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Quiet diplomacy on Yemen

Filed on April 9, 2015

The uprising in Yemen and the broadening of conflict is distracting the indispensable war against the Daesh.

The summit meeting between Turkey and Iran could not have come at a more opportune time. The consensus among the leadership to maintain a low profile after their brainstorming sessions indicates that there is something in the wings. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s one-day visit to Tehran instantly furthered the impression that it is meant for talks on Yemen. Both the countries have been at odds now for a very long time, and their contentious issues are civil uprisings in Syria and Yemen. Ankara wants a regime change in Damascus, whereas Tehran backs Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Similarly, Turkey is an ally of Saudi Arabia in its war against the Houthis and Iran is widely seen as the force behind the rebels in Yemen.

In such a gridlocked scenario, it was no less than genuine leadership that Erdogan and Rohani took to a joint Press conference after their meeting — and the most articulate aspect of their debriefing was that they didn’t mention the crisis in Yemen at all. But it is an accepted fact that Turkey and Iran are busy in quiet diplomacy to strike a chord over Yemen, and bailout the entire region from another undesired war.

The outcome of talks in Ankara was watched with fingers crossed in various world capitals, and that was evident from the anticipatory statement that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made on the floor of the house in Islamabad. Speaking at a joint parliamentary session over Yemen, he said something spectacular is expected from Turkey, which will go a long way in addressing the Saudi-Houthis imbroglio. He also said that finer points of the discourse would be so sensitive that it could only be revealed in an in-camera session.

Taking a cue from what Erdogan and Rohani said after the meeting, it is widely assumed that the rights channels had been ushered in with the task to broker reconciliation, and find out a middle ground wherein Saudi Arabia’s security concerns as well as Yemen’s unrest are addressed in a congenial manner. Islamabad’s backtracking on sending troops to Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen, and the slow pace of movement in building a Pan-Arab military as decided earlier by the Arab League has titled the balance of power in favour of diplomacy rather than warmongering.

If Turkey and Iran can sort out this discord, which is primarily sectarian in essence, it will be a blessing in disguise for regional peace and security. The fact that Erdogan and Rohani underscored the need for a political solution in Yemen is a promising shift. The uprising in Yemen and the broadening of conflict is distracting the indispensable war against the Daesh. That should not happen at any cost. The stakes are too high to let Daesh have a field day.


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