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Omani Mediators in Yemen to Discuss New Truce

FILE - A Yemeni fighter backed by the Saudi-led coalition fires his weapon during clashes with Houthi rebels near Marib, Yemen, June 20, 2021. Omani mediators arrived in Yemen on Saturday to discuss a new truce between Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia, a source said.

Omani mediators arrived in Yemen on Saturday to discuss a new truce between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia, a source said, amid renewed moves to end the conflict.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have multiplied since the Yemeni government's main foreign backer, Saudi Arabia, signed a Chinese-brokered deal to restore relations with Iran last month.

The top Saudi and Iranian diplomats met in Beijing Thursday, resuming diplomatic relations and pledging to work together to bring "security and stability" to their turbulent region.

Years of war, death

Nearly a decade of war in Yemen has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, both directly and indirectly, and triggered what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014, triggering the conflict with the government that has been backed for eight years by a military coalition led by regional heavyweight Riyadh.

The rapprochement between the two regional rivals, Shiite-majority Iran and mainly Sunni Saudi Arabia, has fueled hope of reduced tensions in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen.

"A delegation from Oman has arrived in Sanaa to hold talks with Houthi leaders about the truce and the peace process," a source at the capital's airport told AFP, requesting anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to journalists.

The source said the delegation was accompanied by Mohammed Abdelsalam, the rebels' chief negotiator, who lives in Muscat.

Multiple demands

Oman has forged a reputation as a discreet mediator in Gulf disputes often involving Iran.

Abdelsalam himself tweeted that he had arrived in Sanaa with the Omani delegation, but without providing further details.

The rebels' news agency, Saba, quoted Abdelsalam as saying the Houthis' demands included "an end to the (Saudi) aggression, the total lifting of the blockade, and payment of the salaries of all civil servants using revenues from oil and gas."

Abdelsalam added that, "Our just demands are the departure of the occupying forces from Yemen, compensation and reconstruction."

The United Nations special envoy on Yemen, Hans Grundberg, was in the Omani capital this week for talks on "the political process."

A Yemeni government source, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the Saudis and Houthis have 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 country enjoyed a six-month lull in fighting during a cease-fire last year, but that truce was not renewed after it expired on October 2.

Iran views the United States as an archenemy, but on Wednesday welcomed a call by the American special envoy for Yemen to back "the political process that we hope is coming."