Houthis in Saudi for alleged talks to end war, sources say

A Houthi delegate is allegedly in Saudi Arabia for talks to end Yemen’s war, senior officials say

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A Houthi fighter carries a weapon in Yemen's capital Sanaa, February 18, 2016.

A Houthi delegate is in Saudi Arabia for talks on ending Yemen's war, two senior officials said, in what appeared to be the most serious attempt to date to end the conflict.

The visit is the first of its kind since the war began in March last year between Iran-allied Houthi rebels, and an Arab military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

The visit began on Monday at the invitation of Saudi authorities, following a week of secret preparatory talks, said the two Houthi officials.

About 6,000 people, half of them civilians, have died in the fighting in Yemen, raising fears of a wider regional confrontation.

A senior Iranian military official signalled on Tuesday that Iran could send military advisers to Yemen to help the Houthis.

The Houthi delegation in Saudi Arabia is headed by Mohammed Abdel-Salam, the Houthis' main spokesman and a senior adviser to Houthi leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the officials said.

Abdel-Salam previously led Houthi delegates in talks in Oman that paved way for UN-sponsored talks in Switzerland last year.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition that has been fighting to restore Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power since last year could not immediately be reached for comment on the reported talks.

A regional diplomat who follows Yemen allegedly confirmed that "there were direct contacts and talks between Saudis and Houthis".

The Houthi visit coincides with an apparent lull in the fighting on the Saudi-Yemeni border.

The Houthis' al-Masirah news channel has continued to report attacks on what it calls "the Saudi-American forces of aggression" inside Yemen, including a rocket attack on Monday.

"I also know that there were no new clashes or hostile movements on the Saudi-Yemeni border during the last few days," said a senior regional diplomat who follows Yemen.

Between Feb. 4 and Feb. 26, al-Masirah reported daily military operations against Saudi frontier positions and towns by the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, including sniper attacks, mortar bombardments, ambushes and infiltrations.

The last coalition air strike on Sanaa was about a week ago, according to the city's residents.

TRTWorld, Reuters