The US has started talks with the Houthis in a bid to resolve the ongoing conflict in Yemen, an official has said.
The confirmation came yesterday during a visit to the Prince Sultan Air Base near the Saudi city of Al-Kharj by the Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs, David Schenker.
Schenker told reporters the US is holding talks “to the extent possible with the Houthis to try and find a mutually acceptable negotiated solution to the conflict”. He gave no further details.
The negotiations represent the first known contact between the US government and the Houthi movement in four years. The last occasion was under the Obama administration in June 2015 which led to failed peace talks in Geneva.
Senior Houthi official Hamid Assem told AFP that the US “talking to us is a great victory for us and proves that we are right.” He did, however, refuse to confirm or deny the US official’s statement.
The timing of the talks may be attributed to perceived failures of the Saudi-led coalition in its attempts to push back the Houthis from the northern provinces and reclaim the capital city of Sanaa.
In the south, both Saudi Arabia and its ally the UAE have bolstered their military presence. Though the Emirates had joined Riyadh in its campaign against the Houthis in Yemen in order to reinstate the internationally-backed government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, it has since been found to be backing forces which are fighting for the formation of an independent state of South Yemen
The war, currently in its fifth year, has claimed more than 91,000 lives, according to data by the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).