Saudi US envoy ‘optimistic’ on Yemeni peace talks
For one year, Saudi and allied states have been striking Houthi militias and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
Saudi’s ambassador to the United States has said that he is optimistic that UN-brokered negotiations between Yemen’s warring parties would “result in a breakthrough.”
In an opinion published in the Wall Street Journal on the conflict’s first anniversary, Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud explained why the kingdom decided to lead an Arab coalition in Yemen.
For one year, Saudi and allied states have been striking Houthi militias and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, in a bid to restore the internationally-recognized government of President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi to power.
“Like many Saudis, I wondered why the kingdom had taken this unusually bold action. Saudi Arabia is not a country that has a tendency to leap into military ventures,” said Prince Abdullah, who was appointed Saudi’s Washington envoy in October.
“When the capital [Sanaa] fell to the Houthis in December 2014, flights between Tehran and Sanaa quadrupled overnight, some of which carried weapons and military advisers to support the Houthis,” the envoy recalled.
After the takeover of Sanaa in Sep. 2014, Hadi’s government was forced to move to the southern port city of Aden. Then, the Iran-backed militias began to advance south.
“When the capital fell to the Houthis in December 2014, flights between Tehran and San’a quadrupled overnight, some of which carried weapons and military advisers to support the Houthis… something had to be done,” Prince Abdullah wrote. The Houthi takeover had wider regional effects, he added, including “sectarian tensions” which helped al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch to expand.
The spiraling situation in Yemen was seen by Saudi authorities as a “direct threat” to national security, according to the envoy. Saudi shares a 1,800 kilometer border with Yemen. “No country would accept a similar situation on its border.”
The envoy added that many countries, including the US, “graciously and bravely” offered their support.
Last week, the UN’s special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced that the country’s warring parties had agreed to a cessation of hostilities starting at midnight on April 10, along with peace talks in Kuwait beginning April 18.
The UN envoy said the talks, which he will lead, aim to reach an agreement to end the conflict and allow the resumption of political dialogue leading to a peaceful transition based on a regional peace initiative, a national dialogue and U.N. Security Council resolutions.