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Saudi says talks with Huthis progressing

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Saturday that Riyadh was still committed to back-channel peace talks with Yemen’s Huthi rebels, despite a recent increase in violence in the five-year conflict.

The Yemen conflict began with the 2014 takeover of the capital Sanaa by the Huthis, who control much of the country’s north along the border with Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led military coalition allied with Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Iranian-backed Huthis since 2015.

A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in 2015 to try to restore him.

The United Nations has been trying to re-launch political negotiations to end the war and, separately, Riyadh has been holding informal talks with the Huthis since late September about de-escalation.

“We have a back channel and it’s not yet ready to move to the highest level,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told the Munich Security Conference.

“It’s making progress. We have seen some deterioration recently, but we are committed to moving it forward,” he added, referring to a recent rise in military activity by the Iran-backed rebels.

After a lull in hostilities in recent months on many fronts, violence has escalated at a front-line east of Yemen’s Huthi-held capital Sanaa, since a Jan. 19 missile attack on a government military camp that killed more than 100 people.

Prince Faisal said Saudi would continue to respond to attacks, but that the recent Huthi assaults were not yet at the point that they were endangering the back-channel talks.