"Houthi damage to oil facilities will not be limited to Yemen's economy," warned Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak after a meeting with the US ambassador to Yemen.
The parties involved in Yemen's conflict failed to renew the UN-brokered truce. The ceasefire, which began in April and lasted until 2 October, managed to reduce civilian casualties by half during its six-month duration, according to data provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak met with the head of the US diplomatic mission, Stephen Fagin, to discuss a possible new truce between the opposing sides in Yemen. Fagin lamented the lack of consensus between the rebels and the various pro-government parties backed by an international Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Dialogue rounds such as this one and Mubarak's statements last week in Rabat are a sign that the government side is not giving up and is maintaining its efforts to renew the truce with the Houthis in the coming weeks.
In a meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmed Bin Mubarak, the Ambassador thanked the government for its strong support of an extension of the truce which has brought significant benefits to the Yemeni people. pic.twitter.com/HSpi0fPdkt— US Embassy to Yemen السفارة الأمريكية لدى اليمن (@USEmbassyYemen) October 10, 2022
Pending the success of this new truce, the situation threatens to once again hit the economy and energy security of the already battered country, which has been immersed in a civil war since 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels rose up in the north of the country and pushed the internationally recognised government into exile. Following his meeting with Fagin, bin Mubarak stressed that the lack of movement of Yemeni oil through the Red Sea is not only a problem for Yemen, but also for its neighbours and partners who import its crude.
After a terrible hiatus in 2016, even at the beginning of its civil war, Yemen managed to maintain relatively stable and growing oil production. According to OPEC data, by December 2021, before the first truce between the parties, Yemen managed to reach a production of 44,764 barrels per day. Nothing to do with the 119,192 bb/d produced in 2014, before the war, but at least it shows that the country's oil infrastructure is not totally paralysed and that it is experiencing slight growth. For comparison, current production resembles that of Peru.
Upon the directives of HRH the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, I met with H.E @PresidentRashad to convey the Kingdom’s appreciation of the Council’s efforts, and it’s wishes for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Yemen. pic.twitter.com/OJsivil1mM— Khalid bin Salman خالد بن سلمان (@kbsalsaud) October 10, 2022
However, following the latest OPEC meeting, which announced a daily barrel production cut for November, the Arab members of the oil-producing alliance have more cards to play in the Yemeni mediation than the US. Biden failed in his attempt to prevent this reduction, a sign of his progressive loss of influence in Middle Eastern affairs. For this reason, it will not be US mediation, but Saudi and Emirati mediation that will be key to renewing a possible truce with the Houthi rebels.
According to Middle East analyst Hazam Ayyad, the good harmony between the Arab coalition countries and their OPEC+ partners, including Russia and Iran, creates a "positive and consensual atmosphere" conducive to negotiating a new truce between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. A positive environment that Biden is far from being able to generate with the parties involved in the Yemen crisis. For Ayyad, US policy in the Middle East is being relegated to favouring Israel's interests exclusively, relegating the needs of Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Sana'a to a second tier.
The Yemeni government is aware that the Saudis remain its main supporter and guardian in its efforts to retake control of Yemen and achieve stability in the country. The leader of the Yemeni government, following the reshuffle of power in exile at the behest of Mohammed bin Salman from April 2022, met with the Saudi Defence Minister yesterday. While no details emerged from the meeting, the official communication from Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi defence minister, stated that the meeting was held to find solutions to the Yemeni impasse.
It remains to be seen whether, in the midst of the internal crisis in Iran and by tightening the oil tap, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates manage to make a positive breakthrough in negotiations with Iran and its Houthi proxies that goes beyond the extension of the truce and brings an end to the Yemeni conflict in sight.