Fatiha Belfakir - VOA News
The ongoing conflict in Yemen cannot be resolved militarily, rather efforts should be made by all parties to the conflict to find a political solution, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen told U.S.-funded Alhurra TV last week.
"I do believe that we have a path forward with a strong international consensus to continue to push towards a political solution," U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller said. He added the U.S remains committed to finding a political solution to the conflict in the war-torn country.
"I believe ultimately that Yemenis themselves know that there must be a political solution,” Tueller said.
Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, the Yemeni Ambassador to the U.S, told VOA that while his government supports U.S. and U.N. efforts to find a political solution to the war, military pressure is needed.
“We believe, up until now, that the only solution to the Yemeni conflict is the political solution.We believe also from our experience with the Houthis that they will not come to the negotiation table unless there is a certain level of military pressure," Bin Mubarak said.
The United Nations has been trying to mediate between the warring sides in Yemen to an effort to resolve the conflict.
Last month, it convened a three-day conference in Geneva to discuss an end to the conflict, but the Houthis did not attend.
“We did not manage to get Ansarullah's delegation, the delegation from Sanaa to come here,” U.N. special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said, expressing disappointment over the Houthi boycott of the meeting.
But Griffiths showed optimism and said his team will continue to engage all sides.
“We were engaged throughout these days in discussions and negotiations and arrangements and options and alternatives to get them [Houthis] here," he said.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Tueller said Iran played a role in preventing the Houthis from attending the Geneva meeting.
"I see in many negotiations, strategies and tactics that Houthis have used throughout numerous negotiations held internationally, they followed tactics that are very familiar to us as we have engaged with Iran, always following a path where negotiations are very difficult," Tueller said.
But he said the Houthis are not fully controlled by Iran.
"We have to work with these modern elements on the political side of Houthis, who do not want to see Iran or any other country having a role meddling inside Yemen," Tueller added.
Worst Humanitarian Crisis
The civil war in Yemen began in 2014 between the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has the support of a Saudi-led coalition, and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
U.N. and international rights groups are calling the conflict the worst crisis in the world.
“Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As the conflict enters its fourth year, more than 22 million people, three-quarters of the population, need humanitarian aid and protection,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a donor conference in Geneva earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Program said the current level of hunger in Yemen is unprecedented.
“Now, 17 million people in the country are food insecure, meaning they do not have enough food. Of these, 6.8 million -- that is almost 1 in 4 people -- are severely food insecure and rely entirely on external assistance,” the U.N. agency said.
While calling the Yemen crisis a catastrophe, Michael Page of Human Rights Watch blamed both Iranian-backed Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition for restricting aid to certain areas in Yemen.
"Houthis are restricting aid and detaining humanitarian workers," Page said. “A substantial amount of blame is on the Saudi-led coalition for the bombing campaign, which has hit or destroyed schools, hospitals and mosques.”
As the crisis deeps in Yemen, some rights organizations are concerned that extremists groups could exploit the situation.
In an interview with NPR, International Rescue Committee President David Miliband said the conflict in Yemen is in a stalemate stage, breeding not only a humanitarian crisis but also paving the way for other nonstate actors to exploit the situation.
“In the chaos, other groups are emerging, separatists groups in the south, al-Qaida of the Arab Peninsula in the east and ISIS is growing [in the country] as well,” Miliband told Lisa Mullins, the host of NPR’s Here & Now show on Monday.
“At the same time, there is a political emergency, too, because the only side that’s gaining from the current stalemate are the extremists of al-Qaida and ISIS and it’s a country now which is on the verge of meltdown, not just a humanitarian meltdown but a political meltdown,” Miliband added, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.
Some analysts like Houchang Hassan Yari, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, believe that at the heart of the conflict in Yemen lies the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
"Iranians are using Houthis to fight Saudis, and Saudis are fighting Houthis indirectly to fight Iranians," Yari said." Iranians are showing their muscles in the region as they believe Iran is a power.”
A senior official of the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition, told VOA that his country and the Saudi-led coalition supports a political solution.
"We fully support U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths' efforts and encourage all the relevant parties to engage in a constructive dialogue that could ultimately lead to an end to the conflict," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media about Yemen.
In addition to displacing millions of people, the conflict has reportedly claimed the lives of more than 10,000 innocent people since it began.
Page, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, blamed both the Houthis and Saudi-led coalition for indiscriminate use of force in Yemen.
"The Saudis are not using these weapons precisely, they are sometimes purposely and deliberately targeting an area and indiscriminately killing civilians," Page said.
A senior U.S. State Department official told VOA that the U.S. has urged all parties in the conflict to respect the law of armed conflict.
"Throughout this conflict, the United States has urged all parties to abide by the Law of Armed Conflict, work to prevent harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure, and thoroughly investigate and ensure accountability for any violations," the official said.
State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report.