The potential for a breakthrough in the Yemen war, now in its fourth year, may be close at hand. Last week, Martin Griffiths, the new UN envoy to Yemen, delivered a proposal that would avert a fight for Hodeidah, a city of as many as 600,000 people whose port provides an economic lifeline to millions of Yemenis. Now, it is up to the Houthis, the rebel group occupying Hodeidah, along with the internationally recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition that backs it, to deliver their responses to Griffiths.
If any one of these parties rejects Griffiths’s plan—or if Western powers fail to exert enough pressure on their Gulf allies to accept it—they would be complicit in the ensuing tragedy and the perpetuation of a war that has precipitated the world’s costliest humanitarian crisis. With UAE-backed forces on the outskirts of Hodeidah and the Houthis digging in for what promises to be a long, nasty fight, these answers could not come soon enough.
While Griffiths’s plan has not yet been made public, a broad outline has leaked. The details include a phased Houthi withdrawal from Hodeidah’s port and city, along with two other nearby ports. The UN would help Yemeni staff run the port facility, and would also assist local government and police in managing the city. Because these local personnel have remained largely neutral during the war in Yemen, they ought to be acceptable to all sides. In return, UAE-backed forces would gradually pull back from the city. The deal would be tied to a broader national ceasefire, and a return to peace talks after a two-year hiatus.