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Air raids in Yemen halt to boost peace efforts: Saudi-led forces | Conflict News

The spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said the de-escalation was aimed at “preparing the political ground for a peace process in Yemen.”

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen has said it has stopped carrying out attacks to pave the way for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The move comes amid growing diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire agreement after more than six years of devastating war.

It also followed reports that the coalition struck a Houthi armored division on Thursday near the rebel-held capital Sana’a. Correspondents for the AFP news agency in the city heard loud explosions and saw smoke rising into the sky. The Houthis did not immediately comment on the explosion.

Coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told Saudi state television that “no military operations have been carried out near Sana’a or any other Yemeni city during the last period.”

The de-escalation aims to “prepare the political ground for a peace process in Yemen,” he said.

The Saudi-led coalition stepped in to support the Yemeni government in 2015 after the Houthi captured Sanaa the year before, forcing the government to flee.

The war in Yemen has led to what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with tens of thousands dead, millions displaced and two-thirds of its 30 million people dependent on aid .

Marib offensive

Al-Maliki’s comments came amid a months-long Houthi offensive to seize the town of Marib and the surrounding oil fields – the last major pocket of government-held territory in northern Yemen.

Marib’s defeat to the Houthis would be a blow to the Yemeni government and could trigger a humanitarian catastrophe.

Diplomatic efforts have intensified this week. UN envoy Martin Griffiths met in Iran with the country’s foreign minister on a two-day visit, the second this year, his office tweeted on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Omani officials traveled to Sana’a to try to convince the rebels to agree to a ceasefire, rebel sources said.

Oman’s Foreign Minister Badr Albusaidi arrived in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on Wednesday for talks.

In another sign of progress in peace efforts, Houthi officials have started repairing roads near Sana’a airport, local sources told AFP, saying the facility may soon reopen.

The Saudi-led coalition has controlled Yemen’s airspace since 2015. The Houthis have repeatedly called for the reopening of Sana’a airport before any ceasefire.

Industry sources told Reuters news agency that construction work has started in parts of the airport, which has been targeted dozens of times by coalition airstrikes. The military alliance claims the facility is used for arms smuggling, which the Houthis have denied.

Airport manager Khaled al-Shayef said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that he had met with Yemeni airlines to discuss airport maintenance and equipment, and that he also had had talks with the Yemen Oil Company about fueling planes.

The effort to secure peace in Yemen comes after Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran resumed talks in April, with their first high-level meeting since Riyadh severed diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2016.

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