One year into the intervention here by the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, and backed by the Yemeni National Army, I can tell my people with confidence that we are working hard to restore peace. The Houthi rebels’ military position has been weakened, and peace talks will resume next month. A cease-fire is to begin on April 10,leading up to the talks. The Houthis must respect it.
We must now direct our efforts to rebuilding our broken country.
Yemen’s war began in the summer of 2014 when the Houthi rebels, joined by soldiers loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, attacked the government’s armed forces in Amran. The rebels went on to occupy Sanaa, the capital, and overthrew Yemen’s legitimately elected government by force that September.
Before the Houthi-Saleh insurgents escalated their violence, my government had done everything possible to avoid an all-out war, and the country was undergoing a peaceful political transition. That process was derailed just as the country was putting into place the decisions of the National Dialogue Conference, a forum created by Yemenis and backed by the international community. The Houthis themselves were party to the conference discussions until they intensified their violence.
With our country in chaos, we were left with no choice but to call for the assistance of our brothers in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. Without intervention, Yemen’s future might have been that of a largely lawless and feudal country. Because of Yemen’s strategically significant location on the Gulf of Aden, the impact of continuing chaos would have been felt far beyond our borders — in the other Gulf countries, Europe and the United States.
Now my government and the coalition have shifted the balance of power on the ground. Nearly 75 percent of the land previously occupied by the Houthi-Saleh forces has been liberated, which is why they decided to participate in serious peace negotiations for the first time. We are already witnessing some results of these peace efforts as fighting along our border with Saudi Arabia has diminished.
My country, which boasts a proud heritage and culture dating back more than a thousand years, deserves a chance to thrive again.
Defeating extremism requires a coherent government that can provide services to its citizens. We are developing a post-conflict economic recovery program to help Yemen heal. But the world must stand by us as we work to rebuild our country. We urgently need international economic assistance. We especially need to provide employment to Yemen’s youth and take advantage of their enthusiasm for their country’s future.
Some progress has begun. With the help of our Arab and Islamic partners, most of the ministers of the government are back in the temporary capital, Aden, carrying out their duties. We hope that with the help of the United Nations the negotiations in April will lead to the reinstatement of Yemen’s peaceful political process and the implementation of the decisions of the National Dialogue Conference, which calls for the formation of a federal state. My government appreciates the United Nations’ work in assisting Yemen, and we will continue to support the efforts of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations special envoy.
However, for there to be an agreement in the April talks, the Houthi-Saleh forces must accept United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls for all parties to abide by the peaceful political process and agree to a durable and lasting agreement that allows the government to begin the work of returning displaced people to their homes and repairing damage.
A final peace agreement must have uncompromising measures to uphold Yemen’s security.
We will shut down, once and for all, the terrorist safe havens and again work with the West and Arab partners to rid our territory of the extremists who plot attacks on targets in the United States, Europe, Arab states and elsewhere. Already, in the past two weeks, the government of Yemen started a campaign in Aden against terrorist organizations and militarized extremist groups. The campaign has normalized the security situation in Aden. Now my government is working to bring similar campaigns to other regions.
In addition, it must be made clear to Iran, which seeks to expand its sphere of control through its Houthi proxies, that Yemen will not yield a single inch of territory to outside forces.
I assumed the presidency in 2012 while my country was in a state of political turmoil and plagued by insecurity. Even before then, there were many longstanding unsettled issues. Now we must turn to the urgent task of reconciliation.
In the years before the Houthi-Saleh violence escalated into a civil war, Yemen was making significant progress through clearly defined guidelines laid out by the National Dialogue Conference. Using the same steps and measures, these guidelines must be adhered to when we address the repercussions of the Houthi-Saleh coup.
Our government extends its hand in a peace that is sustainable and does not compromise Yemen’s state-building process. While challenges remain, the country’s outlook is brighter today than at any time over the past year.
Violence has diminished, and negotiations are scheduled. Peace is attainable. We see a future in which Yemen is stable and thriving and provides equal opportunity, better living conditions and an equal place in society for all. We must not give up hope.
Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi is the president of Yemen.