May 2-8: Direct talks resume in Kuwait, US reveals troop presence in Yemen

Monday, May 2UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met delegates from Yemen’s warring parties separately on Monday in a bid to restart negotiations after Sunday’s protest walkout by the government. The Hadi delegation withdrew from face-to-face talks after Houthi forces seized an army base north of San’a. 

Tuesday, May 3 According to a recent report released by Transparency International, Yemen has the highest rate of corruption in the Middle East, with nearly four out of five public service users paying bribes. Eighty-four percent of Yemenis believe that corruption has gotten worse in the past year and 91 percent believe that the government is not doing enough to fight corruption. Click here to view the full report.

Wednesday, May 4 Direct negotiations resumed on Wednesday after a three-day suspension. UN envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that the renewed talks would focus on cementing the ceasefire.

A cross-party committee of MPs called on Wednesday for an independent international inquiry into breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen’s war. The committee’s report, which contradicts statements made by the UK’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, says: “The evidence we have received, from humanitarian actors operating on the ground in Yemen and respected human rights organisations including UN commissioned evidence, unanimously suggested that humanitarian law (IHL) is being breached...We remain unconvinced that Saudi Arabia is best placed to conduct investigations into reports of IHL abuses by the Saudi-led Coalition." As the second-largest arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, the UK could be implicated in any breach of international law committed by the Saudi-led coalition.

Human Rights Watch released a statement on Wednesday calling on participants to the Yemen peace talks to “support international investigations, transitional justice, and victim compensation as key elements of any agreement.” Numerous violations of international and humanitarian law by both Houthi forces and the Saudi-led coalition have been documented, yet have not resulted in impartial investigations or punishment. The HRW report comes as MSF decided to withdraw from the World Humanitarian Summit due to a lack of confidence that the summit will address weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response in conflict zones including Yemen and Syria.

Thursday, May 5 The UN envoy confirmed on Thursday that talks are continuing despite “worrying” violations of the ceasefire. “The peace talks are continuing, we are determined to reach an agreement and this commitment will not wane over time,” Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told reporters.

Dozens of al-Qaeda militants in the Abyan province towns of Zinjibar and Jaar withdrew on Thursday following weeks of mediation with tribal leaders who convinced them to leave rather than face a coalition offensive. The withdrawal comes less than two weeks after Al-Qaeda forces fled Mukalla, which had functioned as a lucrative mini-state for AQAP for over a year.

US officials confirmed that the American military is helping Yemeni, Emirati, and Arab Coalition forces battle al-Qaeda in southern Yemen by providing intelligence, ships, military and medical support, and offering strategic advice. American special operations forces were said to be working at the “headquarters level and are not near the conflict,” but US personnel have reportedly been in the country for two weeks. Spokesperson for the Pentagon Jeff Davis said that the operation is viewed as “short-term.”

Friday, May 6 Seven people were killed and fifteen wounded in an explosion Friday at a qat market in Ma'rib. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Saturday, May 7 A video of French-Tunisian Red Cross employee Nourane Houas, who was kidnapped in Yemen last December, was obtained by France 24 on Friday. Houas is shown pleading with President Hollande to meet the demands of her unidentified captors who, according to France 24’s expert on militant Islamist groups, are likely to be from a local, non-jihadi group.

Yemeni army colonel Badr al-Yafei was assassinated in a drive-by shooting in Aden’s Khormaksar on Saturday. His death is the latest in a string of assassinations of senior officials in the city.

Sunday, May 8 The Houthis accused the coalition on Sunday of launching airstrikes that killed seven people in Nihm. These accusations, along with alleged complaints by the Hadi government of the lack of progress in the negotiations, may hamper the Kuwait talks.