Saudi Arabia is seriously considering a ceasefire in Yemen and a European diplomat said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to get out of Yemen, "so we have to find a way out while saving face."
The agency quoted two sources as saying that Saudi air strikes on the Houthi areas in Yemen have decreased significantly, and there is reason to be optimistic about a solution soon.
A regional official familiar with the matter said the Saudis were considering a Houthi offer used by Western diplomats to persuade Riyadh to change course. "It seems they are open to it," the source said.
A senior military source in Yemen close to the Houthis said Saudi Arabia had "opened contact" with the head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mehdi al-Mashat, through a third party, but no agreement had been reached.
The source added that this offer included a partial cease-fire in specific areas. Diplomatic sources and an informed source also said a partial ceasefire was on the table.
But Houthi officials said the partial deal was unacceptable. "What is needed is a complete cessation of air strikes throughout Yemen and an end to the siege of the Yemeni people," the Houthi Information Minister said.
"Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to get out of Yemen so we have to find a way out while saving face," said a European diplomat.
Another diplomat said Saudi Arabia's agreement to halt air strikes would effectively mean the end of the war because Saudi Arabia had little ground capability.
|Houthis offer to stop targeting Saudi Arabia if the coalition stops targeting their areas (Al Jazeera)|
The Houthis offered two weeks ago to stop rocket and drones attacks on Saudi Arabia if the Western-backed Riyadh-led coalition did the same as a step toward what the Houthi leader called "comprehensive national reconciliation."
The Houthis have threatened more cross-border attacks unless their peace initiatives are listened to.
"For the sake of peace, they postponed many strategic strikes, no less in size and impact than the attack on Aramco," Mashat said, referring to last month's attack on two Saudi oil facilities claimed by the Houthis, while Washington and Riyadh said Iran was responsible and the attack did not. He comes from Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has neither accepted nor rejected the Houthis offer. But Riyadh this week welcomed the move. Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman said on Thursday that the kingdom viewed the Houthi truce positively.
A few days ago, the kingdom's de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, said in an interview with CBS television that the Houthis' proposal represented a positive step towards a more serious political dialogue, adding that Saudi Arabia was open to all initiatives for a political solution in Yemen. He stressed that the kingdom hopes that this will happen today instead of tomorrow.
In July, the UAE, the main partner of the Saudi-led coalition and the main ground force fighting on the ground, announced a reduction in its presence in Yemen, a sign of withdrawing from Houthi fighting.
Riyadh has vowed to continue confronting the Houthis, but two months later, with the loss of the main partner on the ground, Riyadh now appears more open to options other than war.