'More than three years into Yemen’s war, the horrifying statistics induce a sense of hopelessness: 57,000 people killed, 14 million at risk of famine, 10,000 new cholera cases each week. Save the Children estimates 85,000 under-fives have starved to death. That’s an average of 77 a day since 2015. If 77 children died from avoidable causes on a single day in the UK or US, the roar of grief and anger would be heard around the world.
But the story of Yemen’s war is a story of international indifference, self-interest and cynical manipulation. World leaders at this weekend’s G20 mostly paid lip service to the issue, if they discussed it at all.
Yemen has limited economic or strategic importance. Former colonial powers, Turkey and Britain, admit no responsibility. For the Saudis next door, it is a battleground in a region-wide proxy war with Iran. For arms dealers, it’s a profitable bazaar. The ancients dubbed Yemen “Arabia Felix” (happy Arabia) for its fertile soil. That’s a grim irony now.
Things may be changing. The UN’s envoy to Yemen, British diplomat Martin Griffiths, hopes to convene peace talks in Stockholm this week. Earlier efforts foundered when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels failed to show up for talks with the Saudi-backed regime of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, pledged to go to Sweden “if safe exit and return is guaranteed and there are positive indications peace is a priority”.
Such caution is understandable; trust and goodwill are in short supply. The machinations of foreign powers, motivated by extraneous factors only indirectly related to Yemen, continue to obstruct progress. Last month, for example, Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, unexpectedly stepped in, urging a “cessation of hostilities” after previously exhibiting scant interest. Pompeo demanded an end to Houthi missile strikes on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and a reciprocal halt to the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes on populated areas.'
Read more: Children die as foreign powers circle over Yemen's shattered land
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