The situation in Yemen, where the armed conflict led to disastrous humanitarian consequences, was the main issue at the third session of the Valdai Club Middle East conference.
In addition to the difficult humanitarian situation in the country, the participants noted the deplorable state of infrastructure, airports, seaports, military and civilian institutions, objects of cultural and historical heritage.
They were unanimous in the opinion that the immediate cessation of hostilities is a task of paramount importance, and only after that it could be possible to speak about the beginning of the political process. The end of the war must be accompanied by disarmament, demobilization, and also by the solution of the Yemeni borders security problem.
It was the war that caused millions to suffer, said Ali Naser Mohamed, President of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (1980-1986). He stressed, that its termination is beneficial to all parties. He recalled that a year ago he listed the measures to be taken in Yemen: stop war, fight against international terrorism and arms sales, develop an equitable economic system, stop supporting armed groups that destroy the lives of individual countries and threaten security and stability around the world. However, over the past time the situation became only worse.
Instability in Yemen leads also to instability in Saudi Arabia and further across the region, said Oleg Ozerov, Deputy Director of the Department of Africa of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2010-2017). Yemen occupies an important geostrategic position and can influence the situation in the Bab el Mandeb Strait, the Red Sea, the African Horn, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula.
In absence of progress the chaos may spread to neighboring countries. Karim Haggag, Professor of Practice, The American University in Cairo, drew attention to the threat of radicalization and the transformation of Yemen into a hotbed of terrorism.
The participants also agreed, that the assassination of Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017 by his former allies was a serious blow to the chances of normalization.
One of the main reasons for the lack of positive changes in the settlement of the Yemen crisis was a weak attention to the problem by the international community. According to Ali Naser Muhamed, the UN and the great powers should exert pressure on the warring parties to end the war and launch a political process, since today the Yemenis can not cope with the situation alone. Ozerov agreed, that the parties in the conflict themselves can not offer a positive agenda, and stressed the importance of support from the international community. According to him, Russia has never abandoned participation in the peace process. He expressed the opinion, that Yemen is a platform where Russia and the West have the least contradictions and can cooperate. Moreover, according to Ozerov, there are no contradictions in Yemen between Russia and Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, it is necessary to use the improved relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia in order to extend this mutual understanding to Yemen. A new atmosphere in Russian-Saudi relations will give a new impetus to the resolution of the conflict, the diplomat said.
Haggag, in turn, drew attention to the lack of a contact group for Yemen, while it exists on Libya and Syria. These mechanisms allow the parties to reconcile, and for de-escalation in Yemen such a group could be useful.