Yemenis mull prospects for peace in 2020

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Life has been hard since war first erupted in late 2014 and Yemenis are hoping this year would bring peace and relief from the hardships the conflict has wrought. (AFP)
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A Yemeni competes in a local camel race on the outskirts of Yemen’s second city of Aden. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Yemenis mull prospects for peace in 2020

  • The majority of Yemenis seek peace and security since they were affected by the war

AL-MUKALLA/YEMEN: Abu Saleh, a 30-year-old barber, has one wish for the new year: That the continuing cycle of violence that started when the Iran-backed Houthis seized power in late 2014 comes to an end, and that peace and stability prevail in Yemen.
“When the war stops, the currency will recover, people will receive their salaries and we’ll work,” Abu Saleh, who prefers to be known by his nickname, told Arab News.
In 2019, fighting largely decreased on major battlefields across Yemen as the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement between the internationally recognized government and the Houthis managed to defuse a major military offensive aimed at Hodeidah city on the Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia also brokered a power-sharing deal between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council.
But the economic crisis persisted as the Yemeni riyal continued to plunge, pushing up fuel and food prices. Abu Saleh’s job has been greatly affected by the war, and he has had to work from morning to late evening to make ends meet.
“I’m not educated, but I can tell you that things would be better if peace prevails,” he said with a smile as he was cutting a child’s hair.
When he travels from the city of Al-Mukalla in Hadhramaut governorate, which is under government control, to the Houthi-controlled northern governorate of Ibb, he passes through contested areas where warring factions stop him for questioning.
“We don’t want anyone to give us money or jobs. We want peace. Yemenis are resilient, used to hardships, and don’t depend on their government,” Abu Saleh said.
This year, he hopes to finish building his house in Ibb, where his large family lives. “I’m the breadwinner for 17 people. Life is tough, and people who see me smiling think I’m happy,” he said.
Aisha Al-Juaidy, a Yemeni human rights and peace activist, seems more positive about 2020. This month she will settle in Cairo, where she will pursue her life’s dream of studying political science.
“I hope the war stops, airports reopen and normal life is restored,” she told Arab News. “My generation was raised with this crisis.”

We don’t want anyone to give us money or jobs. We want peace. Yemenis are resilient, used to hardships, and don’t depend on their government.

Abu Saleh, a Yemeni national

Al-Juaidy dreams of seeing her country as peaceful, prosperous and stable as other countries. She blames foreign interference for the exacerbation of violence in Yemen.
“I hope external interventions are directed in the interest of the country. All parties should realize the scale of war losses, and should work together to stop it,” she said. “I hope there will be real opportunities for women and youth for peacemaking.”
In November 2019, the Saudi-led coalition released 200 Houthis to boost peace efforts. The Houthis reciprocated by releasing six Saudis in December.
Qayes Al-Dowani, a teacher from the village of Sah in Hadhramaut, who watched the prisoner exchange, hopes for a wider settlement that could end the war. “It seems there’s a common desire to stop the war, which has exhausted the people,” he told Arab News.
In Switzerland, Nabel Al-Osaidi, a member of the Yemen Union Syndicate Council who left Yemen in 2015, seems less optimistic about an outright halt to hostilities in 2020.
He said the crisis is complicated, and without an agreement between non-Yemeni players, the country will not be stable.
“The war has exhausted Yemenis, raised poverty rates, and spread dangerous diseases and famine. The majority of Yemenis seek peace and security since they were affected by the war,” he added.
In Aden, Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed said he hopes 2020 will witness the end of the Houthi coup and the fixing of services in government-controlled areas.
“We are confidently looking forward to 2020 as the year of the great victory for Yemen and its people ending the coup, and the restoration of the state,” he wrote in an op-ed published on Thursday.


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 21 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”