Saudi Arabia to discuss Yemen ceasefire with Houthis in Sanaa

Direct talks by kingdom with Houthis started last summer when they could'nt renew ceasefire deal brokered by UN

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Web Desk
This photo shows smoke billowing following an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital Sanaa. — AFP/File
This photo shows smoke billowing following an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital Sanaa. — AFP/File

After the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia met two days ago as a result of a major Chinese-mediated deal, official representatives from Saudi Arabia and Oman are planning to visit Yemen next week to hold talks regarding a permanent ceasefire with Iranian-backed Houthis, Reuters reported on Friday.

If the ceasefire is successfully achieved, it would end the eight-year-old conflict in Yemen which has resulted in the lives of thousands of people, with around 4.5 million others displaced, according to the UN, rendering it the "worst humanitarian crisis".

The development comes after two longstanding regional rivals decided to mend bilateral ties last month in an important regional breakthrough deal. Both countries were involved in the struggle for influence against each other in different proxies in the Middle East.

The Saudi decision to visit Sanaa indicates a thaw in Oman-mediated negotiations between the kingdom and the Houthi.

Muscat — a neighbour of Yemen — has been active to seek normalisation between the conflicting parties involved. In case of an agreement, it could be made public before the Eid holiday starting April 20.

Iranian-backed Houthis rule north Yemen unopposed and put an end to the internationally recognised government in Sanaa in late 2014. They maintain that they have been fighting against rising corruption and aggression from foreign countries.

Houthis have been fighting with a military alliance led by the Kingdom since 2015.

Signs of progress

According to Reuters, the talks are aimed to operationalise Yemen's sea ports, reconstruction of the war-torn country, and peaceful political transition.

The direct talks by the kingdom with the Houthis started last summer when parties could not renew a ceasefire deal brokered by United Nations.

This week, a meeting took place between UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and senior Houthi and Omani officials in Muscat to discuss ways to make progress towards an inclusive Yemeni-led political process, according to a statement from the UN envoy’s office.

The Saudi-backed government said: "In an additional sign of progress in Yemen's peace efforts, the Saudi-led coalition lifted eight-year-old restrictions on imports headed for Yemen's southern ports, allowing commercial ships to dock directly there, including Aden."

It also led to the easing restrictions in February on imports making their way through the country’s main seaport of Hodeidah — controlled by Houthis.

Abu Bakr Abeed, deputy head of Yemen's Chambers of Commerce, said that ships would not have to stop at the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah for security checks for the first time since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015.

Abeed said, "more than 500 types of goods would be allowed back in Yemen through southern ports, including fertilisers and batteries after they were removed from a list of banned products."