Yemen

In 1990 the Republic of Yemen was formed, uniting the then independent North Yemen (previously under the Ottoman Empire rule) and South Yemen (formerly under British rule). The relations between independent socialist South Yemen and western-oriented North Yemen had been strained and four years after reunification a secessionist movement, the Democratic Republic of Yemen, unsuccessfully attempted to re-establish independent South Yemen.

Today, Yemen remains one of the most conflict-ridden countries in the world, with several violent crises and four active wars. The conflict between al-Houthi rebels and the government escalated from a violent crisis to a full-scale war in 2014, with al-Houthis (also known as Ansaruallah) consolidating their control and seizing the capital Sanaa. Al-Houthis' advance met increased resistance from Sunni tribal forces in the north and from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the south, with both conflicts constituting limited wars. The al-Houthi conflict with the government intensified as militants took over the presidential palace in January 2015 and in mid-March 2015 when Saudi Arabia led an intervention into Yemen. Saudi Arabia, spearheading a coalition of nine Arab states, began carrying out airstrikes as part of a military intervention in support of the disposed Yemeni government. With Saudi Arabia stepping in and the Yemeni government accusing Iran of supporting the rebels, there are concerns that the situation in Yemen is becoming a proxy-war. Over 10,000 people have been killed (over 60% of whom are civilians) and close to 6,000 people injured, with over 3.2m people internally displaced. With concerns over the potential targeting of civilians by the Saudi-led coalition, several countries, including Great Britain and the Netherlands, canceled arms deals with Saudi Arabia in 2016. The UNSC called the humanitarian crisis in the country the worst in the world in terms of people in need, with 14.1m people food insecure, with 7m severely food insecure.

In addition, the conflict between AQAP and the linked Islamist militants of Ansar al-Sharia, on the one hand, and the recent government, supported by the US and the Popular Resistance Committee forces, on the other, has escalated. AQAP attacked government troops, winning territory in the first half of 2016, before being pushed back by US and Saudi airstrikes. AQAP has also been in conflict with the al-Houthi militants in the south of the country, trying to enlist Sunni militia against the rebels.

IS has also infiltrated the country, concentrating its attacks in the southern city of Aden, with suicide bombings mainly targeting government officials and security staff. The US has claimed that IS is cooperating with AQAP in southern Yemen.

Peace attempts

While the call for unification between North and South Yemen had been made in 1972, it was a 1979 peace agreement that led to the uniting of the two states. More recently, the several violent conflicts in Yemen have been marked by failed negotiations. A National Dialogue Conference (NDC) began in 2013 as a transitional dialogue process, but in early 2014, al-Houthi rebels announced (in response to assassinations) that they would not abide by the provisions made by the NDC. After al-Houthi rebels seized control of the capital, a UN-brokered peace deal was struck between the conflict parties. However, the rebels refused to hand over seized weapons and control over Sanaa. Tribesmen and Shia Houthi fighters reached a new agreement to end hostilities - however, al-Houthi militants continued to occupy government buildings in Sanna. The limited war between al-Houthi rebels and Sunni tribal forces also saw unsuccessful ceasefire negotiations, such as the mid-2014 agreement, which failed to materialize. Despite these discouragements, a ceasefire was agreed in May 2015, and initially successfully allowed the delivery of relief and aid to the country's civilian populations. However, UN-sponsored talks to end the conflict in April 2016 were canceled after three months, when the al-Houthi claimed that their political demands were not being met. In October 2016, the Houthis toughened their demands for the resumption of peace talks, demanding the resignation of President Hadi.

Yemeni political sources have said that UN special envoy Ismaiel Ould Cheikh is set to re-open peace talks on Yemen by proposing a new peace plan.

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