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The United States is pushing for a trilateral meeting with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as it fears divisions among the Gulf neighbors could undermine its efforts to reach a lasting peace deal in Yemen.

The initiative, led by U.S. envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking, could lead to talks as soon as this week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, people familiar with the matter said.

A high-level delegation from the Houthis, who have controlled Yemen’s capital Sana’a since 2014, visited Riyadh for the first time in public for talks on ending the civil war.

The conflict between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has grown as Riyadh seeks to position itself as the region’s financial hub, a position held by the Emirates Emirates. Their rivalry has sometimes spilled over into other countries where both sides have interests, and they have disagreed over how to handle the war in Yemen, from which the UAE withdrew its troops in 2019.

In 2015, after the Iran-backed Houthi armed forces occupied large areas of Yemen, the two countries led military intervention in Yemen, but the two countries supported different anti-Houthi factions. Coalition airstrikes killed thousands, and hundreds of thousands died of disease and malnutrition.

The Houthis have used missiles and drones to attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia supports Yemen’s weak but internationally recognized government, while the UAE supports the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which wants the south to break away from the rest of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has focused on domestic economic reforms, including attracting foreign investment and tourists, and has been seeking to emerge from a war that has strained relations with the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden for years.

Saudi Arabia also hopes to negotiate a defense treaty with the United States in exchange for normalizing relations with Israel. Ending the war in Yemen could help convince skeptical U.S. lawmakers, who have criticized the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, to ratify any such treaty.

But a person familiar with the UAE’s position said the UAE was concerned that a deal with the Houthis would give the rebels control of all of Yemen and inevitably lead to more conflict.

“The UAE’s plan is to strengthen its (Yemeni) allies because their assessment is that the conflict will return regardless of a deal,” said a person familiar with the UAE’s position. “The Saudis are more eager to exit. They feel they Basically having the relationship they want with the Houthis.”

Yemen has had a U.S.-brokered ceasefire since early 2022, but there have been intermittent conflicts in Yemen, including between the Houthis and the Syrian Transitional Council.

Farea al-Moslimi of the Chatham House think tank said talks in Riyadh this week appeared promising and could result in a deal to extend the truce and Saudi funding for Yemeni wages. was a sticking point in previous negotiations. But the UAE feels left out of the negotiations.

“The UAE feels that Saudi Arabia has excluded it,” he said. “No one likes not being invited to a party.”

A person familiar with the UAE’s position said the UAE “has been working trilaterally with the United States and Saudi Arabia for several weeks.”


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