Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels, who threw the country into civil war this year after a coup attempt against exiled president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, have written a letter to the United Nations accepting a seven-point peace plan led by Oman.
The BBC notes that the rebels have written a letter in which they call the peace plan, a seven-point document known as “the Muscat principles,” and “important and fundamental… step towards the resumption of the political process.” The letter reads, “We, from our side along with other parties, commit to these seven points as one unified bundle,” adding “We welcome the UN call for all sides to return to the table of dialogue.”
Reuters notes that the party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has also accepted the peace accord. Saleh has supported the Houthi rebellion and is a longtime enemy of President Hadi.
The Houthis launched their coup in January, dissolving Parliament and exiling Hadi, a Sunni, out of the capital, Sanaa. Hadi spent some time in Saudi Arabia but has since returned to the southern port city of Aden. He is still the internationally recognized president of Yemen and addressed the United Nations General Assembly as such last week, where he accused Iran of wanting to “destroy” the nation of Yemen and turn it into a Shiite colony. In March, Saudi Arabia began an airstrike campaign, along with a coalition of Arab states, against the Houthis. By May, news surfaced of the Houthis being expelled from a major Yemeni city.
The Houthi rebels, who count on Iranian support, are also Shiites. The group is extremely anti-Saudi and anti-Sunni, though their official slogan highlights their highest-priority enemies: “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews and victory to Islam.”
The Muscat principles would require the Houthis to give all the land the conquered from Hadi back to the official Yemeni government, as well as completely disarm and become an opposition political party, rather than a paramilitary group. It is not clear whether Hadi will accept this proposal, as he has stated publicly on numerous occasions that he is not interested in brokering a peace deal with the Houthis.
The Houthis’ acceptance of the deal is not entirely a surprise. In early September, Vice News obtained an email by the United Nations envoy for Yemen in which he claimed the Houthis were prepared to accept a peace deal, though they still had some reservations about UN negotiations.
This represented significant progress in the talks from June, when a Houthi-led UN press conference ended in a fistfight after a female journalist threw a shoe at Houthi delegation leader Hamza al-Houthi, calling the group “criminals” and “dogs.”
The war has ravaged Yemen’s civilian population. It is believed that nearly 5,000 people have died since January, and 80 percent of the country’s population is relying on humanitarian aid to survive. According to a United Nations report released in July, 21 million people require humanitarian aid to provide their families with food and water on a regular basis, and six million people are believed to be suffering “severe hunger.”