Riyadh agreement extends scope of Yemen settlement to include Houthis

“If the Houthis are serious about de-escalation and accept to come to the negotiation table, Saudi Arabia will support their request and the request of all political parties to reach a political solution,” the official told AFP.
Sunday 10/11/2019
Officials sign the so-called "Riyadh agreement," aimed at ending fighting between the Yemeni government, and the southern separatists, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 5. (Mohamed Bin Zayed Official Twitter account/dpa)
Officials sign the so-called "Riyadh agreement," aimed at ending fighting between the Yemeni government, and the southern separatists, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 5. (Mohamed Bin Zayed Official Twitter account/dpa)

ADEN - The Riyadh Agreement between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council revived hopes for a comprehensive deal,  which would include the Houthi rebels, to end the war in Yemen.

Political observers connected a statement from a Saudi official saying Saudi Arabia had had communications with the Houthis since 2016 to “support peace in Yemen” and a speech by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz at the November 5 Riyadh Agreement signing ceremony, in which he said the deal may lead broader understandings.

Sources said the “understandings” may include Yemen’s Congress Party as a step towards comprehensive dialogue with the Houthis as they face a politically and militarily coherent legitimate government camp.

Saudi Arabia showed openness to a political settlement in Yemen considering the Gulf initiative, the outcomes of a Yemeni national dialogue conference and UN Security Council resolutions.

Sources said UN Envoy Martin Griffiths recently travelled between Sana’a and Riyadh to meet with Saudi officials and senior Houthi leaders. The Houthis said in September that they would stop targeting Saudi Arabia, a move described by Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khaled bin Salman as positive.

Sources said the communication channel reported by the Saudi official was a reference to the Houthi delegation in Muscat led by Mohammed Abdul Salam, who met with officials in the Arab alliance amid the political effort started by former US Secretary of State John Kerry in Muscat in 2016.

“If the Houthis are serious about de-escalation and accept to come to the negotiation table, Saudi Arabia will support their request and the request of all political parties to reach a political solution,” the official told Agence France-Presse.

In September, Washington said it was meeting with Houthi representatives. US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said, during a visit to Saudi Arabia, that Washington was talking with the Houthis to find a “mutually acceptable” solution to the conflict in Yemen.

“Our focus is on ending the war in Yemen,” Schenker said. “We are having talks… with the Houthis to try to find a negotiated solution acceptable to both sides.”

The Riyadh Agreement between the internationally recognised government and the Southern Transitional Council raised hopes of a comprehensive political solution in Yemen. The agreement could serve as a basis for an agreement involving the Houthis.

International reaction to the Riyadh Agreement reignited hopes to revive the peace process.

US President Donald Trump, posting on Twitter, described the Riyadh Agreement as “a very good start” and called for action to reach a final deal on the situation in Yemen.

The UK Foreign Office welcomed the agreement, stating that the document was “an important step to reach a comprehensive political solution in Yemen.”

Saudi Prince Khaled said in a tweet: “We ask God that this agreement will be the starting point for opening a new page of sincere dialogue among all Yemenis in order to reach a political solution that will end the Yemeni crisis.”

In an October 3 tweet, Prince Khaled, who plays an important role in managing the Yemeni issue, said: “It is time for Yemenis, all Yemenis, and we, together with them, to stand united in the face of the Iranian project of spreading chaos, sedition and destruction, and to place the interest and security of Yemen and the safety, stability and prosperity of its people above all other considerations.”

Observers said developments in Arab capitals in Tehran’s orbit, such as Baghdad and Beirut, plus growing popular rejection of Iranian hegemony may persuade some Houthi leaders to abandon their commitment to Iran.

4