Saudi Arabia offers Yemen rebels ceasefire

·2-min read

Saudi Arabia has offered a new peace initiative to the Houthi rebels in Yemen which would include a ceasefire supervised by the United Nations and the re-opening of Sanaa airport, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan says.

"We announce an initiative to end the crisis and reach a comprehensive political solution, which includes a comprehensive ceasefire under the supervision of the United Nations," he told a press conference.

The ceasefire would start immediately if the Houthi rebels, who control the capital Sanaa and other northern areas, accept it.

Yemen has been roiled by a devastating power struggle since late 2014, which pitches the Saudi-backed Yemeni government against Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a military coalition fighting the Houthis since March 2015.

Responding to the ceasefire announcement, Houthi spokesman Mohamed Abdul-Salam dismissed the initiative on Twitter.

He said any initiative that "separates the humanitarian side from any military or political bargain" is neither serious nor new.

"We confirm our stance that any initiative that ignores the humanitarian side is not serious," Abdul-Salam was quoted by pro-Houthi television al-Masirah as saying.

"Ending the blockade does not need an initiative and bargaining with the humanitarian file is a crime against an entire people," he said.

"Saudi Arabia is required to stop the aggression and lift the blockade... not to put forward ideas that were previously discussed."

The coalition announced a unilateral ceasefire last year for few months.

However, both sides have intensified attacks on each other in recent months.

However, this is the first time Saudi Arabia has offered to allow Sanaa airport to operate again since it was closed to commercial flights in August 2016 by the Saudi-led alliance.

Opening the airport in Sanaa has been a demand by the Houthis since the 2018 UN-brokered talks in Sweden.

"The Kingdom calls on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to accept the initiative, which gives the Houthis a chance to... halt the Yemeni bloodshed, and address the economic and humanitarian conditions of which Yemeni people are suffering, and to become partners in achieving peace," Faisal bin Farhan said.