By Fatima Abo Alasrar

We need to temper our expectations. These talks are a first step in advancing peace. The UN envoy Martin Griffiths is focusing on introducing confidence building measures (CBMs) that will build trust between Yemen’s internationally-recognized government and the Houthi militias. It is probable that the parties will not speak directly with one another as there is still a lot of mistrust on all sides. The UN is trying to achieve wins for both parties. Both parties are keen on exchanging prisoners, for example. The Houthis also want to see Sana’a airport reopened and boost Yemen’s Central Bank. Despite the fact that the Saudi-led coalition and Yemen’s internationally recognized government have scored some important victories the Houthis remain in firm control of major urban areas. This control gives them little incentive to negotiate for peace. But they have an interest in participating in the Stockholm talks because the CBMs could give them a win. The real question is whether the Houthis seriously engage in peace talks once we move past CBMs and right now I believe the answer is no. Imposing a ceasefire will not end human suffering in Yemen. The Houthis are regularly engaging in mass abductions and arrests as well as forced recruitment, including of child soldiers. They are ruling Yemen with brute force, land mines, and small and medium arms which are causing serious damage to Yemen’s civilians. But none of these practices are on the table for negotiation. So, while there may be some type of grand bargain with regard to a ceasefire, we are still a long way from resolving Yemen’s local conflicts.

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