Yemen’s peace talks were over before they began. Quite literally. The two warring factions were scheduled to meet in Geneva for a UN-sponsored sit-down; though reportedly not in the same room. It was deemed enough at this stage to get representatives of the Sana’a regime and the so-called Houthi rebels in the same city. Yet only the Yemen government showed up. And the Foreign minister was none too happy. Indeed, Khaled al-Yamani slammed the world body for not doing the needful and exerting pressure on the Houthi. There have been conflicting reports about the latter’s failure to attend. Such as, refusal by the Saudi-led alliance, which controls Yemeni airspace, to accord flight permission to the Omani plane that was to carry the rebel delegation. They held the UN responsible for this turn of events. Though this has been denied by Special Envoy Mark Griffiths. More likely, then, was non-compliance on the list of three demands issued by the Houthi: “transport of wounded rebels to Oman; repatriation of rebels who have already received treatment there; and a guarantee that the Houthi delegation attending talks in Geneva would be able to return to the rebel-held capital Sana’a after talks end.” The world body is putting a brave face on things. There is talk of getting the logistics right next time. As well as underscoring that the moot, which would have been the first in two years, did not represent so much potential peace negotiations as a simple confidence-building measure. Be that as it may, there is much to be done in the interim at the international level. A good place to start might be the question of arms sales to Riyadh. Admittedly, some nations have already begun halting supplies of weapons of mass destruction. Last week was Spain’s turn. The country cancelled a lucrative defence deal where the down payment alone was worth $10.7 million. Yet does this not, in reality, boil down to a case of too little too late? After all, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute — Madrid signed off on arm sales to the Saudis to the cool tune of $352 million over the 2014-2017 period. Of course, Spain is not alone. The US and UK have signed deals worth $8.4 billion and $2.6 bn over the same period, respectively. Thus as a second step, these arm supplying countries ought to think about paying into a humanitarian trust fund of sorts; preferably set-up by the UN. As a means of paying compensation to the Yemeni people. Regardless of whether or not moves are (hopefully) made to equate arms sales to war crime complicity. For in today’s Yemen, some 11 million children — a number greater than the entire population of Switzerland — are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Every. Single. Day. Let that sink in. And then decide who is to blame for the tragedy that has befallen one of the world’s poorest nations. * Published in Daily Times, September 9th 2018.