Aden, Jeddah-Washington has made a proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire in Yemen with a possibility of extension, during a two-day visit by a U.S. high-ranking official to Muscat.
Asharq Al-Awsat learned from Yemeni and U.S. diplomatic and political sources that U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon paid a visit to Oman on September 8 and 9, and held talks with a delegation of rebels to discuss the points that Secretary of State John Kerry had initiated in Jeddah.
A source at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen told Asharq Al-Awsat that the new points in the U.S. position was the proposal to hold a 72-hour ceasefire.
A spokesperson at the U.S. Department of State told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The proposal is a tool that would provide all Yemeni parties the chance to reach a complete and permanent agreement.”
He said Shannon met with the Houthi team, officials of the allied General People’s Congress (GPC) party and a Omani mediator in Muscat, to discuss how to end a war that has killed over 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million.
The source did not reveal what was the response of the Yemeni parties regarding the U.S. proposal.
Informed Houthi sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the insurgency negotiating team in Oman accepted the proposal.
However, the sources said the rebels had placed conditions for reviving U.N. sponsored peace talks.
Houthis said any procedures linked to their pullout from Yemeni cities and handing over their arms should come hand in hand with other measures, such as the discussion of the future of the presidency and the national unity government, the sources said.
Negotiations to end 18 months of fighting in Yemen collapsed last month in Kuwait after Houthis announced the formation of a governing council, ignoring a U.N. warning that such a move would violate Security Council resolutions on how to solve the conflict.
But, since the collapse of the peace talks, the Houthi negotiating team has been stuck in Muscat after Saudi authorities in control of Yemen’s airspace refused to grant them access to Sana’a.
According to the sources, the team is expected to leave Muscat soon.
“Saudi Arabia now allows the delegation to return to Yemen using a U.N. airplane,” the source said.
Fighting in Yemen started in 2004 when President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was sent into exile, after former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Houthi supporters seized the capital city of Sana’a.
The Yemeni governing council said on Friday that its willingness to restart peace talks hinged on the implementation of a full ceasefire, including the lifting of the no-fly zone and siege imposed by the Saudi-led coalition.
This month, Ould Cheikh Ahmed kicked of a regional tour with a hope to hold a new round of talks between the country’s warring parties.
In a separate development, Deputy Chief Major General Nasser Abdu Rabbu Abdullah Nasser al-Taheri revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Yemen forces had seized at numerous border posts, several shipments of weapons loaded with medium-range and light arms coming from Iran destined for Houthis.