GCC considering inviting Houthis for peace talks in Riyadh

Riyadh: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is considering inviting the Iranian-backed Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) and other Yemeni parties for consultation in Riyadh this month as part of an initiative aimed at supporting peace efforts led by the United Nations (UN), local media reported.

The Houthi officials would be “guests” of GCC Secretary-General Nayef Falah Mubarak al-Hajraf.

The official invitations would be sent within days for talks on the military, political and economic aspects of the war.

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The consultation conference will be held in Riyadh, the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council, between March 29 to April 7, if the Houthis accept the invitation for the talks.

The call for new peace consultations coincides with the war entering its eighth year, a year after Saudi initiative was rejected by the Houthis, and after several American and UN initiatives that did not receive a Houthi response despite the Saudis and Hadi government’s acceptance of it.

This comes at a time when Saudi Arabia and the UAE are subjected to repeated attacks by the Houthi group, the latest of which was a drone attack on an oil refinery in the capital, Riyadh, on March 11, in an operation that caused the outbreak of a small fire, but it did not affect the refinery’s operations or the supply of crude and its derivatives in the country oil.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, has witnessed a conflict since 2014 between forces loyal to the internationally recognized government and Houthi rebels. The conflict escalated with the intervention of Saudi Arabia at the head of a military coalition in March 2015 to halt the progress of the Houthis after their control of the capital, Sanaa.

Until the end of 2021, the war claimed the lives of 377,000 people and cost Yemen’s economy 126 billion dollars in losses, and most of the population, which numbered about 30 million people, became dependent on aid, in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, according to the United Nations.

Several UN agencies and international aid groups have warned in a report, on Monday, March 14, that the number of people suffering from starvation in Yemen will increase five times by the end of this year.

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