SHAFAQNA – Sources in Yemen have confirmed that a Houthi delegation entered into secret talks with the Saudi government to iron out differences and open avenues towards a tentative peace deal.
“Houthis and their Saudi foes have begun talks to try to end Yemen’s war,” two officials said, in what appears their most serious bid to close a theatre of Saudi-Iranian rivalry deepening political tumult across the Middle East.
A delegation from Yemen’s Houthi-led resistance movement is in neighbouring Saudi Arabia in the first visit of its kind since the war began last year between a Houthi-led resistance and an Arab military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
The reported talks coincide with an apparent lull in fighting on the Saudi-Yemen border and in Saudi-led Arab coalition airstrikes on the Houthi-held Yemeni capital Sana’a.
Underlining the regional rifts, a senior Iranian military official meanwhile signalled that Iran could yet send military advisers to Yemen to help the Houthis. Brigadier general Masoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, suggested Iran could support the Houthis as it has similarly backed President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, in an interview with the Tasnim news agency.
Asked if Iran would send military advisers to Yemen, as it had in Syria, Jazayeri said: “The Islamic Republic … feels its duty to help the people of Yemen in any way it can and to any level necessary.”
The Houthi delegation in Saudi Arabia is headed by Mohammed Abdel-Salam, the Houthis’ main spokesman and a senior adviser to Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the officials said. Abdel-Salam previously led Houthi delegates in talks in Oman that paved the way for UN-sponsored talks in Switzerland last year.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition could not immediately be reached for comment. A Saudi foreign ministry spokesman could not be reached either.
Riyadh’s efforts towards brokering a truce with Yemen comes amid reports that the Resistance has managed several deep territorial incursions into the kingdom, putting Saudi officials on edge, as whispers of a popular revolt in its southern territories have amplified over the past months. If the House of Saud continues to exert a sense of control realities on the ground paint a different story altogether.
Financially diminished, and politically over-extended the kingdom might soon face a very public fall from political grace. The poorest country of Arabia, Yemen, has managed to not just resist Riyadh, but actually threatened its hegemony in the region, a feat which many have seen as a sign the kingdom is on its way out.
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna