Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Saudi, Omani delegations meet Houthi leaders in Yemen after Tehran-Riyadh rapprochement

Saudi and Omani envoys have held talks with Houthi officials in the Yemeni capital Sanaa as part of the international efforts to find a settlement to Yemen’s war.

The visit indicates progress in the Oman-mediated consultations between Riyadh and Sanaa, which run parallel to United Nations peace efforts. Negotiations also gained momentum since archrivals Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish ties in a deal brokered by China.

The envoys, who landed late on Saturday, met with the head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi al-Mashat, for talks on ending hostilities and lifting a Saudi-led “blockade” on Yemeni ports.

President Mashat reiterated that his movement seeks an “honourable peace” and that Yemenis want “freedom and independence”.

Mohammed al-Bukaiti, a Houthi leader, said earlier on Twitter that Saudi and Omani officials would discuss “ways to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region”.

He added that achieving an honourable peace between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia would be “a triumph for both parties”, and urged all sides to take steps to “preserve a peaceful atmosphere and prepare to turn the page of the past”.

Hans Grundberg, the UN envoy for Yemen, described the ongoing efforts, including the Saudi and Omani talks in Sanaa, as “the closest Yemen has been to real progress towards lasting peace” since the war began.

“This is a moment to be seized and built on and a real opportunity to start an inclusive political process under UN auspices to sustainably end the conflict,” he told The Associated Press news agency.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia.

Sources have told the Reuters news agency that the Saudi-Houthi talks are focused on a full reopening of Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, payment of wages for public servants, rebuilding efforts and a timeline for foreign forces to exit the country.

Saudi Arabia launched the bloody war against Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and several Western states to reinstall Mansour Hadi, who resigned from the presidency in late 2014 and later fled to Riyadh amid a political conflict with the Houthi movement.

The war objective was also to crush the movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.

However, it has stopped well shy of all of its goals, despite killing tens of thousands of Yemenis and turning the entire country into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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