A delegation of Shiite Houthi rebels from Yemen is holding talks in Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Monday, ahead of a planned ceasefire and renewed peace negotiations.
"The Houthi delegation is in Saudi Arabia and the discussions are ongoing. I believe we have made good progress," Jubeir told reporters.
Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab coalition that has been bombing the rebels for over a year, in support of Yemen's internationally recognised President Abed Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
"Talks with them are ongoing with the aim of finding a political solution for the Yemen crisis," Jubeir said.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the first to reveal the presence of a Houthi delegation in Riyadh in an interview with Bloomberg published on Friday.
"There is significant progress in negotiations, and we have good contacts with the Houthis, with a delegation currently in Riyadh. We believe that we are closer than ever to a political solution in Yemen," the prince said.
The revelation came ahead of a UN-brokered truce slated to enter into effect on April 10, followed by talks in Kuwait on April 18.
Previous negotiations have failed and earlier ceasefires were not respected, but analysts say the prospects of a deal have improved.
Saudi Arabia and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels have recently exchanged detainees and agreed through tribal mediation to ease tensions.
As a result of Houthi aggression, Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi had to temporarily flee to the Saudi capital Riyadh and formally requested help from Arab states to save Yemen from the Houthi militants.
The Saudi Arabia-led military coalition formally began its intervention in Yemen on March 2015 after the Houthi rebels advanced on the southern city of Aden, forcing Hadi to flee the city.
According to Yemen Ministry of Public Health, at least 7,000 people, including 1600 children, have been killed in the ongoing civil war in Yemen, nearly half of them civilians. More than 16,500 have been injured since March 2015.
War in the country has triggered an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Currently, 80 percent of Yemen’s population is in desperate need of humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs and protect their fundamental rights, including ensuring the security and safety of civilians and providing essential services.
Twenty million people in the country are in need of aid, 13 million are facing food shortages and 9.4 million are having difficulties accessing drinking water.