Recent high-profile visits indicate that talks between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis in Yemen are progressing, albeit slowly. The conflict began in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia led a coalition to oust the Houthi rebels. Back-channel discussions started in April 2022, resulting in a two-month United Nations (UN) mediated ceasefire that was renewed twice. Although the ceasefire has formally ended, it provided some relief. Diplomatic efforts have included a UN-brokered ceasefire in May 2022, which, while not entirely effective, allowed for humanitarian aid. The UN has been actively involved in facilitating negotiations to address key issues. Additionally, in February 2021, the United States ceased support for the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive operations in Yemen and revoked the Houthi rebels’ terrorist designation, facilitating dialogue with all the conflicting parties.
On October 18, 2023, Saudi Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman engaged in a meeting with Rashad Al-Alimi, Chairman of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council. Earlier, on 14 September 2023, in the latest high-profile contact, Houthi representatives paid a visit to Riyadh, where they met with the Saudi Defence Minister. This was the first announced trip by Houthi representatives to the Saudi capital since the Houthis removed the internationally recognized government from power in 2014. Yemen has been divided since then, with the Houthis controlling most of the populous north; the government operating from the port city of Aden in the south; and various other armed factions pursuing their own interests.