On December 13, a cease-fire was agreed for the port city of Hodayda (Hodeidah) in Yemen. The cease-fire came after the parties in Yemen’s civil war came to an agreement mediated by the United Nations. In an op-ed by Emirati newspaper Al Bayan, the newspaper cites the importance of international cooperation to maintain peace in Yemen, as the Iranian-backed Houthi militias are known for overturning the government and destabilizing the country. Al Bayan also says Iran must accept the cease-fire not because of pressure from foreign countries but rather the military efforts by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
The cease-fire was reportedly broken on December 18, and each side of the conflict blamed the other. It is expected to be in place again once UN troops arrive. Pro-Houthi activist Hussain al Bukhaiti tells Al Jazeera that the peace agreement is deeply flawed because it does not allow the port to function. Bukhaiti argues that since Hodayda is one of the main sources of humanitarian aid arriving in Yemen, it should continue to function due to the ongoing famine that has gripped the country despite being held by Houthi rebels.
On December 12, Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a Red Sea and Gulf of Adan alliance that will include the countries of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Yemen, Somalia, and Jordan. The purpose of this alliance, supervised by the Arab League, is to ensure cooperation between the counties in diplomacy, trade and security, and improve relations with non-Arab countries on the Red Sea like Ethiopia, which controls Bab el Mandab, and Israel.
The Red Sea holds strategic importance for the security of many Arab countries, as 20 percent of global trade and 30 percent of the world’s oil pass through its waters. In terms of security, cooperation among Arab states will help curb pollution and illegal immigration and create opportunities to utilize the islands on the Red Sea. According to Al Jazeera, this alliance aims to let Saudi Arabia develop the Red Sea region and diversify its economy away from the oil sector.
On December 18, the UN special envoy to Syria met with the foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, and Russia in Geneva to form a new Syrian constitutional committee. The committee will include 150 members: 50 from the Syrian government, 50 from the Syrian Opposition, and 50 from the UN committee.
Despite long negotiations, the three countries failed to reach an agreement. In a joint statement, the Russian foreign minister delivered the outcome of the meeting. According to Al Jazeera Qatari News Agency, the statement made no mention of the panel’s composition, which hints at disagreements over candidates for the committee by the Syrian government and the opposition. The Turkish government openly resents Syrian President Bashar Al Assad; last year, Turkish President Erdogan called him a terrorist.
According to the Egyptian Al Ahram newspaper, the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency released a statement by Iranian Foreign Ministry Bahram Ghasemi in which he insists the Iranian government believes that any Turkish military operation in Syria must first be run by Al Assad. He also stated that this matter would “negatively affect the Syrian peace progress that Iran, Turkey, and Russia have been working on.”