Riyadh (AP) – Saudi Arabia has proposed an immediate ceasefire as part of a new peace initiative for the civil war country of Yemen. The ceasefire could go into effect as soon as Yemeni Houthi rebels agreed to it, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said in Riyadh.
It must be controlled by the United Nations. The aim of the initiative is talks about a comprehensive political solution to the conflict, explains Faisal bin Farhan. “I call on the government of Yemen and the Houthis to accept the initiative.”
The Houthis reacted negatively. Saudi Arabia needs to stop its aggression and end the blockade and come up with ideas that have already been discussed, said rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam of Houthi-loyal broadcaster Masira. Any initiative that ignores the humanitarian issue is not meant to be serious.
In the country in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, civil war has been raging for more than six years. The Houthis are fighting the internationally recognized government of the desperately poor country. The rebels control large parts of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa. Saudi Arabia supports the government supporters with air strikes, among other things. The Sunni kingdom sees the Houthis as a close ally of its Shia nemesis Iran.
According to Faisal bin Farhan, the airport in the capital Sanaa is also being reopened. The Houthis will have a chance to end the bloodshed in Yemen and improve the humanitarian situation in which the Yemenis suffer, the foreign minister said.
All international diplomatic efforts so far have not ended the protracted conflict. Several rounds of talks were hardly successful. Arrangements from an agreement reached in Stockholm at the end of 2018 have only been partially implemented.
In the past, many civilians were killed in the Saudi air strikes several times, which is why there is strong international criticism of the military operation. At the same time, the kingdom and its Yemeni allies failed to push back the Houthis. The rebels have moved into the oil-rich province of Marib in recent weeks. Fighting broke out.
According to the UN, the civil war has triggered the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis in the already poor country. The United Nations fears a major famine that could kill hundreds of thousands of people. According to UN estimates, more than 20 million people depend on humanitarian aid. That’s about two-thirds of the population.
In recent months, the Houthis have repeatedly attacked targets in Saudi Arabia, most recently an oil refinery in the capital Riyadh. With the inauguration of US President Joe Biden and a new policy for the US Middle East, the pressure on the royal family in Riyadh also increased. Biden announced that he would no longer support the fighting in Yemen. In doing so, he withdrew important logistical and secret service assistance from the Saudi Arabian military alliance.
At the same time, the United States released an earlier locked-up report on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who criticized the government. It shows that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the operation to capture or kill Khashoggi, US intelligence services said. The royal family rejected the report. The Crown Prince is seen as the driving force behind the operation in Yemen.