Saudi Arabia has agreed to a limited cease-fire in several areas of Yemen including the capital Sana’a, which is controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel group, a Yemeni government official said, as part of efforts to broker an end to the four-year-old war.
Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The Yemeni official declined to give further details but the news follows the announcement by Houthi rebels last week of a unilateral halt to drone and missile attacks on the oil-exporting kingdom.
The apparent breakthrough follows a devastating attack on Saudi oil facilities that briefly halved the country’s oil output and rattled global markets. Yemen’s Houthis said they carried out the attack using armed drones but the U.S. has said Iran was responsible.
Oil fell after Friday’s news, first reported by Dow Jones, that a partial cease-fire was in place. Crude had already been heading for a weekly decline as OPEC’s largest producer is about a week ahead of its repair schedule following the attacks on a Saudi Aramco facility in Abqaiq and a nearby oil field and is pumping more than 8 million barrels a day, according to people familiar with the matter.
A Yemeni diplomat who has links to different parties of the conflict said there are serious ongoing discussions about the duration and scope of the cease-fire and whether it will cover all territories or just the capital. The discussions are being mediated by Western countries, he said, adding this might be a first step toward either a total ceasefire or a complete halt to airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition.
Yemen has been on the front lines of a broader conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia for years. The U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia got involved in Yemen’s civil war in 2015, to support the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi against the Iranian-backed Houthis, who’d seized control of Sana’a and other cities.
While the coalition’s campaign helped recover many areas, the U.A.E. sided with southern separatists against Hadi’s forces, leading to complications that have spilled over into fighting between the anti-Houthi forces.
Despite the overwhelming military superiority of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., the war has turned into a quagmire. The U.A.E. has already begun to draw down its troop presence in Yemen with a view to removing the last solider by the end of the year.
The Houthis have fired hundreds of rockets into Saudi Arabia over the course of the war but have begun to carry out much more damaging drone and missile attacks further inside the country as Gulf tensions have spiked in recent months.
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