A breakthrough agreement with Saudi Arabia restoring bilateral relations, according to Iran’s mission to the UN, will help bring a political resolution to Yemen’s protracted war, Iranian state media reported on Sunday.
After seven years of tensions that brought the two regional powerhouses to the verge of war and heightened tensions throughout the region, Iran and Saudi Arabia decided on Friday to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies.
After erupting in 2014, the conflict in Yemen quickly devolved into a proxy conflict between Iran, which supported Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and Saudi Arabia, which led a military coalition supporting the country’s internationally recognized government.
Governments in the West and U.N. experts have long charged Iran with arming the Houthis. In the Red Sea, Western militaries have repeatedly seized ships carrying Iranian weapons bound for Yemen. Tehran has refuted claims that it has armed the Houthis.
It is widely believed that the significant diplomatic achievement between Tehran and Riyadh, which was mediated by China, reduces the likelihood of armed conflict between the regional rivals, both directly and through proxy wars.
The agreement with Saudi Arabia, according to the IRNA news agency, would “help start a national dialogue and form an inclusive national government in Yemen,” according to a statement from Iran’s U.N. mission.
The longest cease-fire in the Yemen conflict, which lasted one month, ended in October. As negotiations to renew the agreement were taking place between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, both parties avoided serious escalatory actions that might have sparked a new round of fighting.
While simultaneously denouncing Iran’s main enemies, the United States and Israel, the Houthis appeared to support the agreement.
According to Mohamed Abdulsalam, the rebels’ spokesperson and chief negotiator, “the region needs the restoration of normal relations between its countries so that the Islamic society can regain its lost security as a result of the foreign interventions, led by the Zionists and Americans.
The Yemeni government, which is supported by Saudi Arabia, released a carefully crafted statement on the agreement that included both cautions and some optimism.
It added that it would proceed cautiously “until observing a true change in (Iranian) behavior” and stated that the Yemeni government’s position “depends on actions and practices, not words and claims.”
The Saudi Arabia-Iran agreement was referred to as a “positive first step” by Yemeni political commentator and former Journalists’ Union head Abdel-Bari Taher. In order to put more pressure on their allies in Yemen to put an end to the conflict and reduce tensions elsewhere in the region, he urged Riyadh and Tehran to do the same.
They ought to exert pressure on their allies to support the U.N.’s efforts to restart political negotiations between Yemenis, he advised. “The regional rivalry’s sensitive and contentious point is Yemen. If it is resolved, tensions in other parts of the region would decrease.
According to rights organizations, the war in Yemen has sparked one of the worst humanitarian crises in history and brought millions of people dangerously close to starvation.