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Talks, not bombs, needed to end Yemen conflict

Updated: 2015-04-02 07:45
By Wang Hui (China Daily)

China has joined other countries in evacuating its nationals from Yemen as war clouds grow darker over the Middle East country. The evacuation of hundreds of Chinese nationals on March 30-31 with the help of military ships reflects the government's determination when it comes to humanitarian relief and rescue missions.

As the situation in Yemen worsens, China has temporarily pulled out of multilateral patrols in the Gulf of Aden to counter Somali pirates and, instead, directed its navy fleet to rescue stranded Chinese nationals in Yemen.

Such overseas evacuations have become routine operations as an increasing number of Chinese seek to work and travel overseas. Apart from Yemen, China has also launched massive operations to evacuate its nationals from countries such as Libya, Vietnam, Iraq and Egypt. These operations also show China has become more adept at safeguarding its interests overseas.

China launched the massive evacuation operation in Yemen because it fears the Yemen conflict could drag on. Since March 26, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been bombing key targets of the Shi'ite Houthi rebels, who have been fighting forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi who fled the country last week.

The Arab countries' military intervention is in response to an appeal by Hadi to crush the Houthi revolt in the southern region. Many see the bombings as a sectarian intervention in a conflict between the Sunni-led Arab world and the Houthi rebels who claim loyalty to Shi'ite Iran.

Experience tells us that foreign intervention in a country can be a double-edged sword: It could weaken violent militias but then it could also intensify violence leading to graver humanitarian disasters. The Saudi-led bombings in Yemen have already resulted in civilian casualties. And the fact that Sunni states have formed a joint military front to counter growing security threats suggests that they could be involved in Yemen's conflict for a long time.

If the sectarian conflict drags on, there is a possibility of Yemen becoming another Iraq or Syria where terrorist groups, the Islamic State in particular, have seized the opportunity to wreak havoc. As a relatively poor Arab country, Yemen has become the hotbed of one of the most active al-Qaida terrorist groups in the Middle East. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which emerged in 2009, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Yemen's army and government institutions.

Worse, the IS group has spread its evil tentacles to the turbulent country, claiming responsibility for three bombing attacks in Yemen's capital of Sana'a and Saada province which killed 137 people on March 20.

With the crisis intensifying, Yemen is losing the status as a united country and becoming a battlefield for both internal and outside forces, which will cast a darker shadow over regional security.

To prevent the conflict in Yemen from dragging on, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out over the weekend, the conflicting parties have to enter negotiations mediated by the UN. In line with the UN's proposal, China too has called for a political resolution to the conflict.

The international community also has to step up its mediation efforts in Yemen so that political dialogues between the conflicting sides can be held to restore peace and order at an early date.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily

wanghui@chinadaily.com.cn

 

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