July 18-24: Kuwait issues ultimatum for talks, UK retracts statements on Saudi crimes

Monday, July 18Two car bombs struck military checkpoints in the southern port city of Mukalla, killing between five and ten people and wounding many more. The attack was claimed by Al-Qaeda.

On the second day of peace talks following a break for Eid, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met separately with warring sides. On Sunday, President Hadi warned that his government would boycott the talks if Ould Cheikh Ahmed insisted on a roadmap stipulating a unity government that included the Houthis.

A Huffington Post article by Rasha Jarhum sheds light on the underrepresentation of women in Yemen’s peace talks, and the effect this imbalance will have on the country’s future. There are only three women among the 26 negotiators at the talks despite an agreement at the NDC that women should make up at least 30% of negotiators. Because of their poor representation at talks, issues such as the protection of women and children in conflict and reparations for affected communities are not receiving proper attention.

Tuesday, July 19 The deterioration of Yemen’s economy is noticeably impacting daily life, as locals are frequently unable to afford basic goods such as food and fuel. The prices of these goods fluctuate and are dependent on the dropping value of the rial. Foreign importers have been unable to obtain the loans necessary to deliver food to Yemen, forcing the prices of staples like grain and wheat to surge. Meanwhile, health clinics have been unable to operate as medical supplies are unobtainable and foreign healthcare workers are fleeing the country.

Wednesday, July 20 Muftah published a series of articles on the problematic media landscape in Yemen, illustrating how the war has distorted or hindered reporting on the ground. Various journalists and academics specializing in Yemen collaborated on these pieces as part of a conference held by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Regional Office, Gulf States, in May.

An explosion in central Aden killed four soldiers and wounded six others in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group. Security officials and other witnesses said the blast was set off by a suicide bomber detonating an explosive vest.

Yemen's Central Bank Governor Mohammed bin Hammam said a second round of transfers of bank funds abroad to facilitate imports would take place in the coming days. The first batch of transfers came earlier this year. The civil war has left importers unable to buy food stocks as over $200 million is stuck in banks.

Thursday, July 21 Kuwait issued an ultimatum to Yemen’s negotiating parties, saying that an agreement must be reached within the next 15 days or the delegations will need to leave the country.

“We have given 15 days for Yemeni sides taking part in the talks to resolve all the issues,” Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister Khalid al-Jarallah told Al Arabiya.

“If matters are not resolved within the 15 days, we have hosted them enough and consequently our brothers have to excuse us if we cannot continue hosting,” said al-Jarallah.

Friday, July 22 An analysis by Stratfor weighs the possible outcomes of the next, and ostensibly last, two weeks of negotiations. It seems unlikely that an agreement will be reached soon, as it would require both sides to make concessions. However, even if they do manage to strike a deal, that is no guarantee that militant factions on the ground would adhere to their decision.

“The actions of Houthi forces on the ground indicate that their leaders likely believe the talks will amount to nothing. A Houthi spokesperson issued an ultimatum July 19: Houthi border offensives will continue until Saudi airstrikes halt. And indeed, cross-border shelling by militants into Saudi Arabia's southern districts, including Jizan, have increased.”

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Saudi perspective on the war in Yemen. The piece quotes prominent Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi, who explains that Saudi Arabia is not under any significant domestic or military pressure to end the conflict, even though the coalition has so far failed to accomplish its goal of pushing the Houthis out of San’a.

“Yes, the war is expensive, but we should finish it well. If we stop it without getting San’a and disarming the Houthis, it will be a historical and military catastrophe,” warned Ibrahim al Marie, a retired Saudi colonel and a political strategist and commentator. “It would be a problem for the confidence between the government and the people, and the decision makers in the kingdom know this very well.”

The UK’s Foreign Office has been forced to retract statements to parliament which said ministers had assessed that Saudi Arabia was not in breach of international humanitarian law in Yemen.

The Foreign Office claimed that the incorrect statements, made by three different ministers, were errors and did not represent an attempt to mislead. The UK government is facing a court case arguing that it should ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

A car bomb exploded outside the Houthi-run Bilal mosque in San’a as worshippers were finishing prayers. No casualties were reported and no group has claimed responsibility.

Gulf News reports that an outbreak of dengue fever in Shabwa province has killed 27 people and infected approximately 3,000 others. Officials warn that the disease is spreading due to a lack of drugs and insecticide.

Saturday, July 23 Hadi’s government-in-exile says it will leave talks in Kuwait by early August with or without a deal. Yemen’s foreign affairs minister Abdul Malik Al-Mikhlafi added, “This is a last chance for peace. If [the Houthis and Saleh] waste it thinking that they can come to Kuwait to manoeuvre and waste time then they’re deluded.”

Sunday, July 24 General Mansour Al-Hasani told Okaz news that there has been an increased siege by Houthi forces on Ta’iz, blocking off all roads into the city and preventing anyone from entering to deliver food or aid.