GCC officials consider inviting Yemen Houthis to consultations in Riyadh

The Gulf Cooperation Council is considering an initiative to host Houthi officials in Riyadh in an attempt to bring the eight-year conflict in Yemen to an end.

SAUDI ARABIA’S King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah during the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) 40th Summit in Riyadh, in December. (photo credit: REUTERS)
SAUDI ARABIA’S King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah during the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) 40th Summit in Riyadh, in December.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is considering inviting the Houthi movement and other Yemeni parties for consultations in Riyadh this month as part of an initiative aimed at backing UN-led peace efforts, two Gulf officials told Reuters.

Formal invitations would be sent within days for the talks on military, political and economic aspects of the war between the Iran-aligned Houthis and a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, said the officials, who declined to be named ahead of an official announcement this week. The conflict enters its eighth year on Tuesday.

They said Houthi officials would be "guests" of GCC Secretary-General Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf at the body's Riyadh headquarters and would have his security guarantees if the group accepted the invitation for the talks, which are planned from March 29-April 7.

It was not immediately clear whether Houthi officials would agree to travel to Saudi Arabia, which backs the internationally recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was ousted from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014 by the movement. Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

GCC members Oman, where some Houthi officials are based, and Kuwait, which hosted previous peace talks in 2015, would be a more neutral ground for such consultations.

  A Shi'ite Houthi fighter sits behind sandbags near a checkpoint in Sanaa December 17, 2014 (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI) A Shi'ite Houthi fighter sits behind sandbags near a checkpoint in Sanaa December 17, 2014 (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI)

The officials said Hadi, who is based in Riyadh, had agreed to the talks.

Riyadh has struggled to extricate itself from the costly and unpopular war, which has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The conflict, largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, is a point of friction between Riyadh and Washington.

Yemen has been eclipsed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the GCC initiative comes ahead of a donors conference on March 16. The United Nations special envoy to Yemen last week held talks with Yemeni parties aimed at building a framework for inclusive political negotiations.

Efforts by the United States and the United Nations to secure a ceasefire last year failed, and violence has intensified.

The Houthis continue to battle coalition forces on the ground in energy-producing Marib, the government's last stronghold in North Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been seeking renewed support from the United States in the Yemen war, including for more weapons, after the Biden administration last year ended support for offensive coalition operations and revoked a terror designation on the Houthi group amid humanitarian concerns.