Yemen's war: Why GCC peace talks are doomed to fail
In the seven years since the war in Yemen began there have been frequent calls for peace talks between rival powers.
Numerous initiatives have been sponsored by the UN and other regional powers since 2015 in an attempt to restore political stability amid escalations of violence.
Despite this none of the proposed negotiations have made significant headway or resulted in lasting peace and the conflict in Yemen shows no sign of abating.
On 17 March the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced the latest round of peace talks, saying it would invite all parties involved in the conflict and host a dialogue in Riyadh later this month.
Secretary-General of the GCC Nayef al-Hajraf revealed that peace talks would start on 29 March and last until 7 April.
The diplomatic event will concentrate on six aspects, including political and military discussions.
"We urge a ceasefire by all Yemeni parties and urge them to start peace talks," Hajraf said, adding that invites will be sent to everyone without any exception.
"Saudi Arabia wants an exit from the war and is seeking any solution that can guarantee its interests"
Amid repeated failures of peace efforts, the GCC's new call for political dialogue aims to end the deadlock. But a positive outcome is unlikely.
The new bid for dialogue is spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, which is increasingly eager to end the conflict.
The seven-year Saudi-led intervention is considered a military failure and the Gulf kingdom is looking for a face-saving exit strategy.
But despair prevails and preconditions for talks have hindered the success of previous peace initiatives.
The Houthi movement is a crucial political and military player in the war but its reaction to the GCC call for dialogue has been fraught with mistrust and doubt.
Houthi officials have rejected the host and downplayed the importance of the initiative. The rebel group sees Saudi Arabia as an enemy country and an official statement ruled out the possibility of Houthi participation in any dialogue in Riyadh this month, though talks in a neutral country are possible.
"It is neither logical nor fair that the host of the talks is also the sponsor of war and blockade," the statement read.
For the Houthis, the notion that Saudi Arabia would suddenly end its involvement in Yemen is difficult to believe.
The Saudi blockade on ports and airports has not been lifted and airstrikes have not ceased. Saudi support for anti-Houthi forces is ongoing and the Kingdom refuses to recognise the Houthi government as a legitimate authority.
As long as these conditions remain any Houthi-Saudi rapprochement will be perceived as insincere and is unlikely to succeed.
A political researcher in Sanaa who wished to remain anonymous told The New Arab that Saudi Arabia wants an exit from the war and is seeking any solution that can guarantee its interests.
"The [Saudi] Kingdom is fed up with the conflict in Yemen, and it wants the Yemeni parties to agree to resolve their differences," the researcher said.
"It is not worried about the Houthi inclusion in any upcoming government in Yemen. But it fears that the Houthi group has absolute power over all provinces in Yemen's north."
Looking back at how the conflict has developed since 2014 it is clear that the Houthi movement does not pin its hopes on dialogue.
Rather, the Houthis primarily rely on force to make advances on the ground and subdue their opponents.
"The Houthi leadership is unwilling to concede even one kilometre of what they have seized and no political dialogue can convince them to do so," the Sanaa-based researcher added.
"What the Houthis have captured using weapons will never be handed over through consultations. Houthis engage in talks to legitimise their gains and present themselves as a legitimate authority."
"The Houthi leadership is unwilling to concede even one kilometre of what they have seized and no political dialogue can convince them to do so"
Calls for dialogue no longer interest the Houthis. They are suspicious of any and all diplomatic initiatives and shore up their military preparedness when talks are proposed.
In their mind, calls for peace negotiations by the Saudi-led coalition are no more than a trick of war.
Dhaif Allah Al-Shami, the Houthi information minister in Sanaa, said that the real goal of the Saudi call for dialogue is to unite anti-Houthi forces.
"Information from the battlefield is proof of the massive escalation of aggression against Yemen under the cover of calls for peace," he tweeted.
In response to the GCC call for peace talks the Houthis launched a torrent of drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia's energy facilities on 21 March causing fires and disrupting oil production.
At the grassroots level among Yemenis calls for peace by the coalition or the Houthis are not taken seriously. The recurrent setbacks of peacemaking and mediation efforts have robbed people of any optimism about the efficacy of diplomacy.
Abdulqareem Qasim, a resident in Sanaa, told The New Arab that the warring sides had failed the Yemeni people for seven years and seem ready to continue the violence. He believes that the prospects for peace are dead.
"When the warring parties announce peace talks I understand that they want to polish their images and appear as peace-seeking personalities," he said.
"All peace initiatives have just been political rhetoric. No matter how tragic the situation is, they will keep prioritising their selfish plans over the interests of the Yemeni people."
The writer is a Yemeni journalist, reporting from Yemen, whose identity we are protecting for their security.