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By Aziz El Yaakoubi

UN envoy encouraged by peace talks between Yemen stakeholders

FILE PHOTO: United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, attends an interview with Reuters in Amman, Jordan October 4, 2022. REUTERS/Jehad Shelbak/File Photo

The United Nations envoy for Yemen said on Tuesday that he was encouraged by the "depth and seriousness" of talks between stakeholders in Yemen, including in a visit by Saudi and Omani delegations to Sanaa.

Saudi and Omani envoys are holding peace talks with Houthi officials in Sanaa this week as Riyadh seeks a permanent ceasefire to end its military involvement in the country's long-running war.

FILE PHOTO: Members of the United Nations Security Council in New York, U.S., September 30, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

The United Nations is not directly involved in Sanaa's negotiations but it hopes to resume a peaceful political process if a ceasefire agreement is reached.

Hans Grundberg said he was working with all relevant actors to ensure that current efforts are in support of the U.N. mediation.

"My role has consistently remained focused on resuming an inclusive, Yemeni-led political process. Only such a process can deliver a sustainable settlement and bring about a future of durable peace and development," Grundberg said in a statement sent to Reuters.

The talks in Sanaa signal some progress in the Oman-mediated consultations between Saudi and Houthi officials, which run in parallel to U.N. peace efforts. The peace initiatives have gained momentum after arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish ties in a deal brokered by China.

Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told Reuters that the Saudi-Houthi talks are focused on a full reopening of Houthi-controlled ports and the Sanaa airport, payment of wages for public servants from oil revenues, rebuilding efforts, and a timeline for foreign forces to exit the country.

Grundberg said he welcomed any bilateral engagement that provides "an environment more conducive for a political process to start".

Yemen's war is seen as one of several proxy battles between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Houthis, aligned with Iran, ousted a Saudi-backed government from Sanaa in late 2014, and have de facto control of north Yemen, saying they are rising up against a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

They have been fighting against a Saudi-led military alliance since 2015 in a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and left 80% of Yemen's population dependent on humanitarian aid.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by William Maclean and Jonathan Oatis)

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