On Sunday April 9 envoys from Saudi Arabia and Oman joined peace talks between competing factions in Yemen. The war in Yemen began in 2015 after the Houthis took control of large parts of the country prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region to bomb the country leading to a massive humanitarian crisis lasting years.
Meanwhile, Iran backed the Houthis, further antagonizing one of its main regional rivals: Saudi Arabia. Additionally, other factions loyal to neither the original government or the Houthis got involved such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In recent months, relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have begun to thaw creating conditions for de-escalating the war in Yemen. The deal itself was brokered by China.
According to Al Jazeera, “The envoys, who landed late on Saturday, met with the head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi al-Mashat, for talks on ending hostilities and lifting a Saudi-led “blockade” on Yemeni ports, Houthi news agency SABA reported. President Mashat reiterated that his movement seeks an “honourable peace” and that Yemenis want “freedom and independence”, SABA said. Mohammed al-Bukaiti, a Houthi leader, said earlier on Twitter that Saudi and Omani officials would discuss “ways to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region”.
Furthermore, several members of the international community have hailed this as a major development heralding real peace in Yemen.
As of now, the talks are between the Houthis and the Saudis as opposed to their Yemeni opponents directly. Additionally, the conflict has left 80 % of the country to be displaced.
According to Al Jazeera, “They have been fighting against a Saudi-led military alliance since 2015 in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and left 80 percent of Yemen’s population dependent on humanitarian aid. A Houthi official said on Saturday that the group had received 13 detainees released by Saudi Arabia in exchange for a Saudi detainee freed earlier, ahead of a wider prisoner exchange agreed to by the warring sides.” It is expected that the Houthis will free 887 more prisoners as part of the peace deal.