Mediators from Sana’a visit Taiz city, raising hopes for a deal to break the siege
Senior officials and mediators from both warring parties held a meeting in Taiz city on Thursday to advance negotiations to lift the Houthi-imposed siege on the city. A delegation of human rights activists and academics, in cooperation with the Houthi authorities, visited key locations in eastern Taiz city with the head of the government-appointed negotiating committee. The unprecedented meeting raised hopes among besieged civilians that a deal may be struck by next week.
A source who attended the meeting told Al-Masdar Online that the head of the governmental committee, Islah Party member and parliamentarian Abdulkareem Shaiban, met with a delegation from Sana’a belonging to the Civil Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation, a local group of mediators. Shaiban met with Dr. Hamoud Al-Oudi and Abdulrahman Mohammed Al-Olfi, who are respectively chairman and secretary-general of the Civil Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation.
They visited several of the roads that are under discussion to be opened, and were briefed on the procedures of lifting concrete and other barriers along the route from Aqabat Muneef leading toward the Palace Roundabout and Houthi-controlled Hawban area, east of the city. Al-Oudi and Al-Olfi affirmed in statements to the media that they have full authorization from the Houthi authorities in Sana'a to arrange the reopening of the two main eastern and western roads into and out of Taiz city in the coming days, in conjunction with the celebrations of the Prophet's birthday, which falls on 8 November.
Residents of Taiz governorate, located in Yemen’s southwest, have faced severe challenges for nearly three years, after shifts on the battle field resulted in the Houthis’ blockade of the main streets linking Taiz city to other districts and governorates. Since then, residents have been forced to travel through a rural route, turning a 15-minute drive to Hawban area – where the main highway linking to Sana’a and Aden is located – into a six-hour trip.
The meeting inside Taiz city comes in light of the ongoing discussions between Shaiban, head of the government committee, and Minister Ghalib Mutlaq, who heads the Houthi-appointed committee to negotiate the reopening of the main roads in Taiz.
Lifting the siege on Taiz is one of the provisions of the Stockholm Agreement that was reached in December 2018 under the UN-sponsored Sweden Consultations. In Sweden, the warring parties agreed on the “Statement of Understanding on Taiz” and subsequently each side formed a 3-member negotiating team. However, despite consultations with the Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, the delegations failed to meet together and no progress was reported on this file.
Under the continued siege, local activists and influencers have maintained pressure on the local government and Sana’a authorities to reach a deal. The recent meeting in Taiz city, which comes as part of an effort launched by local mediators nearly a month ago, has brought a renewed sense of optimism that the siege will be lifted.