The new plan backed by the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United States to restart peace talks in Yemen deserves to succeed. Instead, the announcement of a new plan was greeted by rocket attacks from Al Houthi forces that struck well over the border, hitting a power station in Saudi Arabia.
This dangerous gesture of defiance should not have happened, but it is hard to know if the attack is an indication of Al Houthis making a deliberate refusal to join any new talks, or at best a misguided effort to show off some of their military prowess before starting talks again.
All the Gulf states, including the UAE, joined talks led by Saudi Arabia with US Secretary of State John Kerry, which were also attended by the United Nations.
Their plan is for Al Houthis to stop shelling across the border with Saudi Arabia, pull back from the capital Sana’a, give up their weapons and enter into a unity government with their domestic foes, who are backed by the GCC states.
The key new element in the new plan is a suggestion that the GCC states and the legitimate government of Yemen need not insist on all these conditions being fulfilled before the formation of a new unity government. The new plan is that they could now move ahead in parallel, making it easier for Al Houthis to agree while heading for the same destination.
The intention of forming a unity government has been an Al Houthi demand from early on, but further encouragement to Al Houthis to take the talks seriously was a GCC-US agreement that when the rebels disarm they can give their weapons to a neutral third party.
But despite all this diplomacy designed to give Al Houthis some encouragement to join the peace talks, they chose to shell a target in Saudi Arabia, which is a deliberately provocative act. The Saudis and US negotiators left it to the UN to get in touch with Al Houthis to try to get them to take the proposals seriously.
The war in Yemen, which has killed more than 6,500 people and displaced some three million, has dragged on for 18 months. It is time for this misery to stop and Al Houthis would be well advised to join the process of building a new and inclusive Yemen.