RNA - David Schenker, the Assistant US Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, confirmed to reporters on Thursday that Washington had contacted the Houthis for the first time since the beginning of the Riyadh-led war in March 2015, Yemeni News reported.
"We are narrowly focused on trying to end the war in Yemen," Schenker said during a visit to the Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh, adding, "We are also having talks to the extent possible with the Houthis to try and find a mutually acceptable negotiated solution to the conflict."
Senior Houthi official Hamid Assem told AFP that while he could not confirm or deny Shencker's remarks, the fact that Washington was asking the Houthis for help was a major victory for the Ansarullah movement.
"That the United States says they are talking to us is a great victory for us and proves that we are right," he noted.
It comes days after an American paper reported that the United States is reportedly planning to initiate direct talks with Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement in a declared bid to end the protracted war in the impoverished country.
The Wall Street Journal cited American officials familiar with the plans as saying in a report in late August that the administration of US President Donald Trump was also looking to prompt Saudi Arabia into taking part in the talks with Houthi leaders in Oman to broker a ceasefire in Yemen.
The US plan to open direct negotiations with the Houthis comes at a time when fears of broader regional war are growing, according to WSJ.
The last time US officials engaged with the Houthis, former President Barack Obama was still in office. During the talks in June 2015, Washington tried to convince Houthis to attend UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. The talks and the following rounds of peace negotiations have failed to end the war.
Over the past months, the Yemeni Army has managed to conduct several missile and drone attacks on Saudi airports and oil facilities.
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed tens of thousands of Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children. Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures. Weddings, funerals, schools and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, have been targeted, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands.
France, the United States, the Uinted Kingdom and some other Western countries have faced criticisms over arms sales to the Saudi Arabia and the UAE, whose aggression against Yemen has affected 28 million people and caused what the United Nations calls “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world". According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
The US has been supporting the Saudi-led war against Yemen. The American patronage has featured aerial refueling, which the US only stopped earlier in the year after the Saudi-led coalition grew independent of it, as well as logistical and commando support. A year after the war was launched, Trump made his maiden foreign visit to Saudi Arabia, announcing more than $100 billion in arms sales to the kingdom.
In mid-April, Trump also vetoed a resolution passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives that sought to end US involvement with the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
The total number of reported fatalities in Yemen has passed the 91,000 mark over the past four and a half years, the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) announced.