Can the Ould Cheikh plan end the war in Yemen?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, deserves appreciation for preparing a comprehensive plan to end the war in the country. The plan will take shape with a ceasefire on the 10th of April. Ould Cheikh has laid down a roadmap for the three committees of the parties involved and has set the foundation for dialogue between the warring factions under Security Council resolution 2216.

Eight days after truce takes effect on April 10, negotiations will be held in Kuwait. Ould Cheikh has defined five themes to be discussed: the withdrawal of militias, handover of heavy and medium weapons to the state, agreeing on temporary security arrangements, enabling state institutions through public dialogue between Yemenis and the formation of a committee to resolve the issues of detainees and prisoners.

Of course, no one can guarantee that things will work out exactly as per the detailed plan developed by the international mediator. However, it is clear that Ould Cheikh has reached out to all stakeholders in Yemen and then announced his plan in New York after they were onboard. He has also received support from various powers, including the United States and Russia.

That at the least constitutes the political plan for the future. However, on the ground, today’s map shows that the rebels – i.e. Houthi militia and the isolated forces of President Ali Abdullah Saleh – have lost control and have started defending their areas of origins, in the capital Sana’a and governorates like Saada. The new important development on the ground is that many of the local forces are being formed and are joining the military alliance; rebels can no longer return to fight in areas they lost or withdrew from.

Beyond fait accompli

That raises the question as to why rebels would negotiate knowing well that they will lose. The reason is simple: because it is their only chance. After failing to take over the country, they had two choices: either participate and get a stake in the governance or get nothing.

Ould Cheikh’s plan is based on the re-adoption of the GCC initiative, based on which Saleh had tendered his resignation and given the Houthis a chance to participate in the government.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Similarly, why would the coalition accept to negotiate if they are set to emerge victorious? One of the participants in the plan asked: “Why doesn’t the campaign continue as most of the 22 province that make up this great country have been liberated – considering that the area of Yemen is bigger than Syria, Lebanon and Jordan combined?” He said that the goal of the military campaign was not to neutralize any party but rather the restoration of the legitimacy.

“We did not want Yemen to be left in the hands of Yemeni groups by force of arms,” he added. If they accept to negotiate in accordance with the Security Council resolution that means that we have achieved the desired objective. It is surely better to resolve the conflict through negotiations and by making compromises. It is much better than a military victory without a political solution.

Ould Cheikh’s plan is based on the re-adoption of the GCC initiative, based on which Saleh had tendered his resignation and given the Houthis a chance to participate in the government. If stakeholders in Yemen travel to Kuwait next month and agree on the essentials, I reckon they will come up with reasonable solutions that can end the war and restore legitimacy. Yemeni people would then reconstruct the country and resume normal life. At least that is our hope.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Mar. 25, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

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