A Saudi delegation is in Yemen’s capital to negotiate a potential new truce with the Iran-backed Huthi rebels who control the city, diplomats said, as Riyadh sought a way out of the war.
The Saudi officials are “in Sanaa to discuss moving forward to create peace in Yemen,” says a Yemeni diplomat based in the Gulf region, information that was confirmed by a second diplomat.
Saudi officials have not responded to requests for comment.
The delegation’s arrival comes roughly a month after China helped broker a surprise rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, fueling hopes for progress on ending the Yemen conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
The top Saudi and Iranian diplomats met in Beijing on Thursday, pledging to work together to bring “security and stability” to their turbulent region.
Omani mediators arrived in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on Saturday.
The Huthis seized the city in 2014, triggering the conflict with the internationally recognized government, which has been backed for eight years by a military coalition led by Riyadh.
A truce announced roughly a year ago has significantly reduced active hostilities within Yemen, and is still largely respected even though it officially expired in October.
A Yemeni government source, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday that the Saudis and Huthis had agreed in principle on a six-month truce to pave the way for three months of talks on establishing a two-year “transition” for the war-torn country.
The deal is expected to fulfil key Huthi goals, including paying salaries of civil servants in Huthi-controlled areas, and lifting operational restrictions on Huthi-controlled airports and ports.
Also on Saturday, the head of the Huthis’ prisoners of war committee told rebel media that 13 prisoners freed by the Saudis had arrived in Sanaa, in exchange for one Saudi released earlier.
Saudi officials have not commented on the report.
In early March, the United Nations confirmed that the rebels and Yemen’s internationally recognized government had agreed to exchange more than 880 prisoners.