On Saturday, the Houthis and the Yemeni government agreed to exchange 194 prisoners in the still-hotly contested city of Taiz. That’s not much weighed against the overall toll of the civil war, but it is the first positive sign to come out of the ongoing UN-sponsored ceasefire talks in Kuwait (apart from a downturn in fighting, just about everywhere except for Taiz, that coincided with the start of the talks). It’s also potentially a first step on which the talks can now build. On the other hand, it could just be a minor blip before the talks break down and the fighting resumes in earnest. And if you think that’s flippant, it actually seems to be the UAE’s current Yemen policy.
Late last week, the Emirati Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash was quoted saying that “the [Yemeni] war is practically over for our troops.” This came kind of out of left field and was immediately interpreted as a sign that the UAE was preparing to withdraw from active participation in the Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition. The next day, though, Gargash said he was “taken out of context” and that the UAE isn’t planning to do anything of the sort. Gargash probably had to say that in order to appease the Saudis, but even allowing for the possibility that his comment was out of context, it still seems fair to say that the Emiratis see the possibility of an end to the fighting off in the distance. And even the Saudis are now talking about “prioritizing” the fight against ISIS and “other armed groups” (hopefully including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) in Yemen over the fight against the Houthis. So I don’t know, maybe there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic here.
Or, you know, not.