AL-MUKALLA: The internationally recognized government of Yemen claims that the latest draft of a peace plan submitted by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths is biased toward the Iran-backed Houthis and “undermines” the government’s legitimacy, three government officials told Arab News on Thursday.
“The proposal suggests accepting the current situation and the changes on the ground including Houthis as an armed group,” one Cabinet minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arab News. The minister said the main “bone of contention” is “three references that the UN envoy wants to convince everyone are irrelevant” — namely the GCC Initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, and Security Council Resolution 2216.
Another government official said the latest draft of the peace plan includes a nationwide truce and demands that the government pays public servants. The official said that the government believes those items contradict the “three references” that oblige the Houthis to hand over their weapons, leave Sana’a and other areas under their control, and allow the government to return to the capital.
“The plan gives legitimacy to the coup that Houthis plotted in late 2014. The fait-accompli policy cannot give international legitimacy to the putschists,” the second government official said. The government also believes that the Houthis should share the cost of paying government salaries, claiming the Iran-backed militia has taken large sums of money from seaports, banks and telecom companies.
A third senior government official told Arab News that the Houthis should be required to stop executing their opponents and seizing their properties in Sanaa, to release detainees, and to open Sanaa airport and Hodeida port.
“The problem is that the UN Yemen envoy is sometimes not a mediator. He supports the demand of the Houthis,” the third official said.
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadrami said on Wednesday that the government rejected the latest draft of the peace plan and would abide by the previous draft, which did not include the controversial points.
Griffiths refutes the government’s accusations, saying the proposed peace plan asks all parties to cease hostilities and immediately engage in talks based on the three references, which he described in an interview with UN News as “the only way to break with the violence of the past and end this conflict comprehensively and sustainably.”
Griffiths recognized that major issues between the two sides remain, but said: “There are always points of convergence that a mediation process can build on. Yemen is no different. We will continue to work with the parties to find a consensual path forward to achieve these mutual goals and pave the way for bringing this conflict to a sustainable end.”
Without specifically naming the Houthis, Griffiths called for rebels to immediately halt offensives in the provinces of Jawf and Marib. “The continued assault on Marib is unacceptable. I am afraid this assault could seriously undermine the prospects of peace in Yemen,” he said.
Several previous rounds of peace talks between the government and Houthis in Geneva, Biel and Kuwait have failed. The government insists that the Houthis must disarm before they can share power, while the Houthis wish to discuss power-sharing and other political arrangements before withdrawing from cities under their control.
The provincial office of the Ministry of Human Rights in Marib said in a statement that 244 ballistic missiles and Katyusha rockets fired by the Houthis since early 2015 have killed 251 civilians — including 25 children and 12 women — and wounded 438 others, including 47 children and eight women.