Riyadh April 10 2023: Saudi Arabia is making one of its strongest pushes yet for an enduring peace deal with Iran-backed fighters in Yemen as it seeks to end a war that has unnerved oil markets and devastated the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula.
Saudi officials have held discussions in Riyadh with members of Yemen’s presidential leadership council in recent days on the proposal, according to people briefed on the matter. This came after talks between Saudi Arabia and the Iran-backed Houthi group. Saudi and Omani officials are now in the Yemen capital, Sana’a, to finalize the deal.
President of the Houthi ruling political council Mahdi Al-Mashat met on Sunday with the Oman and Saudi delegations to finalize a permanent ceasefire and an overall peace plan, the Saba news agency, which is under Houthi control, reported.
The Saudi delegation was led by Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al Jaber. The meeting marks the first time since the war erupted in March 2015 that Saudi officials have been received publicly in Sana’a.
Saudi Arabia has been trying to bring the nine-year conflict, which has seen Houthi drone and missile attacks on the country including a devastating 2019 strike on Saudi oil facilities, to an end as it tries to ease tensions in the region. A previously agreed truce has largely held, despite expiring in October.
The new peace plan could be announced in the next two weeks, before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the people said, declining to be named to discuss the sensitive negotiations.
Under the proposed plan there would initially be a renewed truce for six-months, major roads would be re-opened, and all restrictions on flights and ports would be lifted, the people said.
Yemeni parties would then enter into peace talks and discuss disarmament, forming a cabinet and a new presidential council and uniting the central bank. There would be a two-year transitional period.
Saudi and Yemeni officials declined to comment.
Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels leader and president of the Houthi ruling political council Mahdi Al-Mashat met on Sunday with the Oman and Saudi delegation to finalize a permanent ceasefire and an overall peace plan, reported the Saba news agency, which is under Houthi control.
The Saudi delegation was led by Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al Jaber and the meeting is first public reception for the country’s officials in Sana’a since the war erupted in March 2015.
The latest effort comes after Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to mend ties in high-level talks last month, brokered by China.
Saudi defense minister Khalid bin Salman met with the president of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council, Dr Rashad Al-Alimi, in Riyadh last week, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen’s war to support the country’s internationally-recognized government and to combat Iran’s growing influence in the neighboring state.
The United Nations has described the effects of the war as one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters and Saudi Arabia has come under criticism in the West for its involvement in a conflict which has killed hundreds of thousands of people.