According to a report from Reuters, the US-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the Houthis are working on an Omani-mediated peace deal that appears to be making some progress.
The report cited two sources close to the talks and one Houthi official. The sources said Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi made a commitment to an Omani delegation that visited Sanaa this month to enter ceasefire talks with the Saudi-led coalition immediately after the blockade on Yemen’s sea and airports is lifted.
Lifting the blockade has long been a condition for the Houthis to enter peace talks. Previous efforts by the UN and the US to reach a diplomatic solution to the war used the blockade and the suffering of the Yemeni people as leverage for the Saudis. Now that Riyadh appears to be willing to at least ease the restrictions on the Sanaa airport and the port of Hodeidah, the Houthis are more likely to pursue a ceasefire.
The Houthis’ chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam spoke with Reuters about the peace process. He said the Houthis wanted to ensure reopening access to Sanaa airport and Hodeidah ports “without impossible conditions or other measures that would restore the blockade in other forms.”
“After that, we will discuss a comprehensive ceasefire which should be a real halt of hostilities, not a fragile truce, and that would include the exit of foreign powers from Yemen to facilitate political negotiations,” Abdulsalam said.
Earlier this month, the Saudi-led coalition said it was halting attacks on the Houthis to jump-start the peace process. But Saudi airstrikes continue to pound Yemen, and fighting is raging around the city of Maarib, the last piece of significant territory held by the Saudi-backed government of exiled President Hadi.
In February, President Biden announced he was ending all support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive” operations in Yemen. But at the end of April, it was revealed that the US is still servicing Saudi warplanes that are bombing Yemen. Biden also refuses to pressure the Saudis into lifting the blockade despite UN warnings that 400,000 Yemeni children will starve to death in 2021 alone if conditions don’t change.