Saudi Arabia has reportedly been holding talks with the Houthi movement of Yemen in an attempt to break the deadlock in the conflict.
The “back-channel” negotiations, according to the FT, represent the first time in over two years Riyadh and the Iranian-aligned Houthis have held talks.
Regional tensions escalated following the 14 September attacks on Saudi’s oil facilities, which the Houthis claimed responsibility for – although both the US and Saudi blamed on Tehran, which denied the accusations whilst stressing Yemen’s right to defend itself from foreign acts of aggression.
Several days later, the Houthi movement offered a peace initiative – welcomed by both the UN and the Saudis – which was conditional on the coalition ceasing its airstrikes in the country. The Houthis, for their part, said they would cease all drone and missile strikes in the kingdom.
The Houthis have also released hundreds of prisoners including three Saudis as part of the UN-supervised Stockholm Agreement. On the other hand, the movement has also carried out cross-border raids some of which have resulted in capturing Saudi forces and munitions – although the extent to which has been disputed.
Although the Saudis agreed to a halt in air raids over four Houthi-held cities including the capital Sanaa, they have continued with further air strikes, carrying out over 250 since the initiative was offered, according to Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree.
Despite this, it has been reported that the scale of the bombardments has since been significantly reduced. Sources affiliated with the Houthis however, have claimed that the Saudis have repeatedly breached the conditions of the Swedish backed agreement.
Last month it was also reported that the US government had started direct communication with the Houthis, the last known contact was under the Obama administration which led to failed peace talks in Geneva.
The five-year conflict escalated with the coalition intervening after the Houthis gained control of the capital and ousting the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. The war has brought about what the UN describes as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” leaving ten million people on the brink of famine, with the war-torn country on track to become the poorest country in the world should the war continue.