Iran-linked Houthis and their allies are willing to accept a United Nations Security Council resolution to end the brutal war in Yemen while Saudi Arabia appears unwilling to support a negotiated settlement in the near future, according to a leaked UN email.
The leaked email, obtained by VICE News, was written by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN’s envoy for Yemen, to Jeffrey Feltman, the UN’s undersecretary for political affairs and a former U.S. State Department official.
“A leaked email written by the UN’s envoy for Yemen has cast new light on negotiations to end the country’s brutal war, and raises questions about the growing presence of al Qaeda, as well as the dedication to UN-brokered talks by Saudi Arabia, whose multinational coalition has bombed Houthi rebels and their allies since late March,” reports VICE News.
“In it, the envoy confirms that Houthi rebels and the party of former president and Houthi ally Ali Abdullah Saleh have expressed willingness to accept — with some reservations — a UN Security Council resolution, approved in April,” it adds.
The resolution demanded that the Houthis “withdraw their forces from all areas they have seized, including the capital, Sanaa.”
A document outlining steps to bring an end to the crisis in Yemen, including a permanent ceasefire, a monitoring plan, and the forming of a national unity government, accompanied the email.
“AA/GPC agreed to a new wording on UNSC resolution 2216 that states unequivocally that they are committed to the implementation of 2216 (see document attached) with the exception of article which infringe on Yemeni sovereignty and those related to sanctions,” wrote Ould Cheikh Ahmed, alluding to Ansar Allah (AA) — another name for the Houthi rebels — and former President Saleh’s General People’s Congress party (GPC).
“In addition, the new text includes acceptance of the return of the current government for a period of 60 days during which a government of national unity shall be formed,” added the envoy in the email.
Ould Cheikh Ahmed revealed that during talks, the Houthis agreed to certain language, including “mandatory support by the international community for reconstruction that was in the earlier version.”
“The latter was particularly opposed by KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] and GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] who did not want it to be interpreted as a form of mandatory compensation,” noted the UN envoy.
VICE News reports that “several diplomatic and UN sources” confirmed the leaked email sent by Ould Cheikh Ahmed as valid.
Regarding al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the jihadist group’s affiliate in Yemen, the leaked email said that after mostly independent Hiraak fighters showed an unwillingness to cooperate with the official government of Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition was left “dependent on ground troops from Islah, Salafi and AQAP related groups” in the southern port city of Aden.
The Saudi-led coalition and its allies seized Aden from the Houthis.
In the email, the UN envoy wrote that al Qaeda’s “increased visibility” in Aden after the Houthis left “has started to raise serious concerns for UAE and in some KSA circles.”
Yemen’s internationally backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, fled to Saudi Arabia in March, as the Houthis captured territory and expanded southward.
The leaked email mentioned a series of meetings in Oman between the UN envoy, the U.S., the U.K., Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the Houthis.
“The discussions focused on possible confidence building measures such as a pullback from border areas in exchanges for a cessation of airstrikes and agreements in which they would cease operations within Saudi Arabia,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed said, referring to the Houthis. “This was the first time that Ansar Allah have been open to discuss limited and geographically specific agreement. Although they repeated that the return of President Hadi would be unacceptable, they expressed their openness to the return of the government for a limited time.”