Yemeni government rejects latest UN peace plan draft

Yemeni government rejects latest UN peace plan draft
Houthi supporters gather in Sanaa in support of the Yemen’s armed Houthi movement and its political allies, in Sanaa, Yemen. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 July 2020

Yemeni government rejects latest UN peace plan draft

Yemeni government rejects latest UN peace plan draft
  • The plan gives legitimacy to the coup that Houthis plotted in late 2014, says a government official

AL-MUKALLA: The internationally recognized government of Yemen claims that the latest draft of a peace plan submitted by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths is biased toward the Iran-backed Houthis and “undermines” the government’s legitimacy, three government officials told Arab News on Thursday.
“The proposal suggests accepting the current situation and the changes on the ground including Houthis as an armed group,” one Cabinet minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arab News. The minister said the main “bone of contention” is “three references that the UN envoy wants to convince everyone are irrelevant” — namely the GCC Initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, and Security Council Resolution 2216.
Another government official said the latest draft of the peace plan includes a nationwide truce and demands that the government pays public servants. The official said that the government believes those items contradict the “three references” that oblige the Houthis to hand over their weapons, leave Sana’a and other areas under their control, and allow the government to return to the capital.
“The plan gives legitimacy to the coup that Houthis plotted in late 2014. The fait-accompli policy cannot give international legitimacy to the putschists,” the second government official said. The government also believes that the Houthis should share the cost of paying government salaries, claiming the Iran-backed militia has taken large sums of money from seaports, banks and telecom companies.
A third senior government official told Arab News that the Houthis should be required to stop executing their opponents and seizing their properties in Sanaa, to release detainees, and to open Sanaa airport and Hodeida port.
“The problem is that the UN Yemen envoy is sometimes not a mediator. He supports the demand of the Houthis,” the third official said.
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadrami said on Wednesday that the government rejected the latest draft of the peace plan and would abide by the previous draft, which did not include the controversial points.
Griffiths refutes the government’s accusations, saying the proposed peace plan asks all parties to cease hostilities and immediately engage in talks based on the three references, which he described in an interview with UN News as “the only way to break with the violence of the past and end this conflict comprehensively and sustainably.”
Griffiths recognized that major issues between the two sides remain, but said: “There are always points of convergence that a mediation process can build on. Yemen is no different. We will continue to work with the parties to find a consensual path forward to achieve these mutual goals and pave the way for bringing this conflict to a sustainable end.”
Without specifically naming the Houthis, Griffiths called for rebels to immediately halt offensives in the provinces of Jawf and Marib. “The continued assault on Marib is unacceptable. I am afraid this assault could seriously undermine the prospects of peace in Yemen,” he said.
Several previous rounds of peace talks between the government and Houthis in Geneva, Biel and Kuwait have failed. The government insists that the Houthis must disarm before they can share power, while the Houthis wish to discuss power-sharing and other political arrangements before withdrawing from cities under their control.
Houthi missiles
The provincial office of the Ministry of Human Rights in Marib said in a statement that 244 ballistic missiles and Katyusha rockets fired by the Houthis since early 2015 have killed 251 civilians — including 25 children and 12 women — and wounded 438 others, including 47 children and eight women.

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
Updated 23 January 2021

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts

UN envoy calls for greater sense of urgency in Syrian peace efforts
  • Geir Pederson wants enhanced international diplomacy, and tighter focus on progress in drafting new constitution
  • The fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee begins in Geneva on Monday

NEW YORK: Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, on Friday called for “more serious and cooperative” international diplomacy as part of political efforts to improve the lives of the Syrian people and develop a vision for the future of their country.

Speaking ahead of the fifth session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which begins on Monday in Geneva, he also urged committee members to focus their efforts and work more effectively to speed up progress on constitutional reform.

Pedersen expressed hope that much-needed international engagement with the peace process is now possible.

“After all, despite the differences, key states are continuing to reaffirm their commitment to Resolution 2254,” he added, referring to the UN Security Council resolution, adopted in 2015, that calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

Pedersen, who briefed the Security Council this week on the latest developments, highlighted the fact that five foreign armies are active in Syria and “violations of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity (have been) going on for years.”

Although the ceasefire agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in the northwest of the country resulted in a de-escalation of hostilities, Pedersen warned that this relative calm remains fragile.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) 

“All of these issues cannot be sorted out by the Syrians alone,” he said. (They) need an international cooperation (and) a real exchange of views (among all parties).

“If that political will is lacking it would be very, very difficult to move this process forward ... if you leave this to the UN alone, we will not be able to succeed.”

Top on the agenda on Monday will be discussion of the basic principles of the Syrian constitution. Pedersen said he has been meeting with the two co-chairs of the committee on a regular basis, and has also had intensive discussions with the “Middle Third” civil-society group, which includes society activists and experts and other independents from inside and outside of Syria.

His experiences during the past year, he said, lead him to believe there is potential for finding common ground. No single actor or group of actors can impose its will on Syria or settle the conflict alone — they must work together, he added.

The time has now come for the co-chairs of the Constitutional Committee to organize and focus its efforts by establishing “more effective and operational working methods,” Pedersen said, so that they can begin to move forward from preparing constitutional reforms to actually drafting them, and agreeing on clear agendas and discussion topics for future meetings.

“There needs to be more urgency (in) delivering progress in this process,” he added.

As he saluted the work of civil society groups and “all the Syrians who do what they can to improve the situation on the ground and support a political process,” Pedersen singled out women in particular for praise. He has been particularly proactive in seeking input from the Women’s Advisory Board.

“It is a priority for all of us to make sure that we have full participation of Syrian women in the political process,” he said. “(Promoting) their core constitutional rights is central for me, as the facilitator of the work of the Constitutional Committee.”

Asked about plans for large-scale prisoner swaps, Pedersen said that although this is not on the agenda for the talks in Geneva this week, it is always part of his own agenda. The disappointment over the lack of progress on the issue so far means “that we should work even harder” on it, he added.

“This is a file that really has an impact on nearly every Syrian family, and it needs to be addressed,” he said. “(I) have appealed (for) more information on the missing. (We) need to see the early release of women, children, the elderly and the sick, and I think (nothing) should stop that from happening.”

The members of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee are due to arrive in Geneva on Saturday, and Pedersen will consult with the co-chairs over the weekend before the main talks begin on Monday.

Asked whether he expects this latest round of negotiations to be a success for the UN, Pedersen said: “I really do not think this is the question; the question (is) whether it is a success for the Syrian people and (their) aspirations.

“My hope has been that the Constitutional Committee, if it is handled in the correct manner, could start to build trust and (be) a door-opener for a broader political process.

“But the (committee) cannot work in isolation ... we need political will from the different parties to be able to move forward.”

He added: “The (committee) is just one aspect, and it is not the one aspect that will solve the Syrian crisis. If we are to see changes in the situation on the ground, there are other factors that need to be discussed.”