned Houthis.

The power-sharing deal agreed last week between the legitimate government headed by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) headed by Aidarus Al-Zoubaidi underscores the importance and effectiveness of Saudi Arabia in bringing together the different Yemeni factions. Called the Riyadh Agreement, the deal envisages an equal number of ministries (12 each) for each of the two sides.

The agreement was a result of painstaking efforts by Saudi Arabia, during which the Kingdom’s leadership worked quietly and diligently to thrash out all the differences between the two groups. The negotiations took place in Jeddah and ultimately culminated in the signing ceremony in Riyadh in the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, succeeded in making the Yemeni factions see the futility of their infighting, which was only benefiting the major aggressor, the Houthis. Saudi Arabia underlined to both sides that they needed to unite so that they could get back their entire state. The infighting had led to distractions and taken the focus away from the fight against the Houthis.

In the final analysis, the two parties realized that their main objective was to take on the Houthis and neutralize the militia’s coup against the legitimate government. It is good the two parties understood that the real battle is with the Houthis and that they came together for a political reconciliation for the greater good of Yemen. The takeaway message for the international community is that Saudi Arabia possesses the required capacity and political weight to bring the different Yemeni parties to the negotiating table.

Saudi Arabia has a history of solving problems in the region. The Taif Agreement that ended the Lebanese Civil War comes immediately to mind. More recently, the Kingdom also played peacemaker between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Saudi Arabia’s prime concern is to see a peaceful and stable region. It has, therefore, always taken steps in the direction of peace.

The international community must understand that there is only one party in Yemen that does not want peace and that is the Houthis. They don’t want dialogue. They want to continue to hold the Yemeni people hostage at the barrel of a gun. They do not want a political solution to the armed crisis they created.

The international community should force the Houthis to give up their illegal campaign against the people of Yemen and to abide by international covenants and charters.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

The Houthis must accept the political solution and the Riyadh Agreement shows the best way forward. The message to the international community is that the region is capable of solving its own problems and that we in the region are seeking a solution. This was the main purpose of the coalition going into Yemen.

The international community should force the Houthis to give up their illegal campaign against the people of Yemen and to abide by international covenants and charters. The Houthis must comply with UN Security Council resolution 2216 that calls for them to hand over their weapons, withdraw from the cities they occupy and come to the table to thrash out the political issues. Failing that, they will continue to be seen as a thorn in the side of peace.

  • Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar. Twitter: @DrHamsheri
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