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Yemen’s Road to Peace: Can the Riyadh-Houthi Pact Deliver?

Featured Speakers: Ambassador Patrick Theros, Ambassador Gerald Feierstein, Summer Nasser, Dr. Nabeel Khoury.


One month after the eighth anniversary of the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s military intervention in Yemen, the first solid step toward peace between Riyadh and the Houthis took place in Sana’a, when the Saudi ambassador to Yemen met with leaders from the northern rebel movement. That meeting, mediated by Oman, was followed by statements from all sides stressing the need for a political resolution to the Yemen conflict and an end to violence. The meeting came at a time of general de-escalation and rapprochement across the Middle East; last year, Yemen witnessed the first lasting truce between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, a significant exchange of prisoners, and several rounds of productive negotiations. Indeed, the progress in peace talks has alleviated some concerns of both sides and given civilians a crucial break from hostilities, enabling humanitarian work to proceed across the country. In spite of these encouraging trends, however, low-level clashes between pro-government forces and the Houthis have continued in Marib and other disputed areas.

The motives for de-escalation between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis have played a clear role in the negotiations process fostered by Oman and the UN. Neither Riyadh nor Sana’a regarded the prolonging of the war with no clear winner as a desirable outcome. In order to proceed with its ambitious economic plans, Riyadh needs stability in the region and an end to the security threats along its southern border. In turn, the Houthis have sought international recognition for their rule and economic growth to legitimize their government. The greatest victor in a peace agreement will be the Yemeni people themselves, who have quietly suffered the war’s worst consequences since its onset.

What are possible concessions for each side to initiate the peace process? How can a Saudi-Houthi agreement pave the way for a Yemeni-Yemeni agreement? How can Yemeni women and civil society organizations be part of any agreement? What are the priorities for any agreement to preserve the country’s unity and prevent future infighting?

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