Houthis, Saudis to negotiate more before a possible Yemen peace pact
Cairo, Apr 14 (EFE).- The Iran-backed Houthi rebels and Saudi negotiators have agreed to have another round of talks before clinching a peace pact to end Yemen’s nine-year conflict, sources told EFE Friday.
The Saudi delegation met Houthi leaders last weekend for the first time in public in the capital Sana’a with mediators from Oman also present.
According to the source, who requested anonymity, the Saudis left the Yemeni capital Thursday night after the two sides agreed to swap prisoners of war and completely reopen the Houthi-controlled ports and Sana’a Airport.
An exchange of 887 prisoners will begin on Friday, under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with flights departing from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
In addition, the parties agreed to hold a second round of negotiations before announcing a peace deal, said the source, without elaborating when that was likely to happen.
A ceasefire agreement that expired in October last year is also on the table.
The two sides are negotiating to revive the truce, but there has been no breakthrough on it so far.
Mohammed al Bukhaiti, a senior Houthi official and governor of Dhamar province, tweeted that “the negotiations in Sana’a are going well.”
“To overcome the past, we have to look to the future, but we must first end all the consequences of the past, and there is no need to delay them,” he said.
“The announcement of the historic Sana’a Agreement will mark the birth of a new Arab Spring of reconciliation and tolerance.”
Presidential council member Mohamed Ali al Houthi said the talks took place in a “positive atmosphere” and a date for another round of negotiations would be announced soon.
Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohamed al Jabir visited Sana’a on a historic trip with Omani mediators for a peace agreement between the Houthis and the internationally-recognized Yemeni government supported by the Saudi-led coalition.
That was the first visit by a senior Saudi official to Sana’a in eight years of war since the Saudi intervention began in Yemen.
The diplomat was even photographed with Ali Qarshah, a prominent rebel leader once included in a list of 40 Houthi officials wanted by Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom had previously offered $4 million for any information that could lead to his arrest.
Hopes to end the conflict in Yemen have emerged after the historic rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two regional power vying for a wider influence in the Middle East.
According to the UN, the Yemen war has caused one of the deadliest humanitarian catastrophes on the planet. EFE