03/16/2018, 17.29
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Saudis and Houthis in secret talks in Oman to end Yemen conflict

The two sides meet in Oman in their first attempt to end a war that has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The goal is to reach a comprehensive agreement. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia deposits US$ 2 billion in the Central bank of Yemen.

Sana'a (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthi movement are holding secret talks to try to end the country’s three-year war, anonymous diplomatic and Yemeni sources said. If confirmed, this would be the first attempt to stop the worst current humanitarian crisis.

Speaking to Reuters, two diplomats and two Yemeni officials said Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam had been in direct communication with top Saudi officials in Oman to find a comprehensive solution to the conflict.

“There are consultations between the Houthis and the Saudis, without a representative of the internationally recognised government,” said one source. Both sides want to reach an agreement as soon as possible. But so far, neither Saudi nor Houthi officials have issued any official comment.

A brutal civil war has gripped the Arab country since January 2015, pitting Saudi-backed Sunnis led by former President Hadi, against Houthi Shias, supported by Iran and Hezbollah.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led Arab coalition began attacking the  rebels, sparking criticism from the United Nations over heavy civilian casualties, including many children.

UN sources speak of more than 9,200 deaths, 60 per cent civilians, and 45,000 wounded. And up to 22 million people out of a total of a population of 28 million have been left in need of assistance and humanitarian aid in order to survive. About 8.4 million are close to famine.

Even Apostolic Vicar Mgr Paul Hinder spoke to AsiaNews about the seriousness of the disaster that is unfolding.

According to some sources, the first step towards a deal includes a truce, followed by a peace agreement to settle outstanding political, economic and military issues separating the parties.

Increasingly, Saudi leaders, starting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, want to see an end to a conflict that no one seems to be able to win in a country on the verge of collapse.

Diplomats said the Saudi-Houthi dialogue had been going on for about two months and appeared aimed at providing a framework for a resolution to coincide with the arrival of a new UN envoy to Yemen, former British diplomat Martin Griffiths.

For its part, Saudi Arabia ha also signed an agreement in Riyadh to deposit US$ 2 billion in a Central Bank of Yemen account.

The deal inked by Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan and Central Bank of Yemen Governor Mohammed Mansour Zemam is aimed at shoring up the country’s currency weakened by war and divisions.

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