Riyadh is hosting a Houthi delegation that arrived in the kingdom on Thursday in a public visit, marking the first such visit since the Saudi-led military intervention in support of the Yemeni government. These talks come about five months after a Saudi delegation visited Sanaa to discuss the peace process, as Saudi Arabia steadily moves towards resolving the Yemeni crisis, adopting a policy of minimizing issues, particularly after a diplomatic reconciliation agreement that ended years of hostilities with Iran.
The Houthis hope to overcome challenges during discussions with Saudi officials in Riyadh concerning ending the Yemen war. Saudi Arabia confirmed late Thursday that it is hosting a Houthi delegation to discuss the peace process in Yemen after nine years of war in the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, according to a statement released by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the ‘X’ platform. The statement mentioned, ‘Continuing the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman to reach a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen and to reach a sustainable and acceptable political solution from all Yemeni parties, the Kingdom has invited a delegation from Sanaa to visit the Kingdom to continue these meetings and discussions.’
This development comes after the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Muscat on Tuesday, where he held talks with Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, while political sources spoke of significant developments related to new understandings with the Houthis.
Yemen has been embroiled in a power struggle between the Houthis and the government since mid-2014, resulting in the deaths and injuries of hundreds of thousands and leading to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the United Nations.
This is the first public visit of a Houthi delegation to the Kingdom since Saudi Arabia began a military campaign in March 2015, leading a coalition to stop the advance of the group allied with Iran in the neighboring country.
This visit comes after about five months of a visit by a Saudi delegation to Sanaa to discuss the peace process.
Prominent Houthi political official Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said, ‘Our hope is that serious discussions are held that serve the interests of both peoples and overcome the challenges.’ He wrote on the ‘X’ platform early Friday that ‘the dialogue in Saudi Arabia, facilitated by Oman, focuses on paying government employee salaries, releasing all prisoners and detainees, withdrawing what he called “foreign forces,” reconstruction, and ultimately reaching a comprehensive political solution.’
A senior government official familiar with the talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia said the purpose of the visit is ‘to hold a negotiation round with Saudi Arabia and reach a final agreement on the details of the humanitarian and economic file.’ The talks are centered on the thorny issue of paying the salaries of Houthi government employees, which is being discussed through the authority and opening new destinations from Sanaa Airport, which has been closed for years before the coalition allowed its skies to be opened for flights to Jordan and Egypt last year.
Political sources in Sanaa also expected the Houthis to discuss with Saudi officials the ‘final formula’ for a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire, with the parties to the conflict then negotiating directly to reach a political solution under the auspices of the United Nations with support from Saudi Arabia and Oman.
In April, the visit of the Saudi delegation to Sanaa, along with recent rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran, raised hopes of a political solution to the long-standing conflict in the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula.
Fighting intensity in Yemen has significantly decreased since the implementation of a UN-mediated ceasefire in April 2022. This ceasefire remains largely in effect even after its formal expiration in October 2022.
However, the humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country continues to worsen due to a decline in humanitarian aid caused by funding shortages.
On Thursday, 98 international and local entities, including UN-affiliated organizations, called for increased funding to continue assisting over 21.6 million people, representing 75% of Yemen’s population.”