Yemen peace talks are scheduled to start as early as Wednesday of this week, and unlike previous efforts there is reason to believe that everyone will attend and engage in at least some earnest discussion of ending the conflict.
The Houthi delegation is en route now, with UN special envoy Martin Griffiths having already arrived in Sanaa to escort them personally. This is an improvement over last time, when the Houthis couldn’t get guarantees of safe travel, and thus were never able to leave the country for the talks.
The Houthis also got a demand met in the process, as a number of wounded Houthis were able to be evacuated this week into Oman, where they will be able to receive treatment in hospitals that haven’t been constantly bombed by Saudi warplanes.
The Houthis will be traveling by plane to Sweden with Griffiths, and the plane was provided by Kuwait. Diplomats said this was a great confidence-building measure.
Talks are expected to focus on aid shipments, large-scale prisoner swaps, and potentially reopening the Sanaa airport, which has been closed by repeated Saudi airstrikes. All this would also lay the groundwork for negotiating a settlement of the war itself.
Past efforts have stalled quickly on settling the war. Though the Houthis have expressed openness to elections, the Saudi-backed Hadi government has rejected any power-sharing deal, and even though President Hadi’s term in office ended years ago, they insist he be put back in power.