Houthis Welcome Talks with Saudi Coalition but in Neutral Country

Yemen’s Houthi group said it would welcome talks with the Saudi-led coalition but the venue should be a neutral country, including some Gulf states, and that lifting restrictions on Yemeni ports and Sana’a airport should be a priority.

“It is neither logical, nor fair that the host of the talks is also the sponsor of war and blockade,” the group said in a statement.

The Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was considering inviting the Houthis and other Yemeni parties for consultations in Riyadh this month, two Gulf officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is considering inviting the Houthi movement and other Yemeni parties for consultations in Riyadh this month as part of an initiative aimed at backing U.N.-led peace efforts, two Gulf officials told Reuters.

Formal invitations would be sent within days for the talks on military, political and economic aspects of the war between Houthis and a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, said the officials, who declined to be named ahead of an official announcement this week. The conflict enters its eighth year on Tuesday.

They said Houthi officials would be “guests” of GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf at the body’s Riyadh headquarters and would have his security guarantees if the group accepted the invitation for the talks, which are planned from March 29-April 7.

A Houthi official, remarking on the Reuters report, suggested the group may not agree to travel to Saudi Arabia, which backs the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and “foreign aggression”.

“Riyadh is a party in the war not a mediator,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the movement’s supreme revolutionary committee, said in a Twitter post. read more

GCC members Oman, where some Houthi officials are based, and Kuwait, which hosted previous peace talks in 2015, would be a more neutral ground for such consultations.

The officials said Hadi, who is based in Riyadh, had agreed to the talks.

Riyadh has struggled to extricate itself from the costly and unpopular war, which has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The conflict, largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, is a point of friction between Riyadh and Washington.

Yemen has been eclipsed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the GCC initiative comes ahead of a donors’ conference on March 16. The United Nations special envoy to Yemen last week held talks with Yemeni parties aimed at building a framework for inclusive political negotiations.

Efforts by the United States and the United Nations to secure a ceasefire last year failed, and violence has intensified.

The Houthis continue to battle coalition forces on the ground in energy-producing Marib, the government’s last stronghold in North Yemen.

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