Saudis propose cease-fire with Yemen’s Houthi rebels

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Saudi Arabia offered Yemen’s Houthi rebels a cease-fire Monday as part of a plan that would also allow a major airport to reopen in Yemen’s capital.

The new initiative comes amid stepped-up attacks by the Houthis against Saudi oil infrastructure, as well as increased pressure from the Biden administration on the Saudis to end what has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

“The Kingdom calls on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to accept the initiative, which gives the Houthis the opportunity to stop the bloodshed in Yemen, address the humanitarian and economic conditions that the brotherly Yemeni people are suffering from, and gives them the opportunity to become partners in achieving peace,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday.

It’s unclear whether the plan will gain any traction. A unilateral Saudi cease-fire last year collapsed.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government welcomed the Saudi proposal in a statement from its Foreign Ministry.

But Houthi officials dismissed the plan as “nothing new” in statements to The Associated Press and Reuters.

Under the Saudi plan, a “comprehensive” cease-fire across Yemen would be supervised by the United Nations.

The Saudis would also allow the Sanaa International Airport to reopen to “a number” of regional and international flights, according to the Foreign Ministry statement. The airport has not seen regular commercial flights since 2015.

The plan would also include depositing taxes and customs fees from ships importing oil through the port of Hodeida into a joint account of Yemen’s Central Bank that could be accessed by both the Houthis and Yemen’s government.

But the plan does not go as far as the Houthis have demanded by fully ending the blockades on the airport and Hodeida.

The Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels has been blamed for thousands of civilian deaths and exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has millions of people on the verge of famine.

Last month, President Biden announced an end to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in the war.

The Biden administration also removed a terrorist designation against the Houthis, allowing humanitarian aid to continue reaching rebel-controlled areas. The Trump administration applied the designation against the group in the waning days of the administration.

At the same time, Biden administration officials have made clear they continue to support Saudi Arabia’s right to defend itself and have condemned Houthi attacks on Saudi territory.

After Saudi Arabia’s announcement Monday, the State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud about Yemen.

The pair spoke about support for efforts to “end the conflict in Yemen, starting with the need for all parties to commit to a cease-fire and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid,” according to a State Department statement on the call.

“Secretary Blinken reiterated our commitment to supporting the defense of Saudi Arabia and strongly condemned recent attacks against Saudi territory from Iranian-aligned groups in the region,” the statement said. “Additionally, they discussed the importance of stabilizing the Yemeni economy.”

Tags Antony Blinken Houthi insurgency in Yemen Houthi movement Joe Biden Saudi Arabia Yemen Yemeni Civil War
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