Sana’a: Houthi sources said that Omani officials arrived in Sana’a on Saturday accompanied by senior Houthi officials to try to persuade the rebels controlling the capital to accept a ceasefire.
Since 2014, Yemen has been devastated by the civil war between the Saudi-led military coalition-backed government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels, pushing the country to the brink of famine.
In recent weeks, diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have intensified.
A rebel source who asked not to be named told AFP: “An Omani delegation arrived (Sana’a), and it was led by Houthi spokesperson Mohamed Abdul Salam and other (Houthi) officials. Accompany.”
The Saudi-led coalition controls Yemen’s airspace and has prevented Abdul Salam and other rebels from returning to Sana’a since 2016.
The arrival of the delegation requires the approval of Riyadh, which shows that the negotiations have taken a step forward.
The Houthis have repeatedly demanded that Sana’a Airport be reopened before any ceasefire agreement is reached.
According to sources, the delegation will meet with Houthi leader Abdulmalik Huti and update him on the latest situation of the talks held in Muscat.
The source added that the purpose of the Omani mediator appeared to be “to persuade the Houthis to accept the ceasefire and participate in peace negotiations.”
In a speech delivered by Al-Masirah TV station operated by Huthi, Abdul Salam said: “We are working hard to advance arrangements regarding humanitarian issues and the peace process.”
He added that the visit was intended to “complement the efforts made in Oman.”
The Sultanate of Oman borders Yemen and Saudi Arabia and is a close ally of the United States, but it also has good relations with Iran. It often acts as a mediator in regional conflicts.
In recent weeks, Muscat has hosted the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths and the US Special Envoy Tim Randkin, while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif met in Oman at the end of April Abdul Salam.
On Monday Griffiths urged rival Yemeni forces to “bridge the gap” to reach a ceasefire, following talks in Sanaa with Huthi officials.
“There’s an extraordinary amount of diplomatic consensus… there is a real diplomatic energy now, which hasn’t always been the case,” Griffiths said.
The effort to secure peace in Yemen comes after regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran restarted talks in April, holding their first high-level meeting since Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2016.
The UN says Yemen is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis as its years-long war rumbles on, with tens of thousands killed, millions displaced and two-thirds of its 30-million population dependent on aid.