Saudi-Houthi peace talks in Sanaa, Yemen, end with more rounds planned
By Aziz El Yaakoubi and Mohammed Alghobari
RIYADH/ADEN (Reuters) – A Saudi delegation concluded peace talks with the Houthi movement in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Thursday, whose officials cited progress and said further talks were needed to iron out remaining differences.
Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition fighting the Iran-allied group since 2015, is seeking a permanent ceasefire deal to end its military involvement in a war that has killed tens of thousands and left millions hungry.
Two Yemeni sources said the Saudi team left Sana’a on Thursday after a visit that signaled a move to build on an expired UN-brokered ceasefire and followed last month’s deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran. to restore relationships.
Houthi Politburo official Mohammed al-Bukhaiti described the negotiations as “gone well”. Another Houthi official, Abdulmalik Alejri, said on Twitter that “remaining difficulties can be resolved with determination and honest intentions.”
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Sources have told Reuters that Oman-facilitated Saudi-Houthi talks are aimed at a ceasefire, the full reopening of Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, payment of public sector wages, reconstruction efforts and the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country Yemen focus.
Two Yemeni sources, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the parties could agree on an expanded ceasefire agreement while they work out remaining differences.
Key sticking points include paying civil servants’ salaries – which the Houthis have insisted include the armed forces – use of oil proceeds and a timetable for withdrawing foreign forces from the country, three sources familiar with the negotiations said.
The conflict, in which the coalition intervened against the Houthis after they ousted the Saudi-backed government from Sana’a in late 2014, is multifaceted as several Yemeni factions vie for influence.
The Houthis are the de facto authorities in northern Yemen. The internationally recognized government is represented by a Presidential Council formed last year under Saudi auspices, which took power from the Yemeni exile president.
The conflict is widely viewed as one of several proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region’s Sunni Muslim and Shia powers.
They have agreed to resume diplomatic ties, which were severed in 2016, while Riyadh struggles to manage regional tensions and focus on economic priorities.
(Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Jason Neely)
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