Saudi initiative gives Yemen a realistic chance of peace

“We want the guns to fall completely silent,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said. (AFP)
“We want the guns to fall completely silent,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said. (AFP)
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Updated 29 March 2021

Saudi initiative gives Yemen a realistic chance of peace

Saudi initiative gives Yemen a realistic chance of peace
  • Kingdom’s proposal is the latest in a long line of GCC and UN efforts to end the protracted conflict
  • The Saudi proposal includes a cease-fire, humanitarian cooperation and economic concessions

RIYADH, DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has led repeated attempts to reach a comprehensive political resolution to the war in Yemen between the UN-recognized government in Aden and the Iran-aligned Houthi militia occupying Sanaa.

Time and again since the outbreak of the war in 2014, officials in Riyadh have sought a non-military solution to the crisis on Saudi Arabia’s southern border that has left civilians, commercial shipping and oil infrastructure in the line of fire.

But with Iran using the Houthis — also known as Ansar Allah — as a proxy army to advance its regional aims, the war in Yemen has raged for six long years now, leaving 112,000 dead and 24 million in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

“We want the guns to fall completely silent,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in Riyadh on Monday, announcing the latest initiative, which includes a cease-fire, humanitarian cooperation and economic concessions.

“It’s a political solution to make Yemen safe. However, the timeframe is up to the Houthis now. They have to decide: Will they put the interest of Yemen first or … the interests of Iran?”




The Saudi initiative includes humanitarian cooperation and economic concessions. (AFP)

The seeds of conflict were sown as far back as 2011, when peaceful anti-government protests in Yemen escalated and the country of 23 million people descended into chaos.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stepped in to mediate. In November that year, then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a GCC initiative in Riyadh agreeing to a transition of power to his Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi during an interim period leading to elections.

In December 2012, a breakthrough agreement was announced on the allocation of seats for a proposed National Dialogue Conference (NDC).

By April 2013, the NDC began as part of the GCC initiative, gathering 565 delegates from across Yemen’s political spectrum.

In September 2014, the UN Security Council (UNSC) welcomed the Peace and National Partnership Agreement to stabilize the situation in Yemen.




The initiative also calls for the depositing of taxes and custom revenues for ships carrying oil derivatives to the port of Hodeidah in the joint account of the Central Bank of Yemen in Hodeidah. (AFP)

Just when it seemed that conflict had been averted, the Houthis, with Saleh’s assistance, seized the capital Sanaa on Sept. 21, 2014, under the pretext of fighting corruption and fuel price increases.

In January 2015, the Houthis forced Hadi to resign and placed him under house arrest. The following month, he escaped and fled to the southern port city of Aden, where he vowed to resist the Houthi coup.

But by mid-March, the Houthis had advanced to the outskirts of Aden, now the interim capital.

Staring defeat in the face, Yemen’s government was forced to call on the international community to help turn the tide.
 




Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. (AFP)

While Yemeni troops held back the advance, a Saudi-led coalition, backed by multiple global and regional actors, launched aerial attacks on Houthi positions, reversing the militia’s gains.

In April, the UNSC passed resolution 2216, demanding that the Houthis withdraw from Sanaa, disarm and allow Yemen’s government to return to Sanaa.

An arms embargo was imposed and Houthi leaders were placed under sanctions. In parallel, Oman issued a seven-point Muscat Peace Plan.

In May, Saudi Arabia hosted the Riyadh Conference, where pro-government factions met in an effort to salvage the federal state of Yemen and the NDC outcomes.

In June, Preliminary Inclusive Consultations took place in Geneva between the Houthis and Yemen’s government.

During the second half of 2015, Yemeni forces with coalition backing were able to make significant gains in Aden, Abyan, Shabwa and other key areas of the south.

By December, a second round of negotiations was scheduled to begin in Geneva, but after significant delays, the talks eventually broke down.

At the beginning of 2016, as the fighting raged on, the UN launched a failed attempt to bring the Houthis and Yemen’s government to the table.

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti track of peace talks ended in deadlock. In October that year, the “Quad” — comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK and the US — announced a new roadmap.

Following three years of military stalemate, the Saudi-led coalition launched a major offensive in June 2018, making significant advances on the western port city of Hodeidah. In September, the Geneva consultations were finally cancelled.

Yemen’s government suspended its offensive in December under a peace deal with the Houthis known as the Stockholm Agreement, resulting in preliminary agreements on the situations of Taiz and Hodeidah as well as a prisoner release.

 




The war in Yemen has raged for six long years now, leaving 112,000 dead and 24 million in dire need of humanitarian assistance. (AFP/File)

The Houthis soon violated the deal, however, after targeting government forces in Hodeidah and shelling residential areas.

Then, in the second half of 2019, the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) purged Yemen’s government from Aden after fierce clashes.

In November, Saudi Arabia helped broker a power-sharing agreement between the government and the STC known as the Riyadh Agreement, designed to defuse hostilities in southern Yemen.

Early 2020 arrived with a devastating Houthi missile strike on a military training camp in the central province of Marib, which killed 110 and sparked fierce clashes. By that spring, the Houthis were again making gains.

In April, the Hadi government and the coalition announced a unilateral truce in Yemen to enable health workers to contain the coronavirus pandemic. That October, the warring factions swapped hundreds of prisoners.

Any goodwill was short-lived, however. Iran inflamed the situation by announcing the arrival of its envoy to Sanaa.

Then in December, after President Hadi announced a new government alongside the STC under the terms of the Riyadh Agreement, Houthi missiles rained down on Aden airport, killing more than 25.

So far this year, the situation has shown little sign of improvement, with a fresh Houthi offensive on Marib, an escalation in drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, and famine stalking Yemen’s northwest.




In January 2015, the Houthis forced Hadi to resign and placed him under house arrest. (AFP)

In yet another attempt to end hostilities and put an end to civilian suffering, the Kingdom has announced its Yemen Peace Plan, which entails a comprehensive cease-fire under UN supervision, set to begin once the Houthis accept the initiative.

“It’s an initiative that gives the Houthis a chance to end the bloodshed,” Prince Faisal said. “It will be executed if they announce their acceptance of it.”

The initiative falls in line with the earlier talks in Biel, Geneva, Kuwait and Stockholm. Beyond the cease-fire, the initiative also calls for the depositing of taxes and custom revenues for ships carrying oil derivatives to the port of Hodeidah in the joint account of the Central Bank of Yemen in Hodeidah, in accordance with the Stockholm Agreement.

It also allows for the reopening of Sanaa International Airport to a number of direct regional and international destinations, and the start of consultations between the Yemeni parties to reach a political resolution to the crisis under UN auspices.

These are to be based on UNSC resolution 2216, the Gulf initiative and the outcomes of Yemeni national dialogue.

“We’ve seen before that the Kingdom proposed solutions and cease-fires,” said Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman. “The Houthis didn’t take the benefit.”

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‘Let’s Make it Green’ campaign plants 10 million trees across Saudi Arabia

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
Updated 11 min 20 sec ago

‘Let’s Make it Green’ campaign plants 10 million trees across Saudi Arabia

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
  • Efforts will continue to plant more trees, in line with the ‘Green Saudi’ and ‘Green Middle East’ initiatives

RIYADH: A campaign to plant 10 million trees in 165 sites across the Kingdom to develop vegetation cover and limit desertification has been successfully completed.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and the National Center for Vegetation Cover announced the success of the “Let’s Make it Green” campaign that was launched in October 2020. 

The campaign covered all of the Kingdom’s 13 provinces. The Eastern Province topped the list with more than 2.6 million trees planted, followed by more than 2.1 million in Madinah, over 1.3 million in Makkah, around 1 million in both Jazan and Riyadh, 462,000 in Qassim, and 270,000 in Asir.

Baha reached nearly 300,000, and more than 142,000 trees were planted in the Northern Border, followed by Jouf with more than 113,000, then Hail with about 85,000, Tabuk with over 75,000, and finally Najran with nearly 52,000 trees.

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)

The CEO of the center, Dr. Khaled Al-Abd Al-Qader, said that the campaign planted endangered trees and shrubs in areas that were environmentally degraded due to overgrazing, logging, uprooting, and urban sprawl.

“The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation,” he added.

The ministry ensured that the campaign was aligned with sustainability and water conservation requirements and by using treated wastewater or seawater for irrigation, in line with the best international practices.

The center and ministry worked in cooperation with various governmental authorities, private sector organizations, environmental associations, and community groups.

Minister of Water, Environment and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadli said: “What we have accomplished is the result of the support and directions of the Saudi leadership to make the Kingdom a pioneer in protecting the Earth, achieve the international objectives in protecting the environment, increase the vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and preserve marine life.”

Efforts will continue to plant more trees, in line with the “Green Saudi” and “Green Middle East” initiatives, he added.

Al-Qader said that the “Let’s Make it Green” campaign has recovered biodiversity, rehabilitated degraded vegetation cover sites, promoted positive behaviors to preserve the nation’s environment and improve the quality of life in Saudi Arabia.


Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time
Updated 27 min 50 sec ago

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

MAKKAH: More than 11,000 volunteers in Asir region have donated more than 2 million hours of their time as part of an initiative that aims to encourage people to get involved in their communities, in particular with efforts to tackle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nashama Asir initiative was launched last Ramadan to boost voluntary work and raise awareness in the region of its importance, in support of government efforts to increase participation.

“It was launched by the Coronavirus Crisis Management Chamber in Asir, under the leadership and vision of Asir Gov. Prince Turki bin Talal,” Nasser Qmeshan, who is supervising the initiative, told Arab News.

“It came as a response to the significant societal readiness to assist the government in its efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic and its repercussions.”

It was necessary to develop a strategy, identify targets and set up a mechanism to ensure the efficient implementation of the project, he added. The strategy that was developed by the chamber included a vision for the initiative, specific fields of work, and clear goals.

“Those able to provide ideas, financial support or volunteer services in certain health, economic and social fields can apply through the initiative’s website,” said Qmeshan. “The site was visited by about 4,000 people in the first week after the initiative was announced.”

“Hundreds of activities not requiring assistance — such as financial support, in-kind support and physical preparation — were referred to the bodies that would directly benefit from them,” said Qmeshan.

“As for those that required assistance, a project was set up, partners were identified and approached, an action plan was developed, and standards were set along with performance indicators and launch mechanisms.”

HIGHLIGHT

  • The Nashama Asir initiative was launched last Ramadan to boost voluntary work and raise awareness in the region of its importance, in support of government efforts to increase participation.
  • Specific projects included the provision of quarantine facilities, hygiene tools, and food baskets for families and employees who were struggling as a result of the pandemic, along with fundraising support.

Specific projects included the provision of quarantine facilities, hygiene tools, and food baskets for families and employees who were struggling as a result of the pandemic, along with fundraising support.

In response to the initiative 11,077 people volunteered to help and so far they have carried out 2,008,841 hours of work.

Some of the activities were technical in nature, Qmeshan said, such as one “where a qualified group of young Saudi volunteers helped with maintenance work at family homes during the lockdown period.

“The requests for this service were processed automatically and the service was provided free of charge, while taking into consideration all precautionary health measures,” he added.

The initiative also helped to improve awareness of health and security issues among the residents of Asir region. Announcements and advice from the health and security authorities were translated into a number of languages, for example, and volunteers supported the work of the healthcare sector by highlighting the importance of social distancing and other precautions to slow the spread of the disease. They also provided healthy meals for workers during Ramadan, along with other types of community assistance.

Another project is helping municipalities implement pandemic precautions in markets and shopping centers. “The implementation of this project will start with the reopening of markets by the end of the holy month of Ramadan,” said Qmeshan.

A specialized, medical-manufacturing project was proposed to develop and manufacture spare parts for ventilators, along with various types of protective equipment, using 3D printers in engineering laboratories at King Khalid University.

Qmeshan said that dozens of officials and tribal delegations, including princes, ministers, tribal sheikhs and social figures, have visited the initiative’s operations center.


83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches
Updated 23 April 2021

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

JEDDAH: Authorities in Jeddah have shut down 83 commercial outlets for breaching coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols.
Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.
The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 4,166 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities and identified 116 violations for issues related to overcrowding and the failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app. Authority officials in the Red Sea port city urged people to report any suspected breaches of COVID-19 regulations to the 940 call-center number.


KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe
Updated 23 April 2021

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

RIYADH: The King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) organized an expert forum on combating hate speech in collaboration with religious institutions and other organizations.
The meeting was held in cooperation with the European Council of Religious Leaders, the Religions for Peace in Europe, and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The consultation aimed to explore pathways and efforts to combat hate speech in Europe by strengthening ties between religious and political entities and civil society.


Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers 423 tons of dates to WFP in Jordan

Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers 423 tons of dates to WFP in Jordan
Updated 23 April 2021

Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers 423 tons of dates to WFP in Jordan

Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers 423 tons of dates to WFP in Jordan

AMMAN: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) delivered 423 tons of dates to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) headquarters in Jordan. 
Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi signed the shipment’s memorandum of delivery that was received by Alberto Correia Mendes, the WFP’s regional director.
Al-Sudairi said that the KSrelief donation to the WFP is part of the Kingdom’s commitment to its international obligations to support the needy wherever they are, noting that this project comes in continuation to the support provided by the Kingdom to its brothers in Jordan.