The Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-aligned Houthis have both committed to steps towards a ceasefire, the UN special envoy for Yemen said on Saturday.

The Houthis, which control north Yemen, have been fighting against a Saudi-led military alliance since 2015 in a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and left 80 per cent of Yemen’s population dependent on humanitarian aid.

The UN special envoy, Hans Grundberg, in a statement issued by his office said he “welcomes the parties’ commitment to a set of measures to implement a nationwide ceasefire, improve living conditions in Yemen, and engage in preparations for the resumption of an inclusive political process under UN auspices”.

Grundberg “will now engage with the parties to establish a road map under UN auspices that includes these commitments and supports their implementation”, the statement said.

The road map, along with a ceasefire, will also include the two sides’ commitment to resume oil exports, pay all public sector salaries, open roads in Taiz and other parts of Yemen, and “further ease restrictions on Sanaa Airport and the Hudaydah port”, the statement said.

The Saudi-led military coalition intervened more than eight years ago against the Houthi movement after it ousted Yemen’s internationally recognised, Saudi-backed government from Sanaa, the capital, in 2014.

Houthi officials in September visited Riyadh for the first time since the war broke out.

That followed a first round of Omani-mediated consultations between Riyadh and Sanaa, running in parallel to UN peace efforts, when Saudi envoys visited Sanaa in April.

China urges Iran and Saudi Arabia to work together to ‘avoid miscalculation’

The peace initiatives gained momentum after 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.

“Grundberg expressed his deep appreciation for the key roles played by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman in supporting the parties to reach this point.”

“He urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint at this critical time to allow for a conducive environment for dialogue and the successful conclusion of agreement on the road map.”