Skip to main content

Houthi negotiators in Saudi Arabia for Yemen peace talks

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says progress made in Riyadh talks with Houthi delegation days before UN-brokered truce due to take effect
Yemeni tribesmen supporting forces loyal to President Hadi hold a position during clashes with alleged Houthi rebels in the central city of Taiz on 11 March 2016 (AFP)

A delegation of Houthi rebels from Yemen is holding talks with Saudi officials in Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said.

The talks on Monday come ahead of a planned ceasefire and renewed Yemeni peace negotiations in the country that has seen heavy political upheaval in recent weeks.

"The Houthi delegation is in Saudi Arabia and the discussions are ongoing. I believe we have made good progress," Jubeir told reporters.

Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab coalition that has been bombing the rebels, currently in control of the capital Sanaa, for more than a year in support of the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

"Talks with them are ongoing with the aim of finding a political solution for the Yemen crisis," Jubeir said.

News of the talks come after Hadi on Sunday dismissed his Prime Minister and Vice President Khaled Bahah because of what he called government "failures".

Bahah's government has "failed to ease the suffering of our people, resolve their problems and provide their needs," Hadi said in a statement.

Government sources have in the past spoken of differences between the president and Bahah.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the first to reveal the presence of a Houthi delegation in Riyadh in an interview with Bloomberg published on Friday.

"There is significant progress in negotiations, and we have good contacts with the Houthis, with a delegation currently in Riyadh. We believe that we are closer than ever to a political solution in Yemen," the prince said.

The revelation came ahead of a UN-brokered truce due to enter into effect on 10 April followed by talks in Kuwait on 18 April.  

Previous negotiations have failed and earlier ceasefires were not respected, but analysts say the prospects of a deal have improved.

Saudi Arabia and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels have recently exchanged detainees and agreed through tribal mediation to ease tension along the two countries' borders.

The Houthis seized Sanaa in September 2014 then advanced south, raising fears in Riyadh that they would extend the influence of Iran in the kingdom's southern neighbour.

The United Nations says about 6,300 people have been killed in the war, more than half of them civilians.