Gulf bloc seeks to host Yemen govt, rebel talks in Riyadh

RIYADH (AFP): Gulf Arab countries are seeking to host talks between Yemen’s warring parties, including the Iran-backed Huthi rebels, in Riyadh at the end of the month, officials said on Tuesday.

The Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council “is considering holding talks between Yemen’s warring parties to put an end to the conflict”, said an official from the six-nation bloc, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

An official from the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, which has been embroiled in a seven-year conflict with the Huthis, said the conference would take place between March 29 and April 7.

“We don’t have a problem if the Huthis attend the talks to try to find a solution to security, military and political issues,” the official told AFP.

But he added it was unlikely the Huthis would accept the invitation to Riyadh, which has been leading a military coalition to back the government against the rebels since 2015.

Another official in Riyadh confirmed efforts for talks were underway, saying: “Saudi Arabia will not be party to negotiations.”

He added that efforts would be led by Oman, which hosts Huthi officials and has regularly played the role of mediator in regional conflicts.

The rebels could not be immediately reached for comment. The war has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, directly or indirectly, and displaced millions.