World Yemen: an unlikely resolution of the conflict despite Biden's engagement
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The belligerents in Yemen have reaffirmed their commitment to end the conflict after US President Joe Biden pledged to support "diplomatic efforts", but a solution still appears elusive at this stage, say Friday experts.
For more than six years, the conflict in Yemen has pitted the Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, against government forces, supported since 2015 by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. It has left tens of thousands of dead and millions displaced, according to international organizations, and caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.
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In his first foreign policy speech since taking over from Donald Trump, Joe Biden on Thursday ended US support for the coalition, called for stepping up diplomatic efforts to end the conflict and confirmed the appointment of a diplomat veteran Timothy Lenderking as envoy to Yemen.
"This war must end", he insisted, announcing the cancellation of sales of weapons, in particular "precision ammunition", to Saudi Arabia.
The Yemeni government, recognized by the international community, welcomed the announcements, stressing "the importance of supporting diplomatic efforts" and welcoming Mr. Lenderking's appointment as an "important step" to "end the war caused by the Houthis backed by Iran ".
Iran, sworn enemy of the United States and the target of a campaign of "maximum pressure" on the part of the administration of Donald Trump, denies providing weapons to the Houthis but does not hide its political support for the rebels.
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The Houthis, who control much of the West and North including the capital Sana'a, have supported the approach of the new US administration, which also indicated in January that it would reconsider Mr. Trump to put the rebels on his list of "terrorist organizations".
"To really end the conflict, we must end the aggression and the blockade," Houthi spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salam said on Twitter, referring to the coalition's intervention.
- Distant solution -
Without mentioning the end of American support for the Saudi-led coalition, Riyadh praised Mr. Biden's "commitment" to cooperate with the kingdom to defend its sovereignty and counter threats against it ". Saudi Arabia has been the target of repeated attacks (missiles, rockets, drones) carried out by the rebels for months.
Ryad also reaffirmed its support for "a comprehensive political solution" in Yemen and welcomed "that the United States underline the importance of diplomatic efforts".
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But on the ground, a solution appears almost impossible.
"The war will not end, no one wants to end it. It is propaganda," asserts Huda Ibrahim, a 38-year-old housewife who lives in the port city of Hodeida, through which most of the traffic passes. humanitarian aid and where a fragile truce has been in effect since an agreement concluded in 2018 under the aegis of the UN.
"I am not optimistic (...) How can a conflict end if the clashes do not end for even one night," she told AFP, referring to the upsurge violence since mid-January in Hodeida.
- "Talking to the Iranians" -
"Biden's announcements (...) are an excellent first step", tempers Annelle Sheline, a Middle East specialist at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
"But the devil is in the details, we have to see what + end to all American support for offensive operations + means in practice," she adds, citing President Biden.
"Who will determine what an offensive operation is, the United States or Saudi Arabia? How will that be defined? The Saudis, for example, claim that all their war efforts are defensive," Ms. Sheline explains.
The Houthis claim their missiles are "intended for the defense of Yemen", according to Mohamed Abdel Salam.
"Ending American support and ending the war are two very different things (...) to really end the war we need diplomacy, and for that we need to be able to talk to the Iranians in new ", concludes the expert.
burs-sy / dv / mdz / bfi
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