Yemen's Long Road to Peace

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The United States can do more to support negotiation efforts in Yemen and help the parties find a workable, sustainable solution to the conflict.

Blog Post by Guest Blogger for Strength Through Peace

Alexandra Stark is a pre-doctoral research fellow at the Belfer Center for International Affairs' Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School and a PhD candidate in international relations at Georgetown University.

After more than three years of conflict, the humanitarian consequences of the war in Yemen are staggering. UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock warned, “There is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen: much bigger than anything any professional in this field has encountered during their working lives.” While the road to peace talks will be difficult and uncertain, the United States and its allies and partners can play an important role in supporting negotiation efforts and helping the parties find a workable, sustainable solution to the conflict.

Current Prospects for Peace Talks

The United States has provided diplomatic, logistical, and military support to the Saudi-led coalition since the intervention began in March 2015, but the U.S. Department of Defense recently announced that it would end the practice of providing aerial refueling for coalition aircraft, suggesting that the Donald J. Trump administration is willing to exert pressure on the coalition to bring them to the negotiating table. On October 30, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a ceasefire to begin within thirty days and Secretary of Defense James Mattis called for “substantive consultations under the UN Special Envoy” following the ceasefire— the strongest and most direct public statements that the Trump administration had made about the intervention.

There has been little movement on political negotiations in Yemen since 2016, despite efforts by the UN Special Envoy for the Secretary General to Yemen Martin Griffiths, who has been shuttling between the parties to engage in pre-talks aimed at creating a framework for more formal negotiations. The most recent efforts were scuttled in early September, when the Houthi delegation failed to attend a meeting in Geneva, claiming that the United Nations had not met their conditions.

Even with added U.S. pressure on the coalition, and even if the Houthis agree to participate in person, peace negotiations will likely remain an uphill climb.

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