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Saudi and Omani envoys hold peace talks with Houthi leaders in Yemen

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A Saudi delegation led by the kingdom’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber, arrived in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Sunday for talks with Houthi officials as part of international efforts to find a settlement to Yemen’s nine-year conflict, Houthi-run media reported.

The visit displays progress in the Oman-mediated dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, which runs parallel to United Nations peace efforts. Negotiations also gained momentum since archrivals Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish ties in a deal brokered by China.

The envoys will meet with Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthi’s supreme political council, which runs rebel-held areas in Yemen, to hold talks on ending hostilities and lifting a Saudi-led “blockade” on Yemeni ports, Houthi news agency SABA reported.

Yemen’s war is seen as one of several proxy battles between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Houthis, aligned with Iran, toppled a Saudi-backed government from Sanaa in late 2014, and have de facto control of northern Yemen.

The Houthi move prompted a Saudi-led coalition to intervene months later in a bid to restore the internationally recognized government to power. The conflict has in recent years turned into a regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia and the Houthis reached a draft deal last month to revive a cease-fire that expired in October. The deal is meant to usher in a return to Yemeni political talks, according to Saudi and Yemeni officials.

The officials said the Saudi-Houthi understandings include a six-month truce with a cessation of all military activities across Yemen. The Houthis have committed to coming to the table with other Yemeni parties to negotiate a political settlement to the conflict.

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