Saudi envoy says in Yemen’s Houthi-held capital to ‘stabilize’ truce

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Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Yemen said on Monday he had traveled to the country's Houthi-held capital to strengthen a truce and push dialogue that could end the country's eight-year-old war.

“I visit Sanaa along with a delegation from the brotherly Sultanate of Oman to stabilize the truce and ceasefire,” Mohammed Al-Jaber said on Twitter in the first official comment from Saudi authorities about the trip.

He added that he also wants to “support the prisoner exchange process and explore venues of dialogue between Yemeni components to reach a sustainable, comprehensive political solution.”

The Saudi delegation's visit to Sanaa is part of a flurry of diplomatic activity to end the conflict pitting the Iran-backed Houthis against the internationally recognized government which is supported by the Arab coalition.

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 at the weekend that the Saudis and Houthis had agreed in principle on a new six-month truce to pave the way for talks on establishing a two-year “transition.”

On Sunday, Houthi media showed Al-Jaber shaking hands with the Houthis' political leader, Mahdi al-Mashat.

Saudi officials have not provided details or responded to requests for comment about the meetings in Sanaa, which the Houthis seized in 2014.

A surprise rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, brokered by China and announced a month ago, has fuelled hopes for a cessation of fighting that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and triggered what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

A deal on a new truce is expected to fulfill key Houthi goals, including paying salaries of civil servants in Houthi-controlled areas and lifting operational restrictions on Houthi-controlled airports and ports.

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