Yemen’s Houthis released a statement Wednesday that said they welcome talks with Saudi Arabia but want the venue to be a neutral country. The statement came after Reuters reported that the Saudi Arabia-based Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is planning to invite the Houthis to Riyadh for negotiations on the war in Yemen.
“It is neither logical, nor fair that the host of the talks is also the sponsor of war and blockade,” the Houthi statement said. Most GCC members are part of the US-backed Saudi-led coalition that has been waging war on Yemen since 2015, with the exception of Oman, which has served as a venue for talks in the past.
According to Reuters, the Houthis said that their priority is getting “arbitrary” restrictions lifted on Yemen’s ports and the Sanaa airport. The Houthis have repeatedly said that a precondition for a ceasefire is the lifting of the blockade on Yemen.
Last year, President Biden appointed a special envoy to Yemen who was supposed to work for a diplomatic solution to the war. But the Biden administration wouldn’t press the Saudis to lift the siege and even denied the blockade existed as the Saudis were blocking ships from docking in Hodeidah.
The Saudi-led coalition’s air war in Yemen has increased in recent months. According to the Yemen Data Project, Yemen is under the longest period of heavy bombing since 2018, and this past January was the most violent month for civilians in Saudi Arabia’s air war since 2016.