The UN’s special envoy for Yemen said Wednesday that he sees a renewed momentum toward ending the war following the surprise normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran that was brokered by China.
The Saudis and Yemen’s Houthis have been in Omani-mediated talks on reaching a settlement to the war or extending a ceasefire that expired in October 2022. “Intense diplomatic efforts are ongoing at different levels to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end,” UN special envoy Hans Grundberg told the UN Security Council.
“We are currently witnessing renewed regional diplomatic momentum, as well as a step change in the scope and depth of the discussions,” he added.
While the war in Yemen is viewed in the West as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Tehran is not nearly as involved as Riyadh. Iran supports the Houthis politically but denies Western allegations that it is arming the Zaydi Shia group.
But the overall easing of regional tensions could still aid in bringing the war in Yemen to a close. “The parties must seize the opportunity presented by this regional and international momentum to take decisive steps towards a more peaceful future,” said Grundberg, who was in Tehran earlier in the week.
Iran’s mission to the UN said Sunday that the normalization with Riyadh should help bring about a political settlement in Yemen. The rapprochement was also welcomed by the Houthis.
“The region needs the return of normal relations between its countries, through which the Islamic society can regain its lost security as a result of the foreign interventions, led by the Zionists and Americans,” said Houthi spokesman Mohamed Abdulsalam.
In a sign that a deal could be close, a container ship carrying general cargo goods entered Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah in February for the first time since 2016. An official from the Saudi-backed government said that allowing commercial ships to dock in Hodeidah was meant as a trust-building step to support Saudi-Houthi talks.
The US-backed Saudi-led coalition has enforced a brutal blockade on Yemen throughout the war, but it has been eased since last year’s ceasefire. Since March 2022, when the ceasefire was first enacted, there have been no recorded Saudi airstrikes in Yemen.
According to UN estimates, since 2015, at least 377,000 people have been killed in Yemen due to the US-backed war, more than half of which died as a result of starvation and disease caused by the blockade and the coalition’s brutal bombing campaign.