|With the UN Secretary-General (SG), Antonio Guterres.|
When the US Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis made a call last Tuesday to end the war in Yemen and return to immediate peace talks in Sweden in 30 days, hopes soared. That was probably the strongest statement made by a US official in support of peace in Yemen in a long time.
I was lucky today to meet both the UN Secretary-General (SG), Antonio Guterres and the Swedish ambassador to the UN Security Council, Mr Carl Skau. Both shared a hopeful outlook on the potential peace talks in Sweden and felt they could indeed succeed where previous attempts have failed.
The meeting with the SG was planned months ago by the Dag Hammarskjold journalism fellowship of which I am one of the grantees this year, along with my fellow Abdi Latif Dahir from Kenya and Amitoj Singh from India. The meeting lasted for only 15 minutes and it was challenging for us to pose all the questions we had in mind. My focus was certainly Yemen and I posed questions about the likelihood that proposed peace talks in Sweden could actually lead to peace. I also addressed the question of accountability for the war crimes committed in Yemen. As a diplomats’ job is to always appear optimistic, the SG was typically diplomatic. Mr Guterres expressed his hope that the UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths would succeed in his ongoing communication with Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Sana’a, and begin planning for peace talks in Sweden.
For my second meeting today at the Swedish mission to the UN office, I was fortunate that they welcomed my interview request from two weeks ago. I thought it was perfect timing that to speak with Mr Skau right after Sweden was proposed as the site for potential peace talks. So, I, of course, asked the Swedish ambassador about that.
|With the Swedish ambassador to the UN Security Council, Mr Carl Skau|
The ambassador had no information on the details of where the proposal for peace stood and if indeed the talks are to be held in Sweden. He confirmed nevertheless that Sweden has offered to host such talks on its soil and that in fact the offer was made before General Mattis suggested the idea. Sweden, he confirmed, is in close contact with the UN Special Envoy, whose efforts are supported and closely followed by the Swedish government.
Most importantly, the Swedish ambassador said, “we are working closely with the Netherlands and the UK on a humanitarian UNSC resolution on Yemen that we hope can be adopted in the coming weeks.”
Overall, there seems to be many factors coming together in favour of invigorating the peace process for Yemen. Both developments outside and inside the United Nations are crucial. Starting from the growing international pressure on Saudi Arabia regarding the murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, to linking that to the atrocities committed in Yemen - all have influenced UN member states’ approach to the Yemen conflict. This gives me hope that the coming weeks may bring some happy news for Yemen.