The UN said Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed welcomed the commitment of Yemen’s exiled government, the Houthis and the General People’s Congress (GPC), the ruling party, to hold direct talks aimed at ending the conflict in Yemen.
The Houthis, the special envoy maintained, have shown “a great degree of flexibility” on pulling out of Yemen’s major cities, including the capital Sana’a, which they occupied in September of 2014. Ould Cheikh Ahmed said there was “a strong opportunity” to reach a peace deal in Yemen.
He said he will announce the venue in the coming days, although sources from both sides of the conflict said the talks will take place in Oman—the only Gulf state that is not part of the Saudi-led coalition against the rebels in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia spearheaded a coalition of nine Arab states to bomb the Iran-backed Houthis in late March, shortly after the internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi fled a rebel advance on the strategic southern city of Aden.
Last month, pro-Hadi troops, backed by Saudi-led ground forces and warplanes, retook Aden and advanced on the Houthi-held Sana’a.
The UN diplomat urged rivals “to engage constructively and in good faith, recognizing the need for a rapid end to the violence which has brought intolerable levels of suffering to the Yemeni people.”
Hadi’s office issued a statement on Thursday affirming the president’s “complete support for the sincere efforts exerted by the special envoy” who spent several months trying to persuade rivals to hold face-to-face talks.
The statement also called on the Houthis and their allies to implement a UN resolution that calls for their immediate withdrawal from major cities.
Previous UN-brokered talks have failed, with rivals unable to agree to a humanitarian pause to allow delivery of aid.