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Back to Geneva
Published in Ahram Online on 25 - 02 - 2020

On 26 February, an all-inclusive meeting of Yemeni political forces was held in the Jordanian capital Amman under the auspices of the UN mission to Yemen which is based in Jordan, to discuss the possibility of relaunching the Geneva settlement track. The Geneva process was proposed to settle the Yemen crisis which erupted after the Houthi rebellion against the internationally-recognised government (in September 2014), but was suspended due to war and conflict conditions. The Stockholm process was launched at the end of 2018 as a tributary track between Houthis and the legitimate government, but it too failed in resolving the Yemeni crisis.
Participants in the gathering told Al-Ahram Weekly before the meeting that the Geneva process is a comprehensive settlement track that discusses all aspects of the crisis. So-called “active” political forces in Yemen were expected to participate in the meeting; namely, political forces that are politically and militarily involved in Yemen, including the General People's Congress Party, the Reform Party, the Houthis, the Transitional Council and the Supreme Council of the Revolutionary Movement of the South.
Fouad Rashed, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Revolutionary Movement of the South, expected the agenda in Amman to discuss three main issues. First, agreeing to relaunch the comprehensive Geneva track. Second, forming the platforms that will participate in it, since there is still debate about the South participating with a delegation independent of the legitimate government. Also, whether the issue of the South will be included on the agenda of talks or if it will be under the umbrella of the recognised government. The Houthi platform will be led by Mohamed Abdel-Salam, the leader of the movement at Stockholm. Third, setting a deadline to launch the initiative, either within one month after the Amman meeting, at the end of March, or in April. If agreement is reached on the process and timeline, the agenda will be discussed.
Other sources at the meeting said there has been Saudi-Houthi rapprochement recently and they have almost reached agreement amongst themselves. The source said the recognised government in Yemen is aware of these steps which began in parallel with the Riyadh agreement between the government and the Transitional Council in the South. Recently, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan hinted at the Munich Security Conference and during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas this week that there are communication channels open with the Houthis. Although he did not give positive signs, if these contacts come to fruition, they will positively impact the overall settlement process.
The source said the Stockholm track will be assessed since its status is debatable. Some believe it has failed completely and therefore there is a need to return to the Geneva track. Others feel the two tracks can move in parallel since the Amman meeting is taking place alongside the prisoner exchange deal between Houthis and the government. This means Stockholm is alive and well, and its fate will be decided in Amman since it is uncertain if all parties will agree on relaunching Geneva, and this is an attempt to revive the overall settlement process.
Mohamed Abdel-Hadi, member of the Southern Movement, said there are consultations underway on forming the Southern platform for Geneva. It is likely that three platforms will be formed: the legitimate government; the Houthis and southerners. All other political forces will send representatives under the umbrella of the government. “There was a suggestion of forming two delegations, [the Houthis and] the government which would also include the South,” he said. “But I don't think that will be approved because there is another problem: southerners are not united amongst themselves.”
Many meetings were held in several capitals to form a united front in the South under UN auspices. In fact, the Transitional Council believes it officially represents the South based on the Riyadh agreement and the approval of the coalition. However, there are other forces that formed the southern peaceful movement in 2017.
Other than the procedural problems facing the Geneva track, there are other complications about the topics to be discussed at the negotiating table. Abdel-Hadi said: “Due to the long conflict, balances of power, alliances and retribution are taking shape, and there will be many disputed issues, including the type of state and political system. Both depend on each other; will it be a state with two regions or more? Perhaps six regions, as proposed in the national dialogue? This would lead to more fragmentation, and the same for the political system. It is most likely this will be the central pivot in discussions.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 February, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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