Hisham Sharaf Abdullah, foreign minister of the Houthi rebels who control the north of Yemen, arrived for our interview in the capital Sana’a armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and two pistols.
Placing them on his large executive desk, he announced confidently that the current ceasefire would hold. ‘We have come to the last chapter,’ he told me. ‘We must have peace, by hook or by crook.’
But Abdullah, like most Yemenis, is visibly hedging his bets. Although the negotiations are due to resume for a second round, no one believes an agreement is close.
United Nations officials overseeing the negotiations are not out to achieve a lasting, comprehensive peace, but to convince the foreign powers which waded into this war – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and their allies the United States and Britain – to push for an end to the violence. Key is a ceasefire in the strategic prize of Hodeidah, Yemen’s main port on the Red Sea.