Peace negotiations in the Yemen conflict: hope for an end to the war

The Saudi warring factions and the Houthi rebels are negotiating directly with each other. This is made possible by the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Two people at an official greeting

The head of the Houthis’ top political council, Mahdi al-Mashat, and the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber, greet each other Photo: reuters

VIENNA taz | Hopes have never been greater that the last chapter of the nine-year war in Yemen will finally be written. Because now two key warring factions, the Saudis and the Houthi rebels, are speaking directly to each other.

For example, the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber, has come to the Houthi-controlled Yemen capital of Sanaa for the first time to negotiate with the head of the Houthi’s supreme political council, Mahdi al-Mashat. It was arguably the first such meeting to be officially announced – a Saudi acknowledgment of Houthi rule in Sana’a.

An official meeting of this magnitude suggests that many of the issues have already been resolved behind the scenes beforehand. The Saudi side is reluctant to comment publicly. But Mohammed al-Bukaiti, one of the Houthi political leaders, tweeted: “Possibilities are being discussed to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace.” It was a triumph for both sides. In March, both sides agreed to a draft ceasefire that would last until October, in order to get peace talks underway by then.

The current talks also build on confidence-building measures previously agreed through UN mediation, such as prisoner swaps, a slow opening of the airport in Sana’a and the Red Sea port of Hudeidah, which the Houthis control. In return, the Houthis should end their blockade of Taiz, the country’s third largest city, which they have surrounded for years. In addition, the salaries of all state employees and military personnel should be financed from the state’s oil and gas revenues – an old Houthi demand. In return, they promise to stop attacking oil facilities and allow the oil to be exported there.

Mohammed al-Bukaiti

“Possibilities are being discussed to create a comprehensive and lasting peace”

This movement in Yemen was made possible by a new regional development: the rapprochement of the rival regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran under Chinese mediation. Iran is considered the Houthis’ most important regional supporter. Just a few days ago, the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers in Tehran agreed to open an embassy in the other country. High-ranking Saudi and Iranian diplomats met in Beijing last Thursday to “bring security and stability to the Middle East”.

But there is still a long way to go to a lasting peace. There are many fronts and warring factions in Yemen. The separatist movement in the south will also demand concessions. The terrorist organization al-Qaeda is still up to mischief in parts of the country.

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