Yemen ceasefire sticking points

Despite talk of a ceasefire in the Yemeni-Saudi war with the Houthi rebels, fighting continues. AFP reports that 10 Yemeni soldiers died in the latest clashes, while the rebels say Saudi warplanes fired at least 150 rockets on Sunday, killing two children.

One encouraging sign, though, it that the rebels have not flatly rejected the ceasefire timetable issued by the Yemeni government at the weekend. According to Xinhua news agency they have "reservations" about it, saying "the mechanism is inapplicable on the ground". They also want the Joint Meeting Parties (the Yemeni opposition alliance) "to serve as a national guarantee or monitor to oversee the ceasefire".

This does at least indicate that the practicalities of establishing a ceasefire are being discussed but with three parties now involved (the Saudis having joined the conflict three months ago) it's likely to be complicated. Xinhua says:

Sources close to the rebels revealed that Houthis also refuse the presence of Yemeni government troops on the northern borders with Saudi Arabia, saying the group wants its forces deployed along the borders so that the government will not surround the rebels and "hit them from the back."

It's beginning to look as it some form of external mediation may be needed in order to achieve a ceasefire. Qatar has helped in the past but my hunch is the Saudis would not want that because they view Qatar as a competitor for regional influence.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 9 February 2010.