US officials are confirming last week’s reports of direct talks with Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi faction, saying the meetings in Oman were aimed at persuading the Houthis to participate in the Geneva peace conference.
The US has shown a surprising amount of interest in convincing the Houthis about the talks, courting Iranian help in recent meetings and also holding direct talks with the Houthis, but there is no indication that Saudi Arabia, whose war against Yemen the US is backing, will participate anyhow.
Nor will the Riyadh-based government in exile, which has ruled out any participation in any talks with the Houthis unless the Shi’ites first agree to surrender several cities to them as a show of faith. The Houthis have always suggested they were open to talks if the airstrikes ended.
There had been speculation the State Department was courting the Houthis about a handful of US citizens held inside Yemen, a belief compounded by the release of one American over the weekend. Despite this, US officials made no mention of that being a topic of discussion.