A delegation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels is expected to arrive in Riyadh on Thursday night for talks with Saudi officials, in a bid to end the six-year war that has devastated the impoverished country. The Houthi envoys will be accompanied by a team of mediators from Oman, which has been playing a key role in facilitating dialogue between the warring parties.
The talks in the Saudi capital are aimed at reaching a permanent ceasefire agreement and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where millions of people are facing famine and disease. The Houthi delegation will also raise their long-standing demands, such as the full reopening of ports and airports under their control, the payment of salaries for public servants, and the withdrawal of foreign forces from Yemen.
The visit comes after months of behind-the-scenes diplomacy and a fragile truce that has largely held since April, when Saudi officials visited the Houthi-held capital Sanaa for the first time. The ceasefire, which expired in October, has reduced the intensity of air strikes and cross-border attacks, but has not stopped the violence completely.
The war in Yemen began in 2014, when the Iran-aligned Houthis seized control of Sanaa and other parts of the country, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee. In 2015, a Saudi-led coalition intervened to restore the government, launching a devastating air campaign that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and displaced millions more.
The conflict has also created a humanitarian catastrophe, with more than 80 percent of Yemen’s population in need of aid, according to the United Nations. The country is also facing outbreaks of cholera, malaria, as well as severe food insecurity and malnutrition.
The UN and other international actors have been urging the parties to reach a political solution and end the suffering of the Yemeni people. The talks in Riyadh are seen as a positive step towards achieving peace and stability in Yemen. However, many challenges and obstacles remain, such as the distrust between the sides, the influence of regional powers, and the fragmentation of the country along political and tribal lines.