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Yemen and the Stockholm Window

Yemen and the Stockholm Window

Monday, 17 December, 2018 - 09:00
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Yemenis - regardless of the political side to which they belong - have no right to close the window that was opened thanks to the “Stockholm Agreement”. The risk of losing the opportunity to regain peace will only deepen the losses and increase the dangers that threaten Yemen and its citizens. Moreover, the train, which stopped in Stockholm to help civilians get out of the war, may return late next time.

Yemenis need to ensure that their families have food… that their children regularly go to school. They need the necessary level of security and basic services. They also need to feel the presence of one roof that they can live under, even if they disagree with each other. There is no ceiling in the end, other than the state and legitimacy, no matter the disagreements and differences.

Yemenis need no one to remind them of the dangers of living without a state that extends its authority over all of its territory. The Somali lesson is still fresh and powerful. The most dangerous thing that can happen to a country is that the world gets accustomed to seeing it torn and drenched in its blood, unable to save itself and resisting the will of others to save it.

The world has forgotten bleeding Somalia. It is sometimes remembered when rude practices of pirates threaten navigation. Lessons have shown that it is difficult to force people to establish peace if they do not make their own decision in this direction. The world can put off a fire in a theater. It can also impose a cease-fire. But peace remains an internal endeavor. The immunity of any country starts with the decision of its children to live together and pay the price of such a decision.

Returning from war is much harder than falling into it. The war gives birth to bitterness, which is not easy to overcome.

Disputing parties in a torn country have a double need for external support. They find themselves in the midst of conflicts that are beyond their potential, their size and their ability to shape them. For these reasons, the “Stockholm Agreement” seems to be an opportunity for Yemenis. They will commit a serious mistake if they lose it due to non-Yemeni considerations. It is an opportunity to stop the bloody confrontations… An opportunity to breathe and think seriously about concrete steps to get out of war… It is also an opportunity to surpass the barricades of confrontation and get rid of dictionaries of hatred, to discuss an agreement under the rule of law and institutions and pave the way for coexistence based on the principles of fraternity, good neighborliness and respect for international covenants.

The Stockholm Agreement is an opportunity for many reasons. First, there is a clear international will to end the war in Yemen, because of the major human and economic losses, and to avoid a high level of tension in the region. The efforts of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, have clearly demonstrated this will. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ participation in the meeting in Sweden provided additional evidence of active international involvement in sponsoring the quest for peace. Statements made by the United States and those of the permanent members showed that Guterres had full authority in this regard.

The second reason is the clear support of the “Arab alliance” for a political solution in Yemen according to the references previously adopted. This was evident when both Guterres and Griffiths thanked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his personal involvement in facilitating an agreement in Sweden.

The third reason is that some Houthis feel that the Iranian support will only prolong the war launched by their coup, and that military balances on the ground will not be in their favor, as the situation around Hodeidah and elsewhere has shown.

Negotiations will not be easy; not only because the devil is in the detail, but also because Yemen’s structure is as difficult as its terrain; and because war has added new fears to old worries.

The Swedish station was an opportunity to hop on the train. Houthis will commit a grave mistake if they deliberately jump out of it. The deteriorating situation in the areas they control has put pressure on them. It is not enough to control a capital, a zone or an arsenal. You have to guarantee people’s needs. Concealing painful facts with old slogans is no longer valid.

Another important event came in parallel with the Yemeni meeting in Sweden. It started from the feeling of states along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden that they must take care of their interests and not leave this vital waterway under the mercy of powerful countries’ initiatives and arrangements. Accordingly, Riyadh witnessed the launching of a regional bloc of seven Arab and African countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia and Jordan. The purpose of the bloc is to enhance security and stability in the region and to secure navigation and world trade.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubair said that a meeting would be held in the near future for senior officials in the concerned countries to finalize the new entity’s charter that will cover the fields of economy, environment, commerce, investment, development, security and military work.

It is clear that the countries of the region feel the need to emerge from conflicts that only lead to increasing poverty, instability and depletion of resources. Many losses will afflict those who lose the chance of peace in Yemen and the opportunity of stability and prosperity in the Red Sea.

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