As a new peace push to end the fighting in Yemen brokered by Oman appears to be making some progress, the US and Saudi-backed government of exiled Yemeni President Hadi is warning that Houthi attacks in Maarib are threatening the negotiations.
Speaking to AFP on Friday, Ahmed bin Mubarak, the foreign minister for the Hadi government, said the Houthis offensive in Maarib threatens the peace process. On Thursday, the Houthis were blamed for a blast in Maarib that reportedly killed eight people. Also on Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition said it was halting attacks against the Houthis as a gesture for the peace talks.
It’s not clear if the Houthis were responsible for the blast in Maarib or if it came after the Saudis made their announcement that they were halting attacks. If not for air support from the Saudi-led coalition, the city of Maarib would have likely fallen to the Houthis long ago.
Until now, the Saudi coalition was not offering the Houthis any new proposals, so the group had no reason to halt the Maarib offensive. Lifting the blockade has always been a key condition for the Houthis to pursue peace talks and agree to a ceasefire.
Amid the news of an Omani-led peace effort, sources told Reuters that the Houthis are renovating the Sanaa airport, a sign that the blockade might be eased soon. Oman is sending a delegation to Sanaa this Saturday to speak with Houthi leaders.
The blockade is still being enforced on Yemen despite UN warnings that 400,000 Yemeni children under five will starve to death if conditions don’t change. The Houthis, as well as international aid organizations, are calling for the blockade to be separated from the peace talks, so the Saudis don’t use the suffering of the Yemeni people as leverage.