Yemen peace push 'serious' but next steps unclear: Saudi envoy

AFP , Thursday 11 May 2023

Warring parties in Yemen are "serious" about ending a devastating eight-year-old conflict but it is impossible to predict when talks between Yemenis, much less a breakthrough, might happen, Saudi Arabia's envoy told AFP.

An aerial picture shows people visiting the Martyrs Cemetery which was opened at the beginning of the Yemen conflict in the city of Taez on May 6, 2023.AFP


"Everybody is serious. Serious means everybody is looking for peace," Mohammed al-Jaber said in his first extensive comments after meeting with Huthi leaders in Sanaa last month. But he added: "It's not easy to be clear about next steps."

Saudi Arabia mobilised a coalition to back the internationally recognised government in 2015, after the Huthis seized Sanaa the previous year.

Jaber, Riyadh's ambassador to Yemen, travelled to Sanaa in April as part of a plan to "stabilise" the truce, which officially expired in October.

But no deal was struck and Jaber said there were no concrete plans to move the process forward.

"Nothing is clear, but I'm optimistic, and we hope inshallah (God willing) Yemenis can find a way as soon as possible," he said.

The Huthis see Saudi Arabia as a party to the conflict, whereas Jaber indicated that Riyadh sees itself as more of a mediator trying to facilitate an agreement between the rebels and Yemen's internationally recognised government.

"Because of Saudi Arabia's relationship with all Yemenis, including the Huthis, we used our leverage to convince all Yemenis to sit at the table and discuss those issues," Jaber said in an interview on a flight back to Saudi Arabia from Aden, where he inaugurated Saudi-funded upgrades to the main hospital and airport.

"In the end it's about Yemenis," he added, though he also noted the two sides currently "refuse to sit together".

In a separate interview at the presidential palace in Aden, Rashad al-Alimi, chair of Yemen's Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), also told AFP that Riyadh was acting as a mediator.

"The Saudi role is a mediating role between the official government and the rebels," he said.

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