Houthi Official Rejects GCC Offer To Host Yemen Peace Talks in Saudi Arabia
‘Riyadh is a party in the war, not a mediator,’ Mohamed Ali al-Houthi says
An official from the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels has said that Saudi Arabia cannot be a mediator in the Yemen war, hours after the Gulf Cooperation Council said it was considering sponsoring unprecedented peace talks between warring factions in the Middle East’s poorest country.
On Tuesday, two Gulf officials told news outlets they planned to invite the Houthi movement and other Yemeni parties for consultations in Riyadh this month, as part of an initiative aimed at backing UN-led peace efforts.
But hours later, Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, appeared to snub the invitation, saying in a Twitter post: “Riyadh is a party in the war, not a mediator.”
As previously reported by The Media Line, the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, said it would invite all Yemeni components, both government supporters and opposition forces, and the Houthis would have seats at the talks, which are on offer as the military stalemate continues into its eighth year.
Former Yemeni government ministers and outspoken politicians such as Ahmed al-Maysari, Saleh al-Jabwani, and Abdul Aziz al-Jubari were expected to be invited to the talks.
The coalition 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 guaranteed if the Yemeni group accepted the invitation to the negotiations, which are planned for March 29-April 7.
The invitation came amid a car-bomb attack on Tuesday on a convoy in which a commander of the Southern Movement’s armed forces was traveling in Abyan Province. The attack killed two soldiers and seriously wounded two more. Brig. Gen. Abdul Latif Al-Sayed survived the assassination attempt, said Mohammed Al-Naqib, spokesman for the Southern Armed Forces.
Two assailants were also killed, he added.
The Southern Movement, aka the Aden Movement, seeks to secede from the Republic of Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis for seven years in a conflict largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
This year, the Houthis have claimed several drone and missile assaults on both Saudi Arabia − which backs the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi − and the neighboring United Arab Emirates. Hadi was ousted from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014 by the rebel movement.
The war has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and caused one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises.
UNICEF estimates around 23.7 million people (out of a total population of around 31 million) need assistance, including almost 13 million children.
The Saudi-led coalition, the US, and UN sanctions monitors have accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with arms, which both Tehran and the group deny.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital Sanaa.
The group says it is fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression. However, the intensified fighting in the central province of Marib, the internationally recognized government’s last stronghold in Yemen’s northern half, has seen an international and regional diplomatic push to end the conflict.
Earlier this month, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, who previously served as the world body’s special envoy for Yemen, said the Houthi offensive “has caused an astonishing loss of life, including children who have been mercilessly thrown into the battle.
“The longer the Marib offensive goes on, the greater the risk to Yemen’s broader stability and social cohesion,” he warned. “It may lead to the transfer of conflict to other areas in Yemen, including those which have remained mercifully far from the main theaters of conflict. Yemen is an unstable country, easily destabilized.”
Since March 2020, Griffiths has been trying to get the Houthis and the government to commit to a nationwide cease-fire, reopen Sanaa airport to commercial traffic, ensure an uninterrupted flow of fuel and commodities through the main port of Hodeida, and resume a political process aimed at reaching a settlement.
“I am here to say that a deal is still very much possible,” the then Yemen envoy told the Security Council last year.
“There is strong international backing and there is regional momentum for the UN’s efforts,” he said, expressing gratitude to Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and others. They are working closely and “without any differences between us,” he said.
Griffiths said the differences between the parties in Yemen “are not unbridgeable” and “a deal can be achieved easily, very quickly,” if both sides agree.