Yemen 'talks back to point zero', Italy's special envoy

Worst humanitarian crisis, Riyadh and UAE allies split on future

31 July, 18:30

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, JULY 31 - ''Talks on Yemen have gone back to point zero,'' Italy's Special Envoy for Yemen, Gianfranco Petruzzella told ANSAmed in an interview on Monday.

    However, ''Italy cannot do anything alone'', he added. ''As a government, our priority is to facilitate an international negotiations process to stop the fighting and achieve a political solution''. Petruzzella was appointed by Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni in September 2016. UNICEF, WFP and the WHO all show devastating figures for Yemen, with UN officials saying that the country is experiencing the worst epidemic of cholera in the world in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, which in the last three months alone has led to 400,000 cases of suspected cholera and 1,900 deaths associated with the disease.

    In the war that began in march 2015 between the government under President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi, supported by the military coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels (allied with units that remained loyal to former president Ali Abdhalla Saleh and accused of having links to Iran), the fighting has led to over 8,000 deaths, mostly of civilians, and 44,500 injured. Stopping the violence and serious violations of humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia - denounced many times by NGOs - and blocking the sale of weapons (including Italian ones) to Riyadh seems impossible. ''The assessment on arms sales is conducted by the Italian government in collaboration with the Parliament,'' Petruzzella said, noting that ''Riyadh's security needs should be assessed within the regional framework.'' For now, the talks are stalled. After the failure of those in Kuwait City (April 2016), also the dialogue that began in May has been interrupted. A proposal by UN Special Envoy for Yemen, the Mauritanian Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has also fallen through, which - as Petruzzelli noted - ''the management of the Hodeida port (in the hands of the Houthi rebels) by a committee made up of Houthi-Saleh, a Saudi-led coalition of international experts of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM), able to monitor the entrance of merchandise and the financial management of the port, of crucial importance for the Yemeni economy.'' The re-opening of the port, he noted, would lead to the reopening of the Sanaa airport.

    The proposal ''has been left hanging. As soon as he arrived in Sanaa to explain the content to the Houthis, the envoy added, ''they shot at him''.

    Diplomatic efforts continue despite all is these dire problems. ''The UN and representatives of the parties of Aden and Sanaa, the General People's Congress (GPC) and Al-Islah (the largest opposition party of the Houthis, Ed.), continue meeting to discuss the future constitutional framework of the country,'' he said. ''A session of this dialogue was held in June in Italy as well and others will surely be held,'' he added, but the main problem ''is still the federal nature and the powers of the federated regions.'' To the question of whether it is possible to go back to a Yemen divided into two parts as it was before 1990, he said that ''Italy and the UN are against this and it isn't a good idea for Saudi Arabia, while it would not be a problem for the UAE, which has a great deal of trade with the south.'' In the latest donors conference for Yemen, for 2017-2018, Italy decided to set aside 10 million euros, 4 million of which have already been allocated. (ANSAmed).

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