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Yemen war: Saudi Arabia invites Houthi officials for talks to end conflict

The meeting will be mediated by Oman and aims to build on previous efforts to find a permanent solution to the conflict 
Mahdi al-Mashat (R), head of the Huthi Supreme Political Council pictured at a ceremony in Yemen's capital Sanaa on 9 October 2021 (AFP)
Mahdi al-Mashat (right), head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, at a ceremony in Yemen's capital Sanaa on 9 October 2021 (AFP)

Saudi Arabia invited a delegation from the Houthi movement to resume talks about ending the war in Yemen, Saudi state media said on Thursday. 

The visit aimed to "reach a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen and a sustainable political solution acceptable to all Yemeni parties," the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. 

The talks will build on previous efforts by Saudi Arabia and Oman to end the conflict. 

In April, a Saudi delegation led by the country’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, visited Sanaa and met with Houthi political chief Mahdi al-Mashat. 

It was the first public meeting between Saudi and Houthi officials since a war between the two broke out in 2015. 

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Mashat confirmed that a Houthi delegation would travel to Saudi Arabia with Omani mediators, according to the group’s Saba news agency. 

"Peace was and still is our first option and everyone must work to achieve it," Mashat said. 

The conflict in Yemen began when the Houthis seized Sanaa in 2014.

A Saudi-led military intervention began in 2015, intending to restore the internationally recognised government. 

The fighting has dragged on since, without a decisive military victory for either side, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and a major humanitarian crisis. 

After the UN brokered a ceasefire in April 2022, hostilities and casualties were drastically reduced. The truce expired in October, but fighting has largely remained on hold.

According to analysts, it appears that Saudi Arabia has realised that its prolonged military campaign will not bring about the defeat of the rebel forces in Yemen.

This understanding comes as Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs the Houthis, re-established diplomatic ties, leading to a wave of rapprochement across the region. 

Although Saudi Arabia and the Houthis did not reach a permanent ceasefire in the April talks, a major prisoner exchange between the two sides, involving nearly 900 detainees, took place immediately after the meeting, indicating some progress in the talks. 

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