The visit shows progress in the Oman-brokered dialogue between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Two Saudi and Omani delegations have arrived in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, for talks with Houthi officials as part of international efforts to find a settlement to the nine-year-old Yemeni conflict, Houthi-run media reported.
The visit indicates that progress has been made in the Oman-mediated consultations between Riyadh and Sanaa, which are running in parallel with the peace efforts being made by the United Nations. Negotiations have also gained momentum since arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore relations in a deal brokered by China.
The Houthi news agency (Saba) stated that the envoys, who arrived late on Saturday evening, will meet with the head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi Al-Mashat, for talks on ending hostilities and lifting the Saudi-led “blockade” on Yemeni ports. .
Mohammed al-Buqaiti, one of the Houthi leaders, said on Twitter that Saudi and Omani officials would discuss “ways to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.”
He said achieving an honorable peace between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia would be “a victory for both sides,” and urged all parties to take steps to “maintain a peaceful atmosphere and prepare to turn the page on the past.”
Hans Grundberg, the UN envoy to Yemen, called the ongoing efforts, including the Saudi and Omani talks in Sanaa, “the closest Yemen has come to real progress toward lasting peace” since the war began.
“This is a moment that must be seized and built upon, and a real opportunity to launch an inclusive political process under the auspices of the United Nations to end the conflict in a sustainable manner,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia.
Speaking from the Qatari capital, Doha, Al Jazeera’s Hashim Ahlabra said the political scene in Yemen is complex and that negotiations could be prolonged.
“The United Nations has been trying for some time to bring all the parties together to negotiate a political settlement,” he said.
He added that both sides understand that it will be very difficult to settle all the differences between them.
Sources told Reuters news agency that talks between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis focus on fully reopening Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, paying public servants’ salaries, rebuilding efforts, and setting a timetable for the exit of foreign forces from the country.
The Yemen war is seen as one of several proxy battles between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Iran-aligned Houthis overthrew the Saudi-backed government in Sanaa in late 2014, and have de facto control of northern Yemen.
They have been fighting against a Saudi-led military coalition since 2015 in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and left 80 percent of Yemen’s population dependent on humanitarian aid.
A Houthi official said on Saturday that the group had received 13 detainees released by Saudi Arabia in exchange for the release of a Saudi detainee earlier, ahead of a broader prisoner exchange agreed upon by the warring parties.
During talks that took place in Switzerland last month in the presence of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels agreed to release 887 detainees. Abdul Qadir al-Murtada, an official in the Houthi group, said that the 13 prisoners are part of the agreement.
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