Looking out for peace

A woman peering through a tent during a gathering of Houthi loyalists on Wednesday against Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen's capital Sanaa.

The Houthis, a Shi'ite insurgency group from north-western Yemen's Saada province, have been locked in a war with a coalition headed by Saudi Arabia that has killed 6,000 people and displaced many more. The Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia wants to return Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power, after Houthi forces toppled the government last year.

But the hope of peace could be on the horizon, as border fighting took a pause while senior Houthi officials met the Saudi government in Riyadh earlier this week, the first since the Arab coalition waded into Yemen's civil war last year.

Both sides also exchanged prisoners - a Saudi lieutenant captured by the Houthis for seven Yemeni prisoners held in the kingdom.

In another sign of goodwill, a senior Houthi official also publicly distanced his group from his ally - and Saudi Arabia's foe - Iran, telling the Shi'ite-ruled Teheran not to meddle in Yemen's affairs.

Yemen has been caught in the power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the region. It not only shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, but is also positioned on the Bab al-Mandab strait, which links the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, where the majority of the world's oil shipments sail through.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Looking out for peace'. Subscribe