Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud proposed a ceasefire for Yemen on Monday and spoke from Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Fayez Nureldine / AFP via Getty Images Hide caption
Fayez Nureldine / AFP via Getty Images
Fayez Nureldine / AFP via Getty Images
Saudi Arabia has proposed a peace deal to end nearly six years of war in Yemen if Iran-backed Houthi rebels agree.
The Saudi proposal provides for a nationwide ceasefire and the reopening of the airport in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
“The initiative aims to end the human suffering of the fraternal Yemeni people and reaffirms the Kingdom’s support for efforts to find a comprehensive political solution,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The war has been a swamp for the Saudis and they are apparently looking for a way out. In response to the initiative, the Houthis said they had “nothing new,” reports Reuters, as the proposal does not include a full lifting of the blockade at Sanaa Airport or in the port city of Hodeidah.
“We expected Saudi Arabia to announce an end to the blockade of ports and airports and an initiative to allow 14 coalition ships,” Houthis chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters.
“Opening airports and seaports is a humanitarian right and should not be used as leverage,” he said.
The United States and the United Nations have tried to end what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. President Biden has pledged to use diplomacy to end the war and allow more refugees to enter the United States
In a briefing, UN spokesman Farhan Haq welcomed the Saudi proposals and UN envoy Martin Griffiths had worked towards these goals. When asked about the Houthis’ rejection of the Saudi offer, Haq said Griffiths would contact all parties to discuss further implementation of Saudi Arabia’s proposal.
Peter Salisbury, senior Yemen analyst at the International Crisis Group, says the Saudi proposal is essentially one a new version of an idea that was presented a year ago.
“The devil is still in the details. The Saudis, the government and the Houthis all say they support the initiative conceptually but have argued relentlessly over timing, sequencing and the details of every aspect,” Salisbury wrote in a thread on Twitter.
Salisbury believes the Saudi proposal is likely to be aimed at putting pressure on the Houthis. He is currently forecasting more talks, more air strikes and more fighting on the ground: “We are at a time when the parties are using all the instruments at their disposal to improve their negotiating position.”
The conflict has turned into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. After years of fighting, 80% of Yemen’s population are in need of help and millions are on the verge of starvation.
The war in Yemen began in 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi fighters toppled the unpopular, Saudi-backed government in the Yemeni capital. A coalition of Gulf states – led by Saudi Arabia and with the support of the USA, France and Great Britain – responded with air strikes from 2015.
While the Biden government has criticized the way the Saudis waged the war, it has also raised alarms about the recent Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia.
The State Department said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a call to the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, “reiterated our commitment to support the defense of Saudi Arabia and strongly condemned the recent attacks by Iranian-focused groups in the region on Saudi territory.”
The two officials have reportedly expressed support for diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, “beginning with the need for all parties to commit to a ceasefire and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid”.
Foreign Ministry deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said the proposal was “a step in the right direction” and urged all parties to negotiate under the auspices of the United Nations
NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen contributed to this report.