Saudi Arabia offers cease-fire plan to Yemen's Houthis

Riyadh - 'It is up to the Houthis now'

By AP, Reuters

Published: Mon 22 Mar 2021, 6:59 PM

Last updated: Mon 22 Mar 2021, 10:41 PM

Saudi Arabia announced a plan Monday to offer Yemen’s Houthi rebels a cease-fire in the country’s years long war and allow a major airport to reopen in its capital, the Kingdom’s latest attempt to halt fighting.

Also read: US welcomes Saudi, Yemen committment to cease-fire plan

The move by Saudi Arabia follows Yemen’s Houthi rebels stepping up a campaign of drone and missile attacks targeting the kingdom’s oil sites, briefly shaking global energy prices amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The new peace initiative would include a nationwide ceasefire under UN supervision and the reopening of air and sea links, the kingdom's foreign minister said.

The initiative includes the reopening of Sanaa airport, and would allow fuel and food imports through Hodeidah port, both of which are controlled by Riyadh's enemies, the Iran-aligned Houthi movement. Political negotiations between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthis would be restarted, said Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

"The initiative will take effect as soon as the Houthis agree to it," Prince Faisal said, calling on the group and the government to accept the offer.

The Houthis have demanded the lifting of an air and sea blockade as their main pre-condition before any peace deal.

The Saudi-led coalition has said the port and airport must be restricted to prevent weapons from reaching the Houthis who control the capital and most populous areas.

The announcement did not specify which routes would be permitted for aircraft flying to Sanaa, or whether food or fuel imports through Hodeidah port would be subject to additional pre-authorisations.

Prince Faisal said tax revenues from the port would go to a joint bank account in Hodeidah's branch of Yemen's central bank, according an agreement signed in 2018 in Stockholm by both sides.

“It is up to the Houthis now,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told journalists in a televised news conference in Riyadh. “The Houthis must decide whether to put their interests first or Iran’s interests first.”

Houthis will keep talking

The Houthi group played down a new Saudi initiative to end a six-year-old war.

However the group's chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam said the Houthis would continue to talk with Riyadh, Muscat and Washington to try to reach a peace agreement.

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