Yemen conflict cannot be settled through violence, UN envoy tells Arab News

Yemen conflict cannot be settled through violence, UN envoy tells Arab News
People shop for fresh produce in an open-air market in Yemen's third city of Taiz on October 4, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 23 November 2022

Yemen conflict cannot be settled through violence, UN envoy tells Arab News

Yemen conflict cannot be settled through violence, UN envoy tells Arab News
  • Hans Grundberg: Recent Saudi-Houthi talks welcome, engagements at different levels needed in push for peace
  • Since truce expiration, Houthis have launched several drone attacks on Yemeni ports that drew world condemnation

NEW YORK: The UN special envoy for Yemen on Tuesday told Arab News that any attempt to settle the country’s conflict through violence is “unhelpful,” and that a long-term settlement can only be achieved through direct negotiations.

Hans Grundberg was commenting on the Houthi militia’s several drone attacks in the past two months that targeted Yemeni government ports, including one that hit a Greek oil tanker near Al-Dubba oil terminal in Hadramawt governorate.

The Houthis justified the attack as a warning to the government not to use the terminal to export oil. The UN Security Council condemned the attacks.

Similar drone attacks later targeted the Rudum oil terminal, and then the southern Qena port in Shabwah governorate.

This resulted in further condemnation from the UNSC, which called on the Houthis to renew the truce they had abandoned.

Grundberg, who had also condemned these attacks, described the Houthi escalation as “part of the overall elements of the conflict.”

He told Arab News: “My point here is that this conflict needs to be settled through negotiations. And that’s why any attempt to settle the conflict through violent exchange, no matter how that violent exchange takes place, is unhelpful, especially given the fact that we’ve seen a conflict that has lasted for seven to eight years.

“More violence isn’t going to lead to a long-term settlement. That can only be achieved through negotiations, and that’s what we’re pushing for and hope to achieve at a certain moment.”

Grundberg’s comments followed a UNSC meeting on Yemen during which he briefed member states on the latest developments in the war-torn country.

He warned council members that Houthi attacks in recent weeks, by depriving the Yemeni government of its main source of revenue from exporting oil, “have significant economic repercussions.”

He added: “Attacks on oil infrastructure and threats to oil companies undermine the welfare of the entirety of the Yemeni people (and risk) setting off a spiral of military and economic escalation, (and) are prohibited by international humanitarian law.” 

Grundberg also underscored that what he called “a concerning uptick” in incidents in Marib and Taiz, including civilian casualties, demonstrate how fragile the situation remains. 

He again called on parties to “urgently reach an agreement to renew the truce,” and meanwhile “exercise maximum restraint during this critical time.”  

Even though the violent flareups “fortunately” have not escalated into full-fledged war, Grundberg warned that further deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situations hang in the balance. 

Since the two-month UN-brokered truce expired on Oct. 2, the UN has intensified its efforts to try to revive it, while also pushing for a comprehensive settlement.

Grundberg has in the past two months visited Riyadh twice — meeting with Yemeni government and Saudi officials — and Oman, where he met with senior Omani officials and the chief Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam. However, these talks have not produced any breakthroughs.

In the run up to the truce’s expiration, Grundberg had proposed a plan for the extension and expansion of the agreement, which entailed the payment of civil servants’ salaries and pensions.

The Houthis’ demand that their military and security forces be included in the salary payments of civil servants prevented agreement on the deal.

As Grundberg continued with his shuttle diplomacy, there have also been reports of direct talks over the past weeks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, including some facilitated by Oman.

Last month, a Houthi delegation visited the Saudi city of Abha, and a Saudi delegation went to Sanaa.

The Arab Coalition said the delegations visited prisoners of war as part of a confidence-building measure geared toward extending the truce.

“Any direct contact between belligerent parties in any conflict is welcome,” Grundberg told Arab News. “(It) should be encouraged that the parties should talk to each other. Obviously, that can be done in different ways. But what we’re looking for here is an approach which, in the end, requires a process under the UN auspices.

“So any talks that are carried out in support of my efforts are always welcome. And this is something that I repeat to the countries in the region, I repeat to the council, and so on, and this is what we’re having right now.

“We have different engagements on different levels, through different channels that support the efforts of the United Nations, and that’s something that I think is helpful.”

Asked to clarify what obstacles are hampering the implementation of his plan to “extend and expand” the truce, Grundberg declined to reveal details of talks that took place behind closed doors, saying although “foreign policy should be made in the open because the population needs to understand what that foreign policy represents, negotiations, on the other hand, should be kept in a discrete setting.

“So I’m not going to enter into outlining the issues in detail on where we stand on these negotiations, because that needs some level of trust and confidentiality in order to deliver results.”

But he said on a broader level,  the main challenges lie in finding ways to frame issues related to economic matters such as the payment of salaries, but also broader issues “which have an implication on the long-term settlement of the conflict.”

By emphasizing the importance of “broadening” the issue, Grundberg said: “It’s a way for me to remind everyone that the truce in itself isn’t the end game. It can’t be seen as the long-term solution.

“The long-term solution is a return to a political process where the parties engage on long-term settlement of the conflict.

“That necessitates a broader approach, and that’s what we’re also looking for and engaging with the parties on.”


Defense ministers chart ‘new course’ in UAE-Italy relations

Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto meets with his Emirati counterpart in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. (Italy MoD)
Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto meets with his Emirati counterpart in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. (Italy MoD)
Updated 58 min 21 sec ago

Defense ministers chart ‘new course’ in UAE-Italy relations

Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto meets with his Emirati counterpart in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. (Italy MoD)
  • Guido Crosetto, Mohammed Ahmed Al-Bowardi met in Abu Dhabi
  • “Great openness was expressed by the Emirati defense minister,” Italian Defense Ministry source tells Arab News

ROME: Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto met with his Emirati counterpart Mohammed Ahmed Al-Bowardi in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

An Italian Defense Ministry source told Arab News that the visit “marks a new course in defining and reinvigorating the relationship between Italy and the UAE, and the role both countries intend to play in the field of security in the region.”

The source added: “Great willingness and openness toward Italy was expressed by the Emirati defense minister.”

During a long meeting, both ministers pledged “renewed engagement” to protect both countries’ mutual interests. The security situation in the Middle East was also discussed.

According to the Italian Defense Ministry, Crosetto and Al-Bowardi share “a common vision on the new challenges in the regional geostrategic scenario.”

Crosetto offered, on behalf of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s “full cooperation” with the UAE.

Crosetto laid a wreath at the Martyrs’ Monument in the presence of Khalifa bin Tahnoun Al-Nahyan, executive director of the Martyrs’ Families’ Affairs Office. Italy’s Ambassador to the UAE Lorenzo Fanara attended the ceremony.

Crosetto also met with Tareq Al-Hosani, CEO of the Tawazun Economic Council — the procurement agency of the UAE Armed Forces — and Faisal Al-Bannai, CEO and managing director of the Edge Group.


Bahrain, Qatar foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to set procedures for bilateral talks

Bahrain, Qatar foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to set procedures for bilateral talks
Updated 08 February 2023

Bahrain, Qatar foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to set procedures for bilateral talks

Bahrain, Qatar foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to set procedures for bilateral talks
  • Discussions on reviving talks came under the Al-Ula Declaration to end the dispute with Qatar

RIYADH: The foreign ministers of Qatar and Bahrain met in Riyadh on Wednesday to establish procedures for bilateral talks, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

During the meeting, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani explored the “necessary mechanisms and procedures to launch discussions at the level of bilateral committees”, the BNA statement went on to say.  

Discussions on reviving talks came under the Al-Ula Declaration, issued at the Al-Ula GCC Summit in Saudi Arabia last year, to end the dispute with Qatar and re-unite the Gulf states in the face of regional challenges.

During the meeting at the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf in Riyadh, the ministers reiterated the importance of boosting cooperation to support the joint action of the GCC countries and achieve security and prosperity.


King Charles ‘profoundly saddened’ by deadly quakes in Turkiye, Syria

King Charles ‘profoundly saddened’ by deadly quakes in Turkiye, Syria
Updated 08 February 2023

King Charles ‘profoundly saddened’ by deadly quakes in Turkiye, Syria

King Charles ‘profoundly saddened’ by deadly quakes in Turkiye, Syria
  • British monarch sends ‘thoughts and special prayers’ in message to Turkish president
  • ‘I can only begin to imagine the scale of suffering and loss as a result of these dreadful tragedies’

LONDON: King Charles has said he is “profoundly saddened” by Monday’s deadly earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria, offering “thoughts and special prayers” to those affected, MailOnline reported.

In the message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the British monarch said: “My wife and I have been most shocked and profoundly saddened by the news of the devastating earthquakes in southeast Turkiye.

“I can only begin to imagine the scale of suffering and loss as a result of these dreadful tragedies, and I particularly wanted to convey our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy to the families of all those who have lost their loved ones.”

“Our thoughts and special prayers are with everyone who has been affected by this appalling natural disaster, whether through injury or the destruction of their property, and also with the emergency services and those assisting in the rescue efforts.”

The king’s message came as the World Health Organization warned that the death toll from the quakes could exceed 20,000.

In response to the disaster, the UK sent a team of 77 search-and-rescue experts to Turkiye along with equipment and highly trained dogs to aid in recovery efforts.

A British aircraft carrying the response team arrived in Gaziantep in southeast Turkiye late on Tuesday.

The team includes specialist firefighters and rescue staff from 14 fire and rescue services across the UK.


4 Australians missing in Turkiye, Syria after deadly quakes

4 Australians missing in Turkiye, Syria after deadly quakes
Updated 08 February 2023

4 Australians missing in Turkiye, Syria after deadly quakes

4 Australians missing in Turkiye, Syria after deadly quakes
  • Country sending 73 defense personnel, $10m in relief funds to affected areas

LONDON: Four Australians are missing in Turkiye and Syria following Monday’s deadly earthquakes, The Guardian reported.

The country’s Foreign Ministry said it was providing support to families of the missing nationals as well as about 40 other Australians who are in the quake zone.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong told the Australian Senate on Wednesday: “We’ve all seen the scenes of devastation, and the stories of human tragedy that we are witnessing.

“So, if we are able to assist, notwithstanding we are a long way away, I’m sure all of us would want the government to support our personnel to engage in such assistance.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia was sending 73 defense personnel by the end of the week as well as $10 million in funding to aid in rescue and relief efforts.

“These urban search and rescue specialists are highly trained to locate, deliver medical assistance to and remove victims who have been trapped or impacted by a structural collapse.

“I extend my deepest condolences to all those affected by the devastating earthquakes and aftershocks in Turkiye, Syria, and neighboring countries.

“Our hearts are heavy. It is impossible to look away from the terrible and heart-breaking scenes of loss,” Albanese added.

Brisbane Turkish Islamic Society board member, Sadullah Karatas, said that Australians with ties to Turkiye and Syria were facing a “difficult time” watching the disaster unfold from across the world.

“Everyone’s having a really difficult time, and nobody really knows how to process it. These are essentially our brothers and sisters who are left under this rubble and because we’re not there we almost feel desperate.

“We wish we could just go and physically take the rubble out ourselves,” he added.

The society has launched a donation fund to send medicine, food, and blankets to affected areas.


Syria’s White Helmets rescuers urge international quake help

Syria’s White Helmets rescuers urge international quake help
Updated 08 February 2023

Syria’s White Helmets rescuers urge international quake help

Syria’s White Helmets rescuers urge international quake help

BEIRUT: The White Helmets leading efforts to rescue people buried under rubble in rebel-held areas of earthquake-hit Syria appealed Wednesday for international help in their “race against time.”
First responders from the group that was formed a decade ago to save the lives of civilians during Syria’s civil war sprung into action early Monday when a 7.8-magnitude quake rocked Syria and Turkiye.
They have been toiling ever since to pull survivors out from under the debris of dozens of flattened buildings in northwestern areas of war-torn Syria that remain outside the government’s control.
In a video widely shared on social media, crowds of people surrounding the White Helmets cheered loudly as they lifted a young girl and her entire family from a collapsed building in Idlib province.
“International rescue teams must come into our region,” said Mohammed Shibli, a spokesperson for the group known formally as the Syria Civil Defense.
“People are dying every second; we are in a race against time,” he told AFP from neighboring Turkiye.
Monday’s earthquake devastated entire sections of major cities in Turkiye and Syria, killing more than 9,500 people, injuring thousands more and leaving many more without shelter in the winter cold.
In Syria alone at least 2,597 people have been killed, according to the government and the White Helmets.
Shibli said it was “impossible” for the group to respond to the large-scale calamity alone in the rebel-held northwest, home to more than four million people.
“Even states can’t do that,” he said, adding that the group’s volunteers have not had time to reach all of the disaster-struck places.
Britain announced Wednesday that it would release an additional 800,000 pounds ($968,000) to aid the rescue group.
The White Helmets emerged in 2013, when Syria’s civil war was nearing its third year, and operates in battered opposition-held zones.
They have been internationally praised for their work, with a Netflix documentary called “The White Helmets” winning an Academy Award in 2017, while a second film focused on the group, “Last Men in Aleppo,” was a 2018 Oscars nominee.
Their volunteers include 3,300 young men and women, including 1,600 dedicated to search and rescue operations.
“After 56 hours of continuous work... hundreds of families are still missing or trapped under the rubble,” Shibli said.
“People’s chances of survival are declining” in the biting cold, he said.
The rescue group needs heavy machinery, spare parts for the ones they already have, and equipment, “but when will we get them,” Shibli asked.
AFP correspondents across the war-ravaged country said rescue workers and residents have had to sift through the rubble with their bare hands.
White Helmets volunteer Fatima Obeid told AFP teams were busy at work despite exhaustion.
“Being able to pull survivors brings them indescribable joy and excitement,” she said from Sarmada in Idlib.