Yemeni-Yemeni Consultations with GCC Sponsorship: Is Peace Looming?


Tue, 29-03-2022 05:03 PM, Aden

Farida Ahmed (South24) 

As part of regional and international interactions with the Yemeni crisis file, the Gulf Cooperation Council proposed hosting Yemeni-Yemeni consultations. The invitation was announced by the GCC Secretary-General, "Nayef Al-Hajraf”, during a press conference in Riyadh describing it as a call to end war and expand peace. (1) The Yemeni consultations are likely to be held from March 29th to April 7th 2022.

Over more than 7 years since the outbreak of the 2014 civil war in Yemen, most initiatives and agreements presented, whether international or regional, were either mutual solution formulas between two main parties or among parties in a camp which opposes the other. However, the most certain is that they were just temporary-not final- initiatives. As for the GCC states, it is not the first time. In November 2011, the GCC presented the "Gulf Initiative" to address power transfer in Yemen. It was considered one of the three main references which are relied upon in any arrangements for political settlement solutions. However, at this time, the Initiative constituted a solution between two parties (the authority and the opposition) while ignoring other parties including Southerners. 

But now, after more than 10 years on the first Gulf Initiative, the second one is open  for all Yemeni parties with no exception including the Houthis who rejected the invitation because it will be held in "Riyadh" and announced they will welcome it in any other neutral country. (2) Despite the cautious optimism of the anti-Houthi parties, they welcomed the invitation. In a statement, Yemeni Presidency stressed its support for all efforts aiming at restoring security, stability and achieving peace in Yemen based upon the national constants in light of the three references top of which is the Gulf Initiative and its implementation mechanism. Likewise, the STC hailed the Initiative saying “it adopts open approach towards comprehensive consultations which ensure attending all interested parties to address pivotal issues, mainly the Southern people issue without any preconditions through a framework that paves the way for a negotiation operation to guarantee a comprehensive and sustainable peace.” (4)  

At the international level, UN spokesman, Stephane Dugoback, welcomed the GCC Initiative as it supports the UN efforts. (5) Acting US Ambassador to Yemen, Kathy Welsey, praised it but she stressed the need to seize the opportunity made by the UN Envoy. (6)      

Why now?

The invitation came in parallel with the efforts of the UN Envoy, Hans Grundberg, who said in his UNSC briefing on Feb. 15th, that he is designing a framework upon which he will determine a comprehensive political settlement plan. (7) Following this, he met with Yemeni President Hadi in Riyadh at the beginning of March along with several meetings with various Yemeni parties in his Amman office. The UN Envoy moves show he is approaching reaching final solution consultations that gather the Houthis with their rival parties. Similar to those held by former UN Envoy, Ismael Ould Cheikh, in Kuwait in 2016.

Moreover, it seems that the GCC wants to contribute in paving the circumstances for the success of the UN-sponsored consultations to actually end the conflict in Yemen, and bypass the setbacks which accompanied the previous negotiations that didn’t lead to an agreement to wrap up the conflict that has raged for more than seven years.

The Riyadh Conference 2022 is likely to conclude with outputs through which an agreement could be reached with the sponsor state for a political settlement. Those outputs are likely to be crystallized according to the attendant parties of the conference. In the GCC statement, “Al-Hajraf” said that invitations will be sent to all Yemeni parties and components and will be held in the headquarters of the General Secretariat with whomever attended. (8) This means that it will be held anyway even if the invitation is rejected by any party. 

Reservations and cautions 

Despite the wide-scale welcome towards the Gulf invitation, some parties still have some Reservations and cautions, especially as the former Gulf initiatives had negative results and didn’t include different issues and parties.

Those reservations could be formulated at two sides:

Local reservations: It is remarkable that despite the Yemeni Presidency welcomed the invitation, its acceptance statement came one day after the GCC's call for negotiation. It is an unusual Presidential step which usually welcomes any statement regarding Yemen issued by any international or regional parties in a matter of hours. But the reservations are likely related to changes in the presidential Yemeni structure itself. It seems that the consultations would contribute in presenting several formulas to address the Presidential form including (a presidential council, two vice presidents or more than vice president).

It can be said that the status of the Internationally-Recognized Government (IRG) backed by the Arab Coalition countries became a big burden for those states while the Houthis went too far and controlled wide geographical areas in North Yemen over the last two years. Additionally, they constantly hit sensitive locations in the Saudi depth, the latest of which was three days after calling for Yemeni consultations as they targeted Aramco oil facilities and infrastructure in the kingdom's southern areas. (9) The Houthis previously attacked the UAE in the beginning of the current year.

Therefore, it is likely that the consultations and its possible outputs will constitute a suitable approach for a wider contribution of the Yemeni parties in taking sovereign decisions. This approach seems suitable for the Arab Coalition states, mainly the KSA especially if it includes changes in the Yemeni presidential structures. This is tied to a consensus of the various Yemeni forces including deposing Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar and undermining the Islamic “Islah Party” (the Muslim Brotherhood) on the junctures of presidency and the National Army. This would lead to a comprehensive reform operation in both the presidential and the army institutions. Meanwhile, this will provide more credible political and military forces which are more ready to change the military equations on the ground to reduce the Houthi threats to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

As for the STC, as being a political and military party who has a big impact in South Yemen, its reservations seem related to the Southern issue and the future of South Yemen in general. The STC will likely put initial conditions to engage in any post-consultations future settlement for the military and political gains it has achieved in the Southern areas. This would guarantee maintaining the gains made by Southern forces during past years. The Southern military forces, including the two Shabwani elites, the Security Belts and the “Giants Brigades” became better trained, prepared and motivated in many aspects, even if they are less in numbers than the “National Army'' led by Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar. They are characterized by steady fighting doctrine and they have been able to achieve a proper impact in a brief period. Thus, the Southerners naturally have reservations amid the instance of some parties on ignoring the nature of military balances and the position of influential political forces in South Yemen, top of which is the STC. Parallel, "Mohammed Al-Ghaithi", the STC’S Head of Foreign Affairs said that they will raise a number of visions in the Riyadh Consultations, top of which is making reforms in the IRG’s system. He stressed that the Vice President obviously must leave his office. (10)

International reservations: The Gulf invitation comes at a time where the Saudi-American relationships are not at their best due to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. There is tension in the international energy sector in light of the US and Britain embargo regarding oil and gas Russian imports. (11) In last February, Washington asked Riyadh to increase oil production to reduce price rise. However, Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman informed the US that his country won’t pump more oil in the market. (12) Wall Street Journal confirmed this when it pointed out that Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, refused a request from US President, Joe Biden, to increase oil production,  and declined to receive a phone call from him. (13)

This denotes a negative development in the relation between the two parties, especially that the US has not so far designated the Houthis in the “terrorist” list which has been an urgent matter for the KSA and the UAE. Meanwhile, the UNSC issued a resolution that classified the Houthis as a “terrorist group” for the first time, added them in the Yemen sanction list and imposes arm embargo against them. (14) However, it seems that the US insists on losing its Gulf friends through delaying addressing the Houthi file and its related Iranian threats against its regional partners security.

Therefore, the Gulf states, mainly the KSA and the UAE, are likely to seek to establish new security and economic relationships with them, or strengthen them while maintaining balanced ties with the west. Saudi Arabia invited Chinese President, Xi Jinping, to visit Riyadh in a trip expected to be after the month of Ramadan which will begin in early April this year. (15) This visit could serve as a qualitative shift in the energy and economy fields in the Gulf and the Middle East.

Practically, the KSA has an oil pressure card which it can use to force the US to meet its demands. Based on that, Riyadh announced, in a statement, that “It will not be responsible for any shortage in oil supplies after the attacks on its oil facilities by the Iran-backed Houthi militias”. (16) This was a clear message that the security cooperation comes in the top of Saudi interests.


The Riyadh Consultations invitations were sent without setting out a prior schedule for its sessions. participant parties are entrusted   to determine the issues they will discuss. Therefore, the issues will depend on those who will attend. If the Houthis decide to participate, and in case of reaching a formula in Riyadh by the Yemeni parties, this could establish the way for new references in the political, military and economic references. This could in turn push for outputs which may serve as an introduction upon which “Grundberg” will build his mission to reach a comprehensive agreement and proceed towards consultations with different Yemeni parties including the Houthis, in parallel with the UN Envoy’s plan for a sustainable settlement consisting of three trajectories: economic, security and political.

Ezzat Mustafa, a researcher and a political analyst said: “If the Houthis accept the invitation to attend the conference, the outputs are expected to include articles which can be built upon for the transitional phase after the political agreement that could be reached by the UN Envoy”.

However, if the Houthis don’t attend those consultations, Mustafa expects that the outputs “could include terms related to the political and military status of the IRG to unify efforts and visions of different components and engage them in the decision making”. The most important points among those outputs are, according to Mustafa, “recommendation for appointing more than one vice president who represent the rising and effective forces on the ground. Additionally, they could include clauses regarding the representation rate for each component in the IRG’s negotiation delegation which will face the Houthis in the final consultations prepared by the Un Envoy” (17)

In return, in case of the Houthi absence, the Consultations will likely pave the way for a wider field escalation on the ground to confront the Iran-backed Houthis. This is based on changing the expected battle management decision and the exclusion of tools upon which the Coalition relied so far that have failed at the political and military levels over past years. 

Farida Ahmed

Executive Director of South24 Center for News and Studies

Photo: GCC Secretary General (Saudi Media) 


[1] A Gulf initiative to develop a road map that paves the way for ending the fighting in Yemen | Independent Arabia (

[2] The Houthis in Yemen refuse to participate in a dialogue in Saudi Arabia (

[3] The Yemeni presidency welcomes the invitation of the GCC to hold consultations to "end the war" (

[4] Yemen. The “STC” welcomes the "GCC" initiative to hold consultations in Riyadh - RT Arabic



[7] Briefing of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Mr. Hans Grundberg, to the Security Council | OSESGY (

[8] “Gulf Cooperation”: We will invite all Yemenis for consultations, and they will be held with whomever attended” Middle East (

[9] Saudi Arabia announces that the Houthis launched “hostile attacks” against Aramco oil facilities in the south of the country (


[11] United States and United Kingdom announce ban on Russian oil imports over Ukraine invasion - ABC News

[12] The KSA rejects US President Joe Biden's request to increase oil production - Al-Shorouk Gate (

[13] “Wall Street Journal”: The US is paying the price in the Ukraine crisis because of its loss to the Saudis - RT Arabic

[14] S_RES_2624.pdf (

[15] American newspaper: Saudi Arabia invited  the Chinese president to visit the kingdom amid strained relations with Washington - RT Arabic

[16] The KSA disclaims responsibility for lack of energy supplies due to Houthi attacks | Independent Arabia (

[17] An interview conducted by the author with researcher and political analyst Izzat Mustafa, Chairman of the Fanar Center for Policy Research, March 23rd, 2022

GCC ConsultationsHouthisRiyadhSaudi Arabia