Omani mediators leave Sanaa empty-handed as Houthis reject truce renewal

A Yemeni soldier stands guard on a street in Aden. The Omani mediators, who arrived in Sanaa last week, departed the city on Sunday. (Reuters/File)
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  • Threat to renew fight as officials depart city

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Efforts to renew the UN-brokered truce and bring peace to Yemen have been dashed after Omani mediators left Sanaa without any reported progress, and the Iran-backed Houthis threatened to renew the fight if their demands are not met. 

The Omani mediators, who arrived in Sanaa last week, departed the city on Sunday after meeting top Houthi officials and hearing their requests for extending the ceasefire and participating in peace negotiations to end the conflict.

The Houthis said that their leaders told the Omanis that the movement would not agree to extend the October ceasefire until the internationally-recognized government of Yemen pays public servants across the country, which would include their fighters, and shares oil and gas revenues with them. They threatened to resume extensive military operations if their demands were not met.

Mohammed Abdulsalam, a chief negotiator for the Houthis, said: “Our troops on the ground have imposed new rules of engagement, and the other side should realize that we have entered a new phase and currently we have no commitment under the truce.”

He added that attacks on oil infrastructure in government-controlled regions would continue until earnings are shared and wages paid.

Abdulsalam went on to say that the Houthis had enjoyed “fruitful” discussions with the Omanis.

The UN-brokered ceasefire that went into effect on April 2, and was extended twice, fell apart when the Houthis refused to open roads in the besieged city of Taiz, a key condition of the deal, despite the Yemeni government allowing the resumption of commercial flights from Sanaa Airport and facilitating the arrival of fuel ships to Hodeidah port.

In October, the Houthis began drone attacks on two oil facilities in the southern provinces of Hadramout and Shabwa to prevent the Yemeni government from exporting the fuel. As a result, one of the facilities was shut down and the country’s oil shipments were halted.

In response to the Houthis’ demands, a Yemeni government official told Arab News that the government would only pay salaries based on the 2014 payroll, and after removing the names of Houthi fighters or those added by the militia.

The official, who requested anonymity, added that even if the government agreed to transfer wages, the Houthis would not pay public employees who had not signed their occupational code of conduct, a set of rules and guidelines that the militia introduced at the start of the month and which effectively require workers to pledge formal allegiance to the Houthis.

Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s Information Ministry, and political analyst, told Arab News the Houthis had ratcheted up their war rhetoric during the Omani delegation’s visit to demonstrate that they are in control of the decision to make peace or start war, and to prevent anyone from challenging them about the public money they control.

He said: “None of the Houthi claims about wages and earnings are genuine. They demand that the Yemeni government split earnings, while refusing to pay public servants in regions under their control.

“They control enormous earnings that are sufficient to pay all public employees.”