West News Wire: As part of preparations for discussions to negotiate a final ceasefire agreement to end the eight-year Saudi war, a Saudi delegation is said to have met in Sana’a with a number of high-ranking representatives from the Houthis.
According to Yemeni media sites, the Saudi delegates arrived in Sana’a on Saturday night and met with Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a senior member of the Supreme Political Council of Yemen, as well as some prominent members of the National Salvation Government, which is based in Sana’a.
On Sunday, images of a Saudi diplomat shaking hands with Houthis in Sana’a were broadcast by Yemeni media.
The media outlets further stated that it was at their insistence that the identities of the senior Saudi officials involved in the negotiations with Houthis officials remain a secret.
Meanwhile, an informed source, who asked not to be named, told Yemen’s official news agency Saba that the Saudis are going to negotiate “the removal of the tight naval and air blockade on Yemen, and and end to the eight-year-long aggression, restoration of the Yemeni nation’s rights, and the payment of civil servant salaries as well as a portion of oil and gas revenues” during talks with Mahdi al-Mashat, the chairman of the council.
Local news agencies said Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Saeed al-Jaber, who resides in the southern port city of Aden, arrived in Sana’a at the head of the Saudi delegation to meet with officials from Houthis and the National Salvation Government, hours after the arrival of an Omani delegation.
Saba reported that Omani delegates arrived on Saturday “to discuss the latest developments in the ongoing negotiations in Muscat with the leadership in Sana’a.”
“A delegation from Oman has arrived in Sana’a to hold talks” with Houthis leaders “about the truce and the peace process,” an unnamed source at Sana’a airport was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.
The visit by Saudi officials to Sana’a is an indication of progress in Oman-mediated talks between the kingdom and the Houthis, which run in parallel to UN peace efforts.
It is also a sign that regional rifts are easing after Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore diplomatic relations last month after years of estrangement.
Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of Houthis political bureau told Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network late on Friday that “there is an understanding between Saudi Arabia and Yemen,” without going into details.
He said that the understandings, as well as initiatives for peaceful settlement of the Yemen crisis, will be announced in two phases: One before Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, and the other at another time.
“We support any proposals and efforts by Saudi Arabia or other parties to pacify the Yemeni crisis and reach a comprehensive political resolution of the conflict,” the senior Houthis official said.
On Friday, al-Mayadeen television news network, citing informed sources, reported that Saudi officials had recently held a closed-door meeting with the chairman and members of the so-called Yemeni presidential leadership council, which was established last April after the resignation of ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, to inform them about a peace plan for Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman briefed the council on Riyadh’s solution to end the crisis in Yemen, sources said, adding that the Saudis’ vision is to renew the existing UN-brokered truce for a year in an understanding with the Sana’a government.
Riyadh will pledge to pay the salaries of public servants, open Hudaydah port, and help settle the currency problems of Yemen in exchange for Sana’a’s acceptance of the truce, according to the report.
In order to reinstall Hadi, who resigned from his position as president in late 2014 and later fled to Riyadh amid a political conflict with the well-liked Houthis movement, Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies launched the bloody war against Yemen in March 2015. The US and several other Western states also provided arms and logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition.
The Houthis movement, which has been in charge of state affairs in Yemen because there isn’t a functioning government, was also to be destroyed.
However, after killing tens of thousands of Yemenis and making the entire nation the scene of the biggest humanitarian disaster in history, it has stopped well short of all of its objectives.