Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthis, confirmed only yesterday to be in direct negotiations with one another for the first time during a nearly year-long war, have come to a first agreement, which will see a truce along the Yemen-Saudi border and a mutual prisoner exchange.
The deal apparently does not include an end to the Saudi naval blockade of Yemen, or to the war on the ground within Yemen, as pro-Saudi forces control some of the nation’s southern coast. Still, analysts hailed it as a major first step.
It also reflects a dramatic change in attitude, for while the Houthis had expressed willingness to talk before, Saudi officials had previously insisted there was no room for negotiation and demanded unconditional surrender from the Shi’ite movement.
This likely reflects both international pressure on the Saudis for the huge civilian toll of their air war, and the fact that Saudi officials have repeatedly predicted imminent victory and a quick war since it began, and are now coming up on the one-year anniversary without much to show for it.