WASHINGTON — A senior State Department official held talks last week with the Houthi rebels of Yemen, opening a new round of diplomacy aimed at persuading the warring factions in that country to participate in a peace conference in Geneva, American officials said Tuesday.
The meetings came just before the release on Monday of Casey L. Coombs, an American freelance journalist who had been held by the rebels.
Anne W. Patterson, the Obama administration’s top diplomat for the Near East, held several meetings last week in Oman to discuss the violence in Yemen and the capture of several Americans by the Houthis, said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman.
Ms. Harf said “representatives of the Houthi” participated in the Oman discussions. She said Ms. Patterson also traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of a “broad engagement with elements of the Yemeni political spectrum.”
Map | U.S.-Supplied Cluster Bombs Used in Yemen Annotated maps showing the Houthi rebels’ drive south, U.S. airstrikes and historical divisions.
She said the meetings were intended to “reinforce our view that there can only be a political solution to the conflict in Yemen, and that all parties, including the Houthi, should commit to participation in the U.N.-led political process.” The meetings were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Coombs, who has written for a number of publications, including The Intercept, The American Prospect and Time magazine, was seized by Houthi militiamen in Sana, the Yemeni capital, in mid-May. American officials said he was now in Muscat, the capital of Oman.
The Houthis, a Shiite rebel group, took control of Yemen’s capital this year and forced out the government.
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(via NY Times)