Following a series of attacks on Saudi Arabia, Yemeni rebels on Saturday declared a ceasefire that could become “final” if Riyadh stops its raids and withdraws its troops.
The Houthi rebels will suspend their offensives in Yemen and against Saudi Arabia for “three days,” a spokesman said Saturday, following a series of attacks on the neighboring kingdom.
The conflict in Yemen has for more than seven years opposed the pro-government forces, backed by an international coalition led by Riyadh, and the Houthi rebels, backed by Iran. “Missile and drone strikes as well as all military action against Saudi Arabia will be suspended for a period of three days,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam said on Twitter, quoting Mahdi al-Mashat, the rebel leader.
This ceasefire could become “a final and permanent commitment” if Saudi Arabia lifts the “blockade” of Yemen, stops its air strikes and withdraws its “foreign forces” on Yemeni soil, Mohammed Abdelsalam added. This commitment also puts an end to Houthi offensives on Yemeni territory, especially around the oil-producing city of Marib, where the fighting has raged in recent months. It also includes the exchange of prisoners.
The announcement comes the day after a new series of insurgency attacks against Saudi Arabia, one of which caused – without causing any losses – a giant fire at an oil plant in Jeddah near the Formula 1 track, which hosts the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.
In response, the military coalition, which is entering its seventh year of intervention in Yemen, carried out airstrikes overnight from Friday to Saturday in rebel-held areas of Sanaa (north) and Hodeidah (west). Houthis’ announcement also comes as an Iranian nuclear deal, after months of negotiations in Vienna, is coming to an end in the coming “days”, according to statements on Saturday from the head of European diplomacy, Joseph Borrell.
In addition to the conquest of the capital Sanaa in 2014, the rebels conquered most of the northern part of the country, the poorest of the Arabian Peninsula, and plunged due to the war into one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. However, the military coalition controls the country’s air and maritime space. While only UN flights are allowed through Sanaa airport, the Houthis have long made the lifting of this “blockade” a condition of negotiations. Earlier Saturday, a Saudi official told AFP that the rebels were preparing to propose a ceasefire and negotiations within Yemen.
“The Houthis, through mediators, have proposed an initiative, including a ceasefire, the opening of the airport (in Sanaa) and the port (in Hodeidah), as well as negotiations within Yemeni,” the official said. Saudi close to the case. “We are awaiting an official announcement from them because they are constantly changing their position,” added this official, who requested anonymity.
A Riyadh-based diplomat told AFP, also on condition of anonymity, that the UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, had begun negotiations to reach a ceasefire during Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month that takes place this year in April.
The war in Yemen has directly and indirectly killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions, according to the UN. A large part of the population, especially children, face acute hunger, with situations close to famine. The Gulf Cooperation Council recently called on the warring parties to hold peace talks at the end of the month in Riyadh, the organization’s headquarters, but the rebels rejected all talks taking place in a “hostile” country.