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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with representatives of Yemen’s Houthi delegation in Oman this week to discuss developments in the war-torn country.
The relationship between Tehran and the Houthi rebels has increased over the years despite denials from both sides that Iran is the major provider of funds and arms to the rebel group.
In recent months, the relationship has become more open with senior Houthi officials meeting with the country’s supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in August and the rebels appointing an ambassador to Tehran.
Mr Zarif met with Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam in Muscat and spoke about the “latest developments in Yemeni politics”, according to the Iranian state news agency IRNA.
“We visited Muscat to consult with high-ranking officials over bilateral relations, regional, and international issues,” Mr Zarif said on Twitter.
He asserted that Iran and Oman are “neighbouring countries with strong warm relations.”
“We will stay with the Sultanate of Oman, a strong government with a powerful nation," Mr Zarif said.
Oman has played a crucial role as a mediator in the Yemen conflict, maintaining relations with all sides and helping facilitate UN-led peace talks.
Mr Abdul Salam described the meeting as “important”.
The Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said the meeting in Muscat tackled Yemen's latest developments and the humanitarian situation.
The two often meet to discuss the war in Yemen.
Their last meeting was in October where Mr Zarif asserted that "only a political solution" can end the crisis.
Iran has consistently downplayed its role in providing financial and military support to the rebels but Western states have long expressed their concerns over Tehran’s transfer of weapons to Yemen.
On December 5, the US Navy intercepted a vessel in the Arabian Gulf that they said was carrying a “significant cache” of Iranian guided missile parts headed for Yemen’s rebels.
The Houthis have built, in just a few years, a sophisticated ballistic missile arsenal that it uses to attack military and civilian targets in Saudi Arabia on a regular basis. Experts are sceptical the militia could have done some without significant outside support and there have been reports that officers from Hezbollah – itself group with a long history of using ballistic missiles – have been in Yemen helping and training rebels.
The latest meetings come as the Iranian defence minister, Amir Hatami, admitted the need to increase military relations between Tehran and the rebels during a meeting with Houthi official, Ibrahim Al Daylami on Sunday.
Houthi run media outlet published pictures of the talks between the two and said Mr Hatami "praised the Iranian-Houthi relations".
Al Masirah TV said that Mr Al Dailami had been appointed “ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary for the republic of Yemen to the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
Mr Al Dailami is also the director-general of Al Masirah TV.
The group is not recognised internationally as the government of Yemen but they seized the capital of Sanaa in a 2015 coup.
Most countries do not recognise the group but as its main political and military backer, Iran, appears to have treated the ambassadorial appointment as if it is any other.
Updated: December 26, 2019 12:23 PM
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