Last month, GCC-brokered Yemeni-Yemeni consultations concluded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We spoke with leading Emirati political analyst Mohammed Baharoon to get more insight.
1) What were the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) goals and rationale behind the recent Yemeni–Yemeni consultations in Riyadh?
The talks are a continuation of the GCC initiative that supported the National Dialogue (2013-2014), and it continues to hold the same objectives to provide a platform for Yemenis to talk about their current affairs and future as well as agree on the minimum level of commonality. At the same time, the talks also emphasise that Yemen’s stability is seen within the context of the Arabian Peninsula and continued integration with GCC, which was the basis of the 2011 GCC initiative. Importantly, the talks were held at the GCC general secretariat, which makes them a GCC-wide initiative, and not a GCC country initiative.
2) How does the GCC’s current, prominent role fit within its role since the start of the conflict? Does it mark a shift?
It is a continuation of what the GCC started in 2012. The invitation to Houthis to join the talks is based on the principle that Houthis are part of the Yemeni fabric, which is something the Coalition have maintained. The position was not about Houthis, but about their actions.
3) What are the key things that make the GCC’s relationship with Yemen so important?
Yemen constitutes the biggest part of the south of the Arabian Peninsula, and strategically it is the GCC’s access (along with Oman and the United Arab Emirates) to the Indo-Pacific connection. The ethnic, tribal, and cultural links to the GCC are very strong.
4) As an institution, how would you see the potential for GCC capacity to host or facilitate talks with the Houthis?
The GCC is the best equipped. The actual consultation that took place provided proof. There were about 700 people participating, which was more than the number of those who participated in the National Dialogue in Yemen. The representation, with the exception of the Houthis, was very impressive, and the inclusivity of the meeting was far more successful than anything experienced since the war. In terms of capacity, the GCC has been involved in Yemen over the years and has the technical capacity and accumulated experience to deal with Yemen, more so than any other international organization.
5) What is your forecast for the future of the GCC’s role in Yemen-related diplomatic efforts, particularly with regards to the wider UN-led process?
The GCC initiative, though it has historic roots reaching back to before the UN process, shares the same objectives and operates in tandem. The UN special envoy to Yemen as well as those of the US and Sweden were present and have been meeting the participants, and there is no conflict between the two. If anything, the GCC initiative has the advantage of grounding the process in the shared objectives of the region and can provide it with longevity.
As for the future, there have never been more strides made since the beginning of the war, and in terms of lots of the internal issues, it has achieved at least a minimum level of commonality which allows the different partners to regain trust and rebuild relations. This should provide enough grounds to address some of the more thorny issues, such as the shape of the Yemeni state, the source of legitimacy, and security reform.
Mohammed Baharoon is a political analyst and Director General of b’huth, an independent public policy research centre founded in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that focuses on international and geostrategic affairs, public policy studies, and public opinion research.
Adam Baron is a writer and political analyst. He was based in Yemen from 2011–2014. He is also a YPC Board Member.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Yemen Policy Center or its donors.