US special envoy for Yemen held first direct meeting with Iran-backed Houthis: Report

US President Joe Biden’s special envoy for Yemen met with officials from the Iran-backed Houthi militia last month, a report published Wednesday said.

“The discussions, which have not been officially made public by either side, took place in the Omani capital Muscat on Feb. 26 between US Yemen envoy Timothy Lenderking and the Houthis’ chief negotiator Mohammed Abdusalam,” Reuters reported.

The State Department has not responded to a request for comment on the report.

Lenderking previously admitted that the US was “very aggressively” using channels to communicate with the Houthis, but he did not elaborate.

The purported meeting would have come shortly after the Biden administration revoked a terrorist designation against the Houthis.

The designation was imposed in the final days of the Trump administration.

In going ahead with the move – which was one of Biden’s first foreign policy decisions – the US president also lifted the Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) designation off the Houthi leader and two other senior officials.

But the Houthis pressed ahead with their attacks on Saudi Arabia and against civilians, which also included a ramped-up offensive on one of the last government-held cities in Yemen’s Marib.

Lenderking reportedly urged the Houthis to cease their offensive in Marib while also encouraging dialogue with Saudi Arabia.

After an increase in attacks, the US decided Tuesday to sanction the group’s air force and naval commanders.

Lenderking is currently on his second trip to the region since being appointed as Biden’s special envoy.

He has met with officials from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Biden has said the US would work toward a “dual-track approach,” in tandem with the United Nations to end the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and to find a political solution to the war.

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