Negotiations between Saudis and Houthi a good basis for peace in Yemen

An exclusive source talks to AsiaNews. As the conflict continues to reap innocent lives, the humanitarian situation remains "tragic", especially in health and education. Meetings in Oman are a starting point for a stable and lasting ceasefire, but an agreement between the parties requires patience and saving appearances.


Sana'a (AsiaNews) – The humanitarian situation in Yemen, a nation battered by more than three years of war and jihadi violence, remains "tragic, especially in some parts of the country” but rumors of secret talks in Oman between the Saudis and the Houthi may be real, a diplomatic source, in Sana’a, anonymous for security reasons told AsiaNews.

If confirmed, they represent the right basis for a stable and lasting ceasefire, but for this to happen, "It is necessary to put the parties together for a journey that requires patience and good will from everyone."

So far, the war has caused over 10,000 victims, mostly civilians, and tens of thousands of wounded and injured.

The conflict has also left up to 20 million people in need of assistance and humanitarian aid to survive, this out of a population of 28 million inhabitants. They include three million internally displaced people, one million cases of cholera last year, plus 400,000 children under five suffering from acute malnutrition.

Since January 2015, the Arab country has been the scene of a brutal conflict opposing the Sunni-led government of former President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, supported by Riyadh, to Houthi Shia rebels, close to Iran and Hezbollah.

In March of the same year, a Saudi-led coalition began air strikes against the rebels, which the United Nations slammed for causing civilian casualties, including children.

The apostolic vicar, Mgr Paul Hinder, has repeatedly spoken out against the ongoing disaster.  Christians too have become embroiled in the conflict as well, like in the attack against the Missionaries of Charity in Aden.

Today the Houthi occupy about 30 per cent of the country, especially in the north, where most of the population is concentrated.

In the pro-Saudi, government-controlled south, a new battle line has emerged with the arrival on the scene of pro-United Arab Emirate separatists, further complicating the situation.

Yemen, which was united as country in 1990, appears to be increasingly at risk of implosion, caught in the crossfire of a battle for regional supremacy.

In a context of wars and divisions, Riyadh has also imposed a blockade last November in response to Houthi rocket attacks. In turn, this has exacerbated the food and emergency medicine.

"In Yemen in general, there is a situation of extreme need,” the diplomatic source said. “There is a general confusion that does not help the situation and hinders those few actions that can be done to aid the population."

The main challenges are " health and education. In many areas children cannot go to schools due to lack of security because of bombing and shelling.”

Recently, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was in Washington where he met US President Donald Trump. The war in Yemen was one of the items on their agenda.

Some channels of communications might be opening. "There are possible contacts between Saudis and Houthi,” the diplomatic source explained, “but no one knows what may come of them.”

“The Sultanate of Oman is a good venue for talks between two sides because it has good relations with both." However, "the journey will long and difficult”.

A solution will require “patience and good will. We must arrive at a final consensus in which no one loses face, appearances are saved, and both sides can claim a partial victory."

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