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Saudi Arabia resumes back-channel talks with Houthis to extend ceasefire in Yemen

January 18, 2023 at 9:24 am

Mohammed Bin Salman, Prime Minister and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Rashad Mohammed al-Alimi, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Yemen (R) [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Arabia and the Houthis in Yemen have resumed “back-channel talks” with the aim of extending the ceasefire in Yemen and reviving negotiations to end the war, Associated Press has reported. The agency quoted a UN official as saying that if the two sides negotiate in good faith, and if other parties are included in the dialogue, it is an opportunity to end the war.

A Yemeni official said that if UN efforts to end the war collapse, the subsequent escalation would be costly. According to AP, Yemeni commentator and former head of the Journalists’ Syndicate, Abdul Bari Taher, said that the obstacles include the “conflicting interests” of the forces participating in the war, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran.

Saudi quagmire in Yemen - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Saudi quagmire in Yemen – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel Salam confirmed that talks are being held without explicitly mentioning Saudi Arabia. “There are back and forth talks with other parties,” he pointed out at the end of an Omani delegation’s visit to Yemen last week.

Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar has said that the Saudis and Houthis have agreed to extend the ceasefire after Riyadh agreed to meet the Houthis’ demands regarding humanitarian issues, especially salaries. According to the newspaper, Riyadh has agreed to pay the employees’ salaries based on 2014 statements and in hard currency, which would be carried by a private aircraft every month to the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

The agreement also, apparently, includes expanding the destinations of flights from Sanaa International Airport to include Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, India and Malaysia. Restrictions on imports at the port of Hudaydah will be lifted.

READ: Saudi Arabia demands Security Council to include Yemen Houthis on terror list

Sources told Al-Akhbar that a delegation headed by the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, arrived in the country after the Omani delegation left. The newspaper had previously revealed some of the outcomes of the recent Omani mediation efforts in Yemen, in an attempt to end the conflict. The latest mediation resulted in “distinguished indicators” compared with all previous efforts. Riyadh is said to have no problem with the Houthis remaining in power in Yemen, in exchange for security guarantees for the kingdom.

If the Houthis accept Riyadh’s offer in exchange for a Saudi withdrawal from Yemen, just one obstacle will remain for the Saudis: the US and the Biden administration want to maintain the status quo, it is said.