There were omens that things were not going well in Geneva at the Yemen talks. After several days, the two sides had yet to meet face to face. And tensions boiled over yesterday when a Yemeni journalist threw a shoe at the head of the Houthi delegation during a press conference, yelling “I am willing to lose my career as a journalist but not watch you kill our people every day, then come and attend a peace conference!”
Now, on the third day of Ramadan, the whole charade is over. Al Jazeera reports:
Foreign Minister Riad Yassin told Al Jazeera on Friday that his delegation plans to leave the negotiations and return to Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
“Until this time we have not achieved anything. Unfortunately, still the Houthis have not complied with anything,” Yassin told Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra.
“There is no progress for the time being. We did not receive any proposal.”
Yassin said that Houthi representatives have even refused to leave their hotel in Geneva.
The collapse of the talks is a tragedy for the Yemeni people. The UN sounded the alarm on the growing humanitarian crisis and called for up to $1.6 billion in aid to avert a “looming catastrophe.” More than 3,000 cases of the deadly mosquito-borne dengue fever have been recorded in Yemen since March, and up to 80 percent of Yemen’s population are in need of one form of assistance or another.
For its part, Saudi Arabia continued launching airstrikes, most recently hitting elite Republican Guard fighters allied with the Houthis. But the fact that the Houthis were unwilling to give an inch at the talks reveals just how ineffective the Saudi strategy has been. The Saudi adventure in Yemen is reportedly young Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s war, and he’s persisting in it, despite murmurs of discontent issuing out of the secretive bureaucracy of the Kingdom. The fact that no Saudis were in Geneva signals that they probably had low expectations for the talks anyway. But it still raises the question: What can they do next in Yemen? Is walking away an option?