Yemen peace talks back on, despite ongoing violence

Yemen peace talks back on, despite ongoing violence
Analysis: Hadi will attend Geneva negotiations, but bombing and desperation continues to tear apart his country.
4 min read
03 June, 2015
Yemen has faced months of instability since the beginning of the Houthi advance [Anadolu]
Overnight a family of eight were killed out of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, as Saudi-led bombing continued amid diplomatic efforts to reduce the crisis on the Arabian peninsula.

Yemen's exiled president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has agreed to travel to Geneva for peace talks with Houthis.

Previous talks have been scrapped, undermining the UN's humanitarian efforts in Yemen, where at least 2,000 people have been killed and more than half a million displaced since March. 

"The conflict has increased the number of hungry people in the country," World Food Programme spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told press in Geneva on Tuesday.

The United Nations' WFP
announced yesterday it hopes to distribute essential food aid to 2.5 million people this month.
     The conflict has increased the number of hungry people in the country.
- Elisabeth Byrs, WFP

Cash flow

A UN Security Council statement on Tuesday also expressed deep concern about Yemen's "grave situation".

All parties should take part in UN-led talks without preconditions as soon as possible, officials said in support of the secretary-general's call for a renewed temporary ceasefire to allow vital aid such as food and fuel to reach Yemen's most vunerable. 

A previous five-day ceasefire was violated repeatedly, and aid groups said it was hardly sufficient to reach millions in need in the Arab world's poorest country.

Around $43 million is needed each month for WFP to be able to distribute emergency rations to some 2.5 million of the country's most desperate, she added.

More than 12.5 million are food insecure - meaning 50 per cent of Yemen's population doesn't have consistent access to enough food. This figure has risen by two million since the bombing began in March. 

WFP workers have so far reached some 1.6 million people, delivering nearly 20,000 metric tonnes of food.

Aid ships continue to arrive, with the latest docking at Hudaydah port on Monday, carrying around 5,700 metric tonnes of white flour, yellow split peas and vegetable oil. This delivery will feed 60,000 Yemenis for a month.

Another WFP-chartered ship,
MV Celine, carrying 7,000 tonnes of wheat flour is expected to berth in Hudaydah in the next few days. The MV Copenhagen, transporting 1.5 million litres of cooking fuel for charity groups, will depart Dubai for Hudaydah on Thursday, 4 June.

"A key problem is that prices continue to increase for all food commodities, limiting the functioning of food markets," Byrs told reporters.

Food has largely disappeared from supermarket shelves in several governorates, including in Abyan, Al Dhalee, Aden, Lahj, Saada and Shabwah, according to WFP Yemen's latest report.

''Food in those places is either sporadically available or completely unavailable,'' said Byrs.

Wheat costs more dough

The price of wheat flour has risen 43 per cent, with the highest rise recorded in Marib governorate at 115 per cent since March.

The cost of cooking gas has risen 131 per cent since March. There is also a severe shortage in clean water, power and fuel supplies, according to the UN.
     A key problem is that prices continue to increase for all food commodities.
 - Elisabeth Byrs, WFP

The Saudi-led coalition on Tuesday bombed the Houthi-held General Army Command building in the centre of Sanaa for the first time, said Yemeni officials. 

Houthi-held areas outside Sanaa and in the southern city of Aden were also targeted, as was the command centre of the 25th Mechanised Brigade in Taiz city, officials said.

While Yemeni officials maintained airstrikes targeted only Houthi sites in the densely packed cities of Dhale and Saada, no figures of civilian casualties have been made available. 

Return to talks

Initially, Hadi had insisted Houthis hand over their weapons
and withdraw from territory seized in recent months before agreeing to negotiate.

The decision to attend Geneva talks reportedly came after discussions with Yemeni leaders in Riyadh, and with UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh-Ahmed.

No new date for the UN-led talks has yet been set.

Yemen's conflict pits Hadi against the Houthis, who seized the capital, Sanaa, last year. A Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes against the Houthis and among their supporters, not long after Hadi escaped to the south after being placed under house arrest by the Houthis.

The coalition says Iran has provided military aid to the Houthis, charges denied by Tehran and the rebels.