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Threat to regional peace
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 27 - 07 - 2018


By the Gazette Editorial Board
The elusive Houthi rebels disclosed to UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, who had been appointed to undertake the mission early this year, a "strong desire for peace". The Houthis expressed this desire early this month and yet, a few days ago, they escalated their attacks on Saudi Arabia by targetting two large oil tankers in international waters west of the port of Hodeidah in the Red Sea.
This attitude is typical of the Iran-backed Houthi group who have foiled many peace attempts since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to end the civil war, in response to a call by the then legitimate government of president Abd Rabu Hadi Mansur. The coalition had from the start said that its intervention was meant to forge a political solution to restore peace and order to a neighbouring country.
But the Houthis have not shown any sign of a sincere desire for peace. They are trying not only to cling to the Yemeni cities undertheir control, but they are also continuing their attacks against Saudi Arabia. In the past few months, they launched severalmissiles against Saudi cities.
And they have deliberately disrupted maritime traffic in the strategically vital shipping lane of Bab el-Mandab which is one of the world's important oil trade routes.
The disruption has prompted Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter, temporarily to halt oil shipments through the Bab el-Mandab Strait "until the situation becomes clearer and the maritime transit through Bab el-Mandab is safe", according to a statement by the Saudi Energy Ministry.
The decision is quite understandable, given the environmental risk of an oil spill as well as the threat posed to humans and trade activities. The Saudi-led Arab coalition has said that it foiled previous attacks in the same place early this year.
The tankers take a route passing near the Yemeni shores on their way from the Middle East through the Suez Canal to Europe. Last month, the Arab coalition started an offensive in Hodeidah to liberate it from the Houthis who have been using the port to receive arms from Iran and to disrupt maritime shipping in Bab el-Mandab.
Experts say that the temporary suspension of Saudi oil shipment to Europe and North America will affect crude trade at a time when oil markets have already been adversely affected by geopolitical tension and the verbal US-Iran war on Iran's oil exports.
The UN bodies and the world community are required to take action against the Houthi rebels in order to secure safe transit through the Red Sea's Bab el-Mandab. The group must be forced to sit at the negotiating table, away from Iran whose backing is giving them the power to continue fighting.


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