Politics vs war (Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt))

Cairo assumed a central role in easing the conflict in Yemen when it joined the Arab coalition to reinstate the government led by the internationally recognised Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Since joining the Saudi-led Storm of Resolve military operation to drive back Houthi expansion in Yemen Cairo has expanded its role as a major player in the Yemeni arena. It is now an active partner in forging a new Yemeni political dispensation.

Egypt is acting on the premise that military action alone cannot resolve the conflict in Yemen and that any continuation of chaos there will only have negative repercussions across the region. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has made Egypt’s position clear on numerous occasions.

Cairo has recently hosted representatives from Yemeni political forces, the UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and Hadi. Cairo has also welcomed the Omani foreign minister who is spearheading diplomatic negotiations in Muscat now that the Houthi militias and forces allied with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh are on the retreat.

On Friday a joint delegation of politicians from the Houthi movement and the General People’s Congress, headed by Saleh, flew to the Omani capital for talks. Saudi Arabia has expressed a flexible attitude towards the negotiations in Muscat. As the Omani capital received the Yemeni rebel delegation, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jobeir released a statement saying, “We are prepared to support a political process in Yemen and to work with our allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council and with our friends around the world to find a solution that will help Yemen overcome its economic problems.”

Ahead of the talks now taking place in Muscat the Omani foreign minister paid a visit to Egypt. Cairo used the occasion to reiterate its view that Yemeni parties must pursue a political settlement, halt conflict and embark on a process of reconstruction.

While accompanying President Hadi to the inauguration of the new Suez Canal Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin issued a statement to the press saying he had requested an increase in Egyptian naval forces taking part in the defence of the southern Yemeni coast, especially the stretch overlooking Bab Al-Mandab. He also expressed hope that the mission could be expanded to include the rest of the Aden coastline, especially Aden’s ports.

Yassin also revealed that Al-Sisi had promised Hadi that Egypt would deploy more naval forces in Yemeni waters and begin training the Yemeni national army.

While military sources in Cairo have yet to provide details of the increased Egyptian naval presence in Yemen, General Chief of Staff Mohamed Qashqoush, professor of national security at the Higher Nasser Military Academy, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Egypt was coordinating regionally and internationally to secure an extensive naval presence in international waters around Yemen as part of the Restoration of Hope operation which seeks to secure a Houthi withdrawal from south Yemen.

In the meantime, Egypt remains committed to performing urgent logistical duties and has dispatched planes carrying relief and medical assistance to Aden.