United Nations envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg is seeking to take advantage of the momentum produced by the Chinese-sponsored Saudi-Iranian agreement to restore diplomatic relations by creating a breakthrough in the Yemeni crisis, by first consolidating the nationwide ceasefire and eventually reaching a lasting political settlement.
Grundberg had concluded on Wednesday a visit to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where he met with the Presidential Leadership Council, Saudi Ambassador to Yemen and the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Grundberg discussed with the officials efforts to build on the momentum created by the agreement to reach a sustainable political settlement. They exchanged views over providing coordinated regional and international support to the UN mediation in Yemen, tweeted the envoy.
Earlier this week, Grundberg was in the Iranian capital, Tehran, where he met senior officials, including its foreign minister, who stressed support to the ceasefire and reaching a solution to the crisis in line with intra-Yemeni dialogue.
The Wall Street Journal quoted on Thursday American and Saudi officials as saying that Iran had agreed to stop sending weapons shipments to the Houthi militias in Yemen.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Awad bin Mubarak stressed that the government will cautiously approach the announcement made by Iran until it witnesses tangible change in Houthi behavior, whereby they would seriously deal with peace initiatives and abandon their violent and discriminatory ways.
Commenting on previous rounds of negotiations with the Houthis, a western diplomat said the militias “wanted to take and not give,” meaning that they wanted to take advantage of the other party fulfilling its commitments while they don’t.
Even though he was skeptical of the political consultations with the Houthis, he acknowledged that the “alternatives were difficult”.
He also warned that Yemen may “head towards the unknown” if the Houthis continued with their intransigence.
Chairman of the Presidential Leadership Council Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi had warned against offering the Houthis any additional incentives without ensuring that they join the peace process and abandon Iran’s expansionist agenda.
Saudi sources said Yemen will be the first test for the Saudi-Iranian agreement and how serious and committed Iran is to it. The two sides can forge ahead or not in restoring their diplomatic ties based on progress in the Yemeni file.
Meanwhile, Geneva is hosting a new round of negotiations between the legitimate Yemeni government and Houthis over a UN-sponsored prisoner swap.
Observers said the success of the negotiations may be a good start in reaching a breakthrough in Yemen, consolidate the ceasefire and kick off a comprehensive political process to resolve the eight-year conflict.
Yemeni journalist, writer and political activist Lutfi Noaman said the momentum generated by the Saudi-Iranian agreement may encourage parties to create a breakthrough in the thorny and complex Yemeni file.
Grundberg had sensed that a breakthrough was possible, which prompted him to head to Tehran and Riyadh, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
On whether he will be successful, Noaman remarked that the current regional developments may help his mission.
“Any effort that could help de-escalate the situation is a good thing,” he added.
“The Yemenis must not sit back and wait for outcomes to come out from the agreement, rather, they must seize all possible opportunities to forge ahead towards peace through a joint political settlement,” he suggested.
The Yemenis must be a positive factor, not an obstacle, in reaching a settlement, he added.