Saudi-Yemen Peace Talks Underway in Sanaa
Orinoco Tribune, Aprial 11, 2023 —
The prospect of ending Saudi Arabia’s eight-year war in Yemen advanced quickly since China brokered a détente between Iran and the kingdom
Official delegations from Saudi Arabia and Oman held the first round of peace talks with officials from Yemen’s Ansarallah resistance group on 9 April, as Riyadh seeks a permanent ceasefire to end the NATO-backed war launched in 2015.
The Saudi and Omani delegations were welcomed by the head of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, Mahdi al-Mashat, at the Republican Palace in Sanaa on Saturday night.
“[We appreciate] the mediation efforts of the brotherly Sultanate of Oman and its positive role in bringing points of view closer together and its efforts to achieve an honorable peace,” Mashat told reporters on Sunday.
The head of the Saudi negotiating team also thanked Muscat’s efforts towards achieving peace, saying, “thanks to the brothers in the Sultanate of Oman for their important role and great efforts in the framework of bringing peace to Yemen,” according to Yemen’s Al-Masirah TV.
According to officials on both sides, the talks will hammer out details to end the Saudi-led coalition’s war and the civil war between Yemen’s internal factions that saw Ansarallah come to power in 2014.
The lifting of Riyadh’s vicious air and sea blockade is also high on the agenda, as is the full reopening of Sanaa airport, the payment of wages for public servants, rebuilding efforts, and a timeline for occupation forces to exit the country.
As a sign of good faith, the kingdom released 13 prisoners on Saturday in exchange for a Saudi detainee freed earlier. This comes ahead of a broader prisoner exchange agreed upon by the warring sides.
However, despite the optimism permeating the talks, on Sunday night Ansaralalh senior official Mohammed al-Bukaiti cautioned that any further negotiations should be conducted only with Saudi Arabia and not with the unelected Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) or its head, Rashad al-Alimi.
“Saudi Arabia is not a mediator but a party to the conflict, and we are not ready to negotiate again through Rashad Al-Alimi, who was appointed by [Riyadh] … The doors of Sana’a are open to all, and we renew the call … for dialogue to build a political process based on internal balances and achieve the sovereignty and independence of Yemen,” Bukaiti wrote on Twitter.
“It is too early to say for sure that the negotiations in Sanaa will be successful, but it is clear that an atmosphere of peace hangs over the region, which gives cause for optimism and hope,” Bukaiti said a day earlier.
The Saudi-led war has caused close to 400,000 deaths in the Arab world’s poorest nation, nearly 60 percent of them caused by issues like lack of access to food, water, and healthcare, according to the UN.
Riyadh and Sanaa have been holding Omani-mediated talks for months to renew a UN-sponsored ceasefire, but the prospect of ending Yemen’s eight-year war has advanced quickly since last month, when China brokered a détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
In addition to this landmark agreement, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has been pushing to restore ties with Syria and end the regional isolation of President Bashar al-Assad after more than a decade of war.
Yemen’s impending peace deal is seen as yet another defeat for the foreign policy agenda of US President Joe Biden, who has lost a significant amount of clout in West Asia since taking office.