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Saudi offer to host talks raises Yemen peace hopes

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-09-20 09:59

People rebuild shelters damaged by torrential rain at a makeshift camp in Hajjah, Yemen, on Aug 13. ESSA AHMED/AFP

With different sides of Yemen and the Middle East welcoming a Riyadh-hosted dialogue with the Houthi forces, hopes have risen for a possible breakthrough: a permanent truce to end the Yemen conflict, once deemed the world's worst humanitarian crisis by the United Nations.

Analysts said the latest development was a "critical juncture" for the fragile peace process, noting it could lead to an inclusive regional vision of peace and prosperity, following the China-brokered Saudi-Iran detente and Syria's reinstatement into the Arab League in May.

Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, an intergovernmental union comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, praised the joint efforts to find a peaceful and comprehensive solution.

In a statement published on Sunday, Albudaiwi said the latest round of talks with the Houthi delegation in Riyadh "is one of the significant steps taken by the kingdom toward achieving peace in Yemen", and wished the negotiations success and positive results that would "help in developing a permanent and comprehensive solution to the Yemeni crisis".

The Saudi Foreign Ministry on Thursday announced it had invited a Houthi delegation from the Yemeni capital Sanaa to visit the kingdom as a continuation of joint efforts with Oman to "reach a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire in Yemen for a sustainable and acceptable political solution from all Yemeni parties". The talks went ahead as scheduled over the past few days.

Henelito Sevilla Jr, dean and professor of the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines, told China Daily that the Saudi invitation was part of its leadership initiative to bring solidarity and dialogue among countries and groups in the Middle East and North Africa amid geopolitical developments.

"The invitation to the Houthis is an acknowledgment that peace and reconciliation could not be attended without an inclusive process where all actors are involved in the negotiation," he said.

The Yemeni government in Sanaa said on Friday that it welcomed the efforts of international actors aimed at pushing the Houthi militia "toward seriously dealing with calls for peace and alleviating the human suffering of the Yemeni people".

Critical juncture

Sevilla said the latest talks were "a critical juncture for the region "but they offer no guarantee of a stable, conflict-free future.

However, he expressed optimism that Saudi Arabia's leadership and improving relations in the region could lead to an inclusive vision of peace and prosperity.

"Like the Saudi invitation with Syria, and Saudi's recent rapprochement with Iran, Saudi's invitation to Houthi recognizes equally the critical role of Houthis in achieving a sustainable peace in the coming years. Thus, dialogue and confidence building are better options than confrontation and war," said Sevilla.

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