The Intra-Yemeni Consultations: Yemen under the GCC Umbrella
The Intra-Yemeni Consultations: Yemen under the GCC Umbrella
The Gulf Cooperation Council is hosting intra-Yemeni consultations over the next few days, which could be a critical turning point. These consultations could advance peace if the participants want it to and engage in honest and determined dialogue aimed at advancing Yemen’s interests rather than their personal, partisan, and tribal ones.
The GCC has invited to the consultations a few hundred officials, parliamentarians, and representatives of various political groups, including the Houthis and their supporters, economists, legal experts, journalists, and leading social and intellectual figures.
They are not official negotiations, which the United Nations is currently in charge of. Instead, the aim of these consultations is to create an atmosphere conducive to constructive intra-Yemeni dialogue, discuss the situation in Yemen, and develop roadmaps for ending this destructive war and reestablishing a state of peace.
The primary goal is to help the participants develop a shared approach to understanding the situation in Yemen, politically, economically, humanitarian, socially, and with regard to security. That will be followed by grounded dialogue about the challenges facing Yemen on all of those fronts, which will render solutions tenable, allowing for the next step of establishing the framework for walking away from the abyss of war and destruction to pursue peace.
Once the Yemenis agree on the future of their country and allow it to reclaim its cultural and civilizational place in the world, they will have an opportunity to revitalize state institutions and allow them to provide basic services, as well as creating a climate suitable for reconstruction.
The role of the GCC is to facilitate these consultations and give advice when asked. To this end, several experts and specialists from universities and research centers in GCC countries were invited to take part and contribute to the effort to reconcile the divergent views of Yemenis across the political and social spectrum.
Our Yemeni brothers and others have repeatedly called on the GCC to hold such consultations, given the close partnership between the two sides and the role that the Council had played in previous talks, including the 10-month National Dialogue Conference in Sanaa that began in March 2013.
There are a few similarities between the current consultations in Riyadh and the National Dialogue Conference. In both, all the Yemeni communities took part, and both are primarily intra-Yemeni consultations. But the framework and objective are different.
The main difference between the Riyadh consultations and the National Dialogue Conference is that the latter comes after years of destructive war in Yemen. It created imbalances that hindered the implementation of the agreements of the National Dialogue Conference and the realization of the Yemeni people’s aspirations. Thus, the focus of the Riyadh consultations will be on how to stop the war and the death and communal hostility it’s breeding, as well as convincing all parties to prioritize the national interests.
Another difference is the horrific humanitarian situation, economic paralysis, and the collapse of the welfare programs, which, however limited, had made a difference in many Yemenis’ lives before the 2014 war began and, for a brief time, after the Sanaa National Dialogue Conference.
Despite these differences, the consultations are likely to reach conclusions derived from and supportive of the National Dialogue Conference’s outcomes.
In fact, despite the plethora of talks held over the past five years, organized by various Yemeni institutions, the United Nations, Arab and Western countries, and the GCC, none were as broad in their scope or as comprehensive in terms of political and social representation. These consultations touch on all of all the Yemeni people’s concerns, and this fact alone renders the Riyadh consultations crucial. However, there is also a state of emergency that demands swift intervention, as the humanitarian situation and living standards in Yemen have severely exacerbated after nearly eight years of war.
Despite the escalation seen over the past weeks, during which the Houthis attacked civilian targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, they have been invited to take part in the Riyadh consultations. The decision stems from the GCC countries’ determination to end the war and create an atmosphere conducive to the resumption of negotiations.
The facts of history, geography, lineage, and kinship obliged the people of the Arabian Peninsula to cooperate throughout history, as the Arabs originated from Yemen. Despite the divergences in some political proclivities that have arisen from time to time in the modern era, the cultural, commercial and social exchanges between the people of the peninsula, by both the states and populations, endured.
From a strategic point of view, Yemen and the GCC are facing similar political, developmental, and economic challenges. Their shared interests demand cooperation within a comprehensive strategy for overcoming those challenges.
Thus, it is natural for the Council to strive to cooperate with Yemen in the establishment of special strategic partnerships. This process began 20 years ago when the GCC approved, in December 2001, Yemen’s membership in several Gulf bodies. In 2002, the Sanaa Agreement was signed, which aimed to render Yemen’s economic laws more compatible with those of the GCC countries, and this process is ongoing.
In 2006, the Gulf Cooperation Council adopted a 20-year plan aimed at developing the Yemeni economy and facilitating its integration into the GCC that was to be implemented in two phases. Between November 2006 to September 2012, the Council, in cooperation with Yemen and international organizations, organized three international conferences that generated around $15 billion to support development programs in Yemen, 70 percent of which came from GCC states and regional funds.
With the 2011 Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative for Yemen, the GCC worked alongside Yemenis of all stripes to compel former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign in order to avoid further bloodshed and facilitate the formation of a transitional national unity government and the organization of presidential elections. Those steps were followed by the comprehensive National Dialogue Conference, which was also supported by the Gulf Cooperation Council. However, the September 2014 Houthi coup against the legitimate government in Yemen undermined the reconciliation process and plunged Yemen into a cycle of war and destruction which it has not yet escaped.
Over the past few decades, the Council has been Yemen’s primary economic partner and the source of about 80 percent of foreign direct investment. Yemeni-Gulf integration is absolutely inevitable, and the steps will be taken as soon as the Yemenis reach a political solution.
Thus, the consultations currently being hosted by the GCC are an attempt to use this partnership to facilitate the emergence of an agreement among our brothers that helps them end the war wreaking havoc in their country, firstly, by ensuring a suitable and safe venue where they can discuss matters freely and secondly, by supporting the agreement that will emerge from the consultations.
Based on the outcomes, the GCC will be ready to facilitate future efforts to implement them and render them sustainable.