Mid-Week Digest 06/23/21

Yemen: Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels remain committed to ceasefire negotiations despite ongoing violence in Marib

A recent escalation in violence in Marib, Yemen, has shaken but not derailed an ongoing peace initiative to conclude that country’s years-long civil war. Ceasefire talks between a Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni Houthi rebels were ongoing as of June 23 despite several days of intensified rebel attacks in the oil-rich Marib region and cross-border strikes against Saudi oil facilities – with a two-day death toll topping 90 combatants.

Reports from both camps that steps are being taken to fully lift the Saudi blockades on Houthi-held Sanaa Airport and Hodeidah marine port are an indicator of significant progress toward ending hostilities. The same condition has been a stumbling block in previous negotiations; the Houthis have long claimed that they will only negotiate once their ports are completely free of Saudi obstruction and 14 seized ships are returned to them, while Saudi Arabia has expressed fears of outside arms deliveries to the rebels via these points of entry.

As a precondition for lifting the blockade, Saudi negotiators are expected to seek security guarantees from Iran and Oman – pro-Houthi parties to the conflict with whom Saudi Arabia entered into direct talks as of April 2021. Such a multinational agreement would be crucial to ending Yemen’s proxy war; however, a successful deal is far from assured and would likely take several months to yield an on-the-ground reduction in violence. The Houthi offensive in Marib has been met with accusations by the Yemeni government that the rebels (together with Iran) are seeking to “derail” the peace process.