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After eight years of war and in a context of regional detente, a rare Saudi delegation is in Sanaa on Sunday to negotiate a lasting truce and discuss the peace process with Houthi rebels in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula which is suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
A rare Saudi delegation is in Sanaa, Yemen, to broker a lasting truce and discuss the peace process with Yemen’s Houthi rebels, after eight years of war and amid regional detente, Yemeni diplomatic sources said on Sunday.
The Saudi officials, whose identity has not been revealed, came “to discuss ways to move forward towards the establishment of peace”, added these two diplomats working in the Gulf and who requested anonymity.
Houthi rebel officials and media announced the visit earlier in the day. Contacted by AFP, the Saudi authorities have not confirmed it.
Saudi officials have visited Sanaa in the past, but these visits are rare and often limited.
On Saturday, Omani mediators also arrived in Sanaa to discuss with Houthi rebels a truce with Saudi Arabia.
Reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia
Like entire swaths of Yemeni territory, Sanaa has been under the control of the Houthis, close to Iran, for more than eight years. The military coalition led by neighboring Saudi Arabia since 2015 to support pro-government forces, has failed to dislodge the insurgents.
But while Saudi Arabia has been trying for several months to get out of this quagmire, the recent rapprochement with its great Shiite rival, Iran, has fueled hopes for an appeasement in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen.
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A first truce was reached a year ago in Yemen and has since been largely respected, but was not officially renewed when it expired last October.
The terms of the truce
A new truce under discussion includes demands long imposed by the rebels, Yemeni government sources told AFP.
The first is the lifting of the air and sea blockade maintained by the Saudi army on the country, preventing airports and ports under rebel control from operating without Riyadh’s approval. Another demand is for the government to pay the salaries of all civil servants, including those working in Houthi-held areas.
In March, the Yemeni government and the rebels reached an agreement in Bern on an exchange of more than 880 prisoners. On Saturday, the rebels also welcomed the release of 13 prisoners by the Saudi authorities in exchange for a Saudi detainee, Ryad not having commented on this announcement.
The poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula is suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The war has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced, with colossal challenges such as epidemics, acute hunger and economic collapse, amid declining international aid.
A meeting of the UN Security Council on Yemen is scheduled for April 17.