Hopes abound for a deal on a “permanent ceasefire” with Houthi leaders by the end of April.
A delegation representing Saudi Arabia and Oman is due to meet with the Houthi leadership in Sanaa next week to sign a permanent ceasefire ending the eight-year war in Yemen, several outlets have reported, citing officials familiar with the talks.
Sources told Reuters that an agreement could be announced by April 20, the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid-al Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan.
UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg was in Muscat earlier this week, where he met with senior Omani and Houthi officials to discuss the peace process.
On Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition lifted its naval blockade of Yemen, allowing most ships to dock directly in Aden and other southern ports without stopping in Jeddah for security checks. The blockade was imposed in 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition invaded Yemen on behalf of the government the Houthis had deposed.
Meanwhile, the Lebanon-based outlet Al-Mayadeen reported that Riyadh had summoned leaders of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government on Friday, to brief them on the talks with the Houthis. Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman presented “the solution for a way out of the war on Yemen,” the outlet’s sources said.
According to Al-Mayadeen, the Saudi plan envisions extending the ceasefire by another year, followed by steps to reopen Yemeni ports. Riyadh is then expected to officially announce the end of the war and its intervention in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and the UN will subsequently sponsor talks between the Houthis and rival Yemeni factions, seeking a two-year transition period to establish a new government, reports have indicated.
The diplomatic breakthrough after eight years of fighting was made possible by last month’s agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to re-establish diplomatic relations, brokered by China.
According to UN estimates, the conflict in Yemen has claimed at least 377,000 lives, of which 150,000 were due to violence and the rest from starvation and disease. Another 4 million people have been displaced.