Warring parties in Yemen are “serious” about ending a devastating eight-year-old conflict but it is impossible to predict when direct talks, much less a breakthrough, might happen, Saudi Arabia’s envoy told 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.”
The comments seemed to undercut expectations for an imminent deal to conclude fighting that has killed hundreds of thousands of people directly and indirectly and left two-thirds of Yemen’s population dependent on aid, according to the United Nations.
Saudi Arabia mobilised a coalition to back the internationally recognised government in 2015, after the Iran-backed Huthis seized the capital Sanaa the previous year.
Subsequent coalition air strikes killed and injured tens of thousands, according to the UN, while failing to dislodge the Huthis, though fighting diminished considerably after a truce announced in April 2022.
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 push for peace in Yemen appeared to be revived by a surprise rapprochement deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran announced in March.
However, hopes for a quick resolution “have somewhat receded”, according to one diplomat working on the file.