The report, published by the online magazine Responsible Statecraft, clarified that the talks followed a five-month hiatus in peace negotiations after the last round of Omani-facilitated negotiations that took place in Sana‘a in April. The most recent talks appeared to offer more hope for a sustained truce between Sana'a and Riyadh, which would be necessary for bringing lasting peace to Yemen.
New Saudi Language
The report pointed to the new Saudi language as it referred to the visiting Yemeni representatives as the “Sana‘a delegation,” rather than “the Houthis” or “Ansar Allah,” considering that this terminology confirms Riyadh's recognition that Ansarullah are indeed running a government, underscoring Saudi Arabia’s growing willingness to find a modus vivendi with the powerful force that has effectively consolidated power in northern Yemen.
“The shift in language to ‘Sana‘a delegation’ is significant,” according to Elisabeth Kendall, who teaches Arab studies at the University of Cambridge. "The Houthis and Ansar Allah have long been vilified in the Saudi media, so removing references to them appears designed to de-stigmatize the talks and avoid any notion of a Saudi climb-down,” she told RS.
"The significance of new naming stems from re-positioning and pre-understandings: the desire to improve [the] diplomatic atmosphere, flip the page of full tensions at any cost, confer symbolic recognition, and gradually shift public perceptions,” the magazine added.
Obstacles to agreement
Despite recent progress, the Sana'a delegation and Saudis have yet to finally reach a permanent truce, and more work will be required. At least four delicate issues remain unresolved, the report added.
First is the issue of salary payments for public sector employees in the Sana'a-controlled north, where approximately 80% of Yemen’s population lives.
The second issue deals with the distribution of Yemen’s national oil and gas revenues. “Sana‘a delegation will get what they’ve been demanding for a long time — their share. Or they won’t allow the export of oil and gas to proceed in peace,” Nabeel Khoury, the former deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Yemen.
The third concern has to do with Sana‘a delegation demands that the Saudis permit the unrestricted- reopening of Sana‘a international airport, as well as other airports in Yemen, and the country’s seaports.
The final issue regards the Sana‘a delegation’ access to funds in Yemen’s Aden-based Central Bank. The talks thus far have addressed how the Central Bank can be reunited, either in Yemen or possibly in another country such as Oman or Jordan. “The idea is again a Houthi demand that money going into the central bank should be available to them as well. The logistics of this will be an important consideration,” according to Khoury.
Largely thanks to Oman’s much-lauded mediation skills, momentum behind the negotiations appears to have accelerated, the report added. However, these talks will probably move slowly, with progress coming incrementally given the long-standing distrust that exists between the Sana‘a delegation and the Saudis.
The report concluded that the latest talks held in Riyadh with the Sana'a delegation will ideally pave the way for inclusive Yemeni-Yemeni talks to establish a roadmap toward broader peace across all of Yemen.
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