Hope for Yemen truce as Iran-Saudi normalization progresses

People walk in Sana'a, Yemen, near a building destroyed in past aerial strikes on March 28. Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images

There's growing optimism that the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government are inching closer to a truce and establishing a road map to end the yearslong war.

The big picture: The progress in the peace talks in Yemen comes as part of a broader wave of normalization after Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish full diplomatic relations easier this year.

  • The war in Yemen has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with tens of thousands killed and millions displaced and in need of humanitarian aid.

Driving the news: Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, traveled to the Gulf on Tuesday to join the efforts being made by the UN and other parties to reach an agreement to extend the cease-fire and expand the peace process in the war-torn country, the State Department said.

  • The UN, the U.S. and the Omani government have been working for a year on the peace talks between the warring parties and their backers in Yemen.
  • Earlier this week, a delegation of Omani and Saudi diplomats visited Sana'a and met with senior Houthi officials. The visit was seen as another sign of progress toward a possible deal.
  • Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, citing Yemeni sources, reported that the emerging deal includes extending the cease-fire by at least six months, further opening air and sea ports, and resuming the exports of oil.
  • The Yemeni government and the Houthis also announced their intention to implement a prisoner swap deal through the International Red Cross on Thursday.

What they're saying: White House National Security adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and discussed "ongoing diplomacy related to ending the war in Yemen," the White House said.

  • According to the White House statement, Sullivan highlighted the progress made in the Yemen peace process and welcomed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to pursue a more comprehensive road map for ending the war.
  • Sullivan briefed MBS about Lenderking’s trip to the region. The U.S. envoy is expected to meet with Yemeni, Saudi and UN officials, the State Department said.
  • “After over a year of intensive U.S. and UN diplomatic efforts and support from regional partners like Saudi Arabia and Oman, Yemen is witnessing an unprecedented opportunity for peace," the State Department said.

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