Recently, an Omani government aircraft transported representatives of the Huthi administration in Yemen from Sana’a to Muscat where they reportedly met with unnamed U.S. Government officials. It is said to have been at the request of the United States.
Sources tell us that Iran may also have participated in the Muscat talks, although it is not clear whether or not this was in the presence of the Americans.
The principal reason for these discussions was to explore ways to end the current fighting between Saudi Arabia and the Yemenis. It is believed that Oman endeavored to have representatives from both Saudi Arabia and the internationally recognized government in Riyadh attend these talks, as well, but that both of these parties had declined.
Oman and the U.S. are reportedly trying to find a face-saving way for the Saudis to cease their air campaign and blockade. However, intransigence on both sides is making progress on reaching this goal glacial.
On a related note, UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, is said to be continuing his efforts to set a new date for Yemeni political factions to meet in Geneva for peace talks. The previous talks were postponed at the request of President al-Hadi, apparently with strong Saudi backing. The Huthis have indicated their willingness to talk, although it is not known what preconditions either side is still insisting upon. Such preconditions to peace talks inevitably create delays and, to some extent, can lead to a standstill in the peace process entirely. They have often proven to be important obstacles, which in most cases can be difficult if not impossible to overcome.
A second but less central issue raised by the U.S. concerns the status of five American citizens who remain in custody in Yemen. One of these, Sharif Mobley, was first detained by the previous government in 2010 on terrorism charges and is believed to be a ‘person of interest’ and wanted for questioning by the FBI for his supposed linkages to “al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula.”
The other four have not been publicly identified. The U.S. has repeatedly called for their release. They are believed to have been heldin a prison, which has been the target of repeated Saudi Air strikes.