Houthi envoys heading to Riyadh for ceasefire talks with Saudis - sources

Military helicopters, operated by the Houthis, fly over Sanaa

By Aziz El Yaakoubi and Mohammed Alghobari

RIYADH (Reuters) -Houthi and Omani envoys are planning to head to Saudi Arabia on Thursday night to try to negotiate a permanent ceasefire with Saudi officials to end the war in Yemen, two people involved in the talks said.

Houthi officials will travel to Riyadh with the Omani mediators, who landed in Sanaa on Thursday, the sources said.

The Saudi government and a Houthi spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The trip will be the first official visit by Houthi officials to the kingdom since the war broke out in Yemen in 2014, after the Iran-aligned group ousted a Saudi-backed government in Sanaa.

The first round of the Oman-mediated consultations between Riyadh and Sanaa, which are running in parallel to U.N. peace efforts, was held in April when Saudi envoys visited Sanaa.

The group has been fighting against a Saudi-led military alliance since 2015 in a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and left 80% of Yemen's population dependent on humanitarian aid.

The Omani plane is expected to fly from Sanaa to Riyadh on Thursday night, the people said.

Sources speaking on condition of anonymity have told Reuters that the Saudi-Houthi talks are focused on a full reopening of Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, payment of wages for public servants from oil revenues, rebuilding efforts, and a timeline for foreign forces to quit Yemen.

Washington has put pressure on its traditional ally Saudi Arabia to end the war and linked some of its military support to the kingdom ending its involvement in Yemen.

Oman, which borders Yemen, has been trying for years to bridge differences between the warring parties, and more broadly between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The peace initiatives have gained momentum since arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish ties in a deal brokered by China. A permanent ceasefire in Yemen would mark a milestone in stabilising the Middle East.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Kevin Liffey)