By SIRAJ WAHAB
One of Yemen’s leading politicians has called on all parties to put an end to the fighting in his country.
Mohammed Abulahoum, chairman of Justice and Building Party in Yemen, made a series of recommendations during his lecture at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
“Enough of this fighting,” he told Arab News on Monday as he explained his proposals. “Now is the time to get to the table (for talks). Let us put our differences aside and let us go forward.”
He hoped all parties would come to their senses “and deliver something positive to the Yemeni people before the onset of Ramadan.” The holy month begins around May 27.
Abulahoum reiterated that Yemenis have never counted Tehran as an ally.
“Iran has never been, and can never be, an ally of Yemen,” he said. “Our permanent allies have always been, and will always be, the Saudis and the Gulf states.”
During his visit to Washington, Abulahoum met with senior members of the Trump administration.
The lecture at the Middle East Institute was delivered last week and Abulahoum’s message of reconciliation was met with positive response.
Opening the lecture, he said: “I’m not here to defend or attack. My main objective today is to find ways to help ordinary citizens who are affected the most rather than to help the conflicting factions.”
He said Iran had played a negative role in the region. “We can’t deny that they have ambitions in the region and have played a destabilizing role by supporting non-state armed groups,” he said. “Yemenis don’t view Iran as an ally.”
He blamed officials and other regional powers for “mishandling” the situation and inadvertently helping Iran. “Iran’s investment in Yemen is minimal, (but) the return has been high due to us and other regional powers mishandling the situation,” he said.
He said Yemen will always be “either a point of strength or weakness” to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. “It is about time that we all work together to ensure that Yemen is a source of stability — after all, this is the only option we have,” said Abulahoum.
He urged the new US administration to play its part. “The Trump administration has a critical role to play,” he said. “Not only in Yemen but the whole region.”
Addressing the Trump administration directly, he said: “Our region is waiting to see what you will do in an area facing many challenges. You can start by helping Yemen become a success story in an area that desperately needs hope.”
He listed the challenges that stared the region in the face. “There is a humanitarian challenge as a result of hunger,” he said. “If not properly dealt with immediately, we will face a catastrophic situation.”
Then, he said, there is the danger of the expansion of radical groups, such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as a result of fighting and the absence of a state.
“There is no time to waste; Yemenis have suffered enough,” he said. “This conflict has torn the country apart. In order to move forward, we need direct constructive talks with all conflicting groups, including the side led by (Ali Abdullah) Saleh.”
He said one needed to accept the situation in order to move forward. “We might not like the idea of talking to all sides. However, we have to put everything aside and have constructive talks. We need no spoilers,” he said.
The UN special envoy needs the support and pressure from all sides in order to go back into negotiations with the willingness to compromise, he said.
“Here, I suggest we should include Russia, France and China in the Group of 4, plus Oman, since the five members of the UN Security Council have had a united and a positive position since the first day of the conflict in Yemen,” he said.
In the south, he said, the legitimate government has to play a more productive role with all sides and not favor one over the other, especially not favoring the ones that sacrificed most in Aden during liberation.
He suggested a four-point formula to end the fighting. “One, a temporary cease-fire that will allow humanitarian access to all parts of the country on the condition that airstrikes will come to a halt, cross-border fighting and attacks will stop, no missiles will be fired, and that the Houthis will deliver a security plan for Sanaa in no later than 30 days,” he said.
Abulahoum’s second point concerns the port of Hodeidah. “It should be kept open and operate fully for all cargo under UN supervision and the Houthis should pull back from the port to an agreed upon location. After a UN inspection, shipments at the port should be handed to business people who will then distribute them to different parts of the country,” he said, and added: “Any interception by the Houthis will result in the deal being canceled.”
Point No. 3 of the Abulahoum plan is for Sanaa airport to resume flights with clear conditions and satisfactory inspections in order to serve those most in need.
Lastly, the formation of an interim government that will work with the GCC with a clear mandate to focus on reconciliation, stabilizing and preparing the country for elections within a specified time frame.
“These four points should pave the way for going back to the negotiating table with the intent of reaching a political solution that is desperately needed,” added Abulahoum.