05/23/2016, 14.34
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Riyadh going through backdoor diplomacy to reach deal with Houthi rebels in Yemen conflict

Saudi Arabia’s deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is seeking behind-the-scene mediation with Yemen’s Shia movement to protect the kingdom from possible Houthi attacks. Riyadh wants protection after promoting divisions and violence in Yemen.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – Saudi Arabia’s deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is leading the kingdom’s secret, backdoor diplomatic efforts to get senior Houthi officials to acknowledge the inviolability of Saudi territory, this according to an anonymous source close to the entourage of the royal family.

In view of Yemen’s possible break-up, Riyadh wants to protect its back after playing a major role in leading to the current situation. Now Saudi leaders want to secure a deal with those who might turn against them in the future, namely Houthi Shias.

The source told AsiaNews that the heir to the Saudi throne, who is also defence minister and second deputy prime minister, has “accepted the demands” put forward by Ansar Allah, the Houthis’ official name.

This is the result of the failure of peace and reconciliation talks in Kuwait earlier this week, after the Yemeni delegation supported by the Saudis, the Yemeni government in exile, pulled out.

Mohammad bin Salman is said to have asked the Saudi ambassador to Kuwait to meet with the Houthi delegation, which was informed of deputy crown prince’s willingness to accept a number of their demands.

The latter include giving up on Houthi disarmament and pull-back from areas under their control. In exchange, Riyadh is “prepared to stop any direct military action against them or within Saudi borders".

The Saudis appear to be willing to let Hadi remain as a figurehead president until a new Yemeni government is set up to guarantee Houthi "representation equal to their forces on the ground."

The source told AsiaNews that the Houthis want “war compensation worth US$ 10 billion” for damages Saudi Arabia and its coalition inflicted on Yemen.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman appears to have accepted this, but asked that it be put off until later so that Riyadh can "save face."

This has led to the idea that the money would be provided through an international conference of donor countries and a fund that would finance the reconstruction of the war-torn country. (PB)

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