Peace offensive for Yemen gains speed

The Houthis can be part of the political process in Yemen if Iran stops pulling their strings.

Published: Wed 16 Dec 2015, 7:43 PM

A respite from fighting opens a window of opportunity for peace in Yemen. A ceasefire has taken hold in the war-ravaged country, but much will depend on talks being held between the government and Houthi rebels in Geneva. The year-long conflict, which intensified in March this year has claimed more than 5,000 lives. Both sides now realise that war is not the solution to Yemen's woes. The country is being torn apart and extremist groups are sensing their chance to make their mark in the ensuing chaos.
So, will there be give and take, compromises, or will it be a hardening of positions? We hope it will not be the latter because the people of Yemen cannot endure this any longer. The UN says 80 per cent of Yemen's population has lost everything in the fighting which lasted late into Monday, before the seven-day ceasefire came into effect. Arab coalition troops bombed Houthis positions near Sanaa, and rebel missile attacks claimed the lives of an Emirati and Saudi soldier.
The lull in fighting is good, but not enough. A roadmap to put Yemen on the road to recovery is important to prevent further regional instability. This truce heralds the start of a peace offensive that Yemen badly needs after decades of civil unrest and war. The government of President Hadi has shown maturity by seeking a truce, which was accepted by the Houthis. The rebels have dragged their feet over talks in the past. It remains to be seen if they are serious in finding a negotiated settlement in the interests of Yemen.
The bigger question is whether the Houthis can rid themselves of Iranian influence. The Arab coalition intervened in March this year when it was confirmed the rebels receive moral and military support from the regime in Tehran. The Houthis can be part of the political process in Yemen if Iran stops pulling their strings. This is the point the Yemeni government and the coalition have been reiterating. It's a reasonable demand. But are the rebels listening?

More news from OPINION