Houthi official Mahdi Al-Mashat and the Omani delegation in Sanaa (Houthi media)

What is the Status of the Omani Mediation?


Tue, 29-08-2023 01:33 PM, Aden

So far, it seems that the Omani mediation in Yemen still faces some challenges and obstacles.

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24) 

On August 17, an Omani delegation arrived in Sanaa which is under the Houthi control. It was accompanied by the Head of the Houthi Negotiating Delegation Mohammed Abdulsalam. The aim of the visit was to resume mediation between the Iran-backed Houthis on one hand and Saudi Arabia along with the Yemeni internationally recognized government on the other hand.

The visit came months after what appeared as deadlock for this mediation. It also followed days of relentless diplomatic efforts in the Gulf region by the two UN and US envoys. Houthi media platforms said that the Omani delegation "conveyed the latest updates of the Omani mediation that aims to stop invasion on Yemen with the possibility of prolonging the humanitarian truce and paying salaries".

On August 20, the Omani delegation met with Mahdi Al-Mashat, President of Houthi Political Council. The Houthi leader reiterate war threats in case of not fulfilling their demands. He said: "Maintaining the current conditions experienced by Yemenis is no longer acceptable. People are totally entitled to defend themselves".

On the same day, Al-Mashat met with the Houthis Negotiating Delegation. The Houthi newspaper "September 26" said: "They agreed to set basic steps for any future negotiations in a way that guarantees paying salaries to all state employees, opening Sanaa International Airport, removing all restrictions imposed on Hodeidah port and lifting the siege".

The Omani delegation travelled from Sanaa to Muscat accompanied by Mohammed Abdulsalam. Ali Al-Ajari, a Member of the Houthi Negotiating Delegation, revealed an upcoming "decisive' negotiation tour. The Houthi media quoted him as saying: "The Omani delegation and ours arrived in Sanaa to consult with the leadership about the next moves".

Simultaneously, the Houthi newspaper said: "Riyadh pushed for a misleading propaganda campaign regarding the salaries to block any possibility of obliging Saudi Arabia to pay salaries during the new negotiation round. Last negotiations stopped due to Riyadh's rejection of allocating oil and gas revenues to pay salaries".

Some progress

According to the Emirati newspaper 'Al-Bayan' "regional and international mediations have achieved some progress at the humanitarian level in Yemen". On Friday, the newspaper quoted Yemeni governmental sources as saying: "The Houthi preconditions still hinder concluding a deal to pay salaries to civil and military employees in the areas under their control".

The newspaper added: "Regional mediation, which submitted an amended version of the proposals related to the humanitarian file, took the green light in terms of reaching a long-term truce, revoking restrictions imposed on commercial flights from and to the Sanaa Airport as well as the port of Hodeidah".

It added: "An agreement was reached to pay salaries in the Houthi areas. However, there have been disputes about the way of doing that. The Houthis reject paying salaries directly to the employees through banking transfers. They want to receive the money and spend it themselves with an aim to control the employees.”

The newspaper indicated that “the files related to military staff face the same disagreements as the Houthis want to control them. The government and the Arab Coalition have rejected these preconditions in order to maintain affiliation with the ministries of Defense and Interior away from the Houthi grip and to force the Houthis to work with them.”

'Al-Bayan' noted that “the government’s military team headed to Amman to resume discussions with the military Adviser to the UN Envoy regarding the proposal to form a joint operation room with the Houthis. The latter would monitor the ceasefire, deal with violations, and develop plans to secure opening roads between the governorates.”

The same newspaper said: “Sources underscored that mediators, including the UN, juxtapose between the implementation of humanitarian issues and the engagement in political talks to reach a comprehensive solution. They do not want the Houthis to benefit from this file and to evade military, political and security commitments consequently.”

The aforementioned newspaper revealed that the matter of salaries in the Houthi areas, which has been a main hurdle in the face of Omani mediation, reached an advanced level of understanding in terms of paying these salaries. Nonetheless, there have been disagreements about how to do this in addition to the main contentious point whether to pay the salaries or not and which revenues would be used".

During a meeting in Aden on August 20, STC's Presidium warned of “touching the wealth and resources of South Yemen”. In a statement, STC said: “The natural resources and wealth of the South are the sovereign prerogatives of its own people, and they are the ones who decisively decide the fate of whatever is related to their land or impacts on their rights and interests and determine their political future.” 

It added: “We reiterated our welcome to any efforts that lead to a permanent ceasefire and establishes a comprehensive and sustainable peace process in which the cause of the South should be present in all the phases within its own negotiating framework. Underscoring in the context the rapid formation of the joint negotiating delegation to assume responsibility for the negotiating process in all its details”.

Last Wednesday, US Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said that “Yemenis must have the difficult conversations with one another".

In a visual press briefing, seen by 'South24 Center', he added: "Yemen is still a priority for US policy". He indicated that his efforts have 'been particularly focused on tackling Yemen's economic challenges.

A fragile mediation?

Southern academic Dr. Saddam Abdullah downplayed the importance of mediation efforts in Yemen. He told 'South24 Center': "This mediation is futile, especially since Oman lacks potentials of a real power that would impose its mediation on the Houthis. The mission of the Omani delegation has been limited to delivering the group's preconditions to other parties".

"Each party has its goals and interests in perpetuating the current conditions. We have long noticed that the Houthis do not accept any concessions for peace in order to benefit from the status quo with an aim to expand their control and wealth", he added.

On the other hand, Saudi military expert Major General Mohammed Al-Qubaiban believes in the usefulness of the Omani mediation. He told 'South24 Center ': "It needs support from all parties in Yemen. The lack of flexibility and the adoption of uncompromising stances by parties would thwart this mission,"

He said, "We should not rely our brothers in Oman to solve the problems by satisfying all parties as this is impossible". According to him, the Riyadh Agreement should be the basis of the Muscat negotiations.

The Saudi expert noted that "the Omani negotiations have largely sought to at least stop the fighting in Yemen. We, as observers, want these efforts to stop the armed conflict. I think that things move in the right direction".

On the other hand, Al-Qubaiban criticized the UN role in Yemen by saying: "I believe that the United Nations and its Envoy have lost credibility. They move to support the political operation in Yemen when they need money only. This is a big failure, not limited to Yemen but is extended to Sudan and Niger".

Seeking for more 

Sanaa-based political analyst Rashid Al-Haddad believes that "parties in Sanaa face strong popular pressure which would impose the war option". He told 'South24 Center': "Omanis have tried to save the situation especially as the war option appears the most likely so far in light of the ambiguity of negotiations".

He explained: "Yemenis abroad suffer and can't go or return from Sanaa. Restrictions are still in place on more than 450 commodities banned from being imported through the ports of Hodeidah. Everything that occurred during the last period can't be considered a major positive gain".

So far, it seems that the Omani mediation in Yemen still face some challenges and obstacles. Previously, a report, published by 'South24 Center' discussed reasons for which the US would thwart any Saudi-Houthi deal with the regional Omani sponsorship and the international Chinese one as apparently seen through the latest Iranian-Saudi agreement.

Abdullah Al-Shadli

Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

Note: This is a translated version of the original text written in Arabic

South YemenYemenHouthisNorth YemenSanaaPeace effortsIranian Saudi agreementRevenues