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Saudi Arabia has proposed a peace deal to end the nearly six-year war in Yemen if Iran-backed Houthi rebels agree.
The Saudi proposal calls for a nationwide ceasefire and the reopening of the airport in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.
“The initiative aims to end the human suffering of the Yemeni people, brothers and sisters, and reaffirms the Kingdom ‘s support for efforts to reach a comprehensive political solution,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The war has been a quagmire for the Saudis and they are apparently looking for a way out. In response to the initiative, Houthis said it offered “nothing new,” Reuters reports, as the proposal does not include a complete lifting of the blockade at Sanaa airport or 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 ships held by the coalition,” Houthis chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters.
“Opening airports and seaports is a humanitarian right and should not be used as a means of pressure,” he said.
The United States and the United Nations have tried to put an end to what they call the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world. President Biden vows to use diplomacy to end war and allow more refugees to come to US
At a conference, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said he welcomed the Saudi proposals and that UN envoy Martin Griffiths had worked towards those goals. Asked about Houthis’ rejection of the Saudi offer, Haq said Griffiths would be in contact with all parties to discuss moving forward with Saudi Arabia’s proposal.
Peter Salisbury, a senior Yemeni analyst at the International Crisis Group, says the Saudi proposal is essentially a a new idea that was introduced a year ago.
“The devil is still in the details. The Saudis, the government and the Huthis all say they support the initiative in conceptual terms but have been constantly shaking about the timing, ranking and details of each aspect,” Salisbury wrote in a thread on Twitter.
Salisbury says he believes the Saudi proposal is likely to be aimed at putting pressure on the Houthis. For now, he predicts more talks, more airstrikes and more fighting on the ground: “We are in a period where the parties are using all the means at their disposal to improve their negotiating position.”
The conflict has become a war between the representatives of Saudi Arabia and Iran. Years of fighting have left 80% of Yemen’s population relying on aid, and millions are on the brink of starvation.
The war in Yemen began in 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi militants overthrew the Saudi-backed unpopular government in the Yemeni capital. A coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the US, France and the UK responded with airstrikes, starting in 2015.
While the Biden administration has been critical of the way the Saudis have waged war, it has also raised alarms over recent Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia.
The State Department said in a phone call with Saudi Foreign Minister Antony Blinken “reiterated our commitment to supporting Saudi Arabia’s defense and strongly condemned recent attacks on Saudi territory by Iran-linked groups.” in the region “.
The two officials reportedly voiced support for diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, “starting with the need for all parties to commit to a ceasefire and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid”.
Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said the proposal is “a step in the right direction”, urging all parties to negotiate under UN auspices.
NPR Diplomatic Correspondent Michele Kelemen contributed to this report.
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