Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told Saudi State TV on Monday that the initiative was aimed at “ending the conflict” in Yemen and would seek to implement a nationwide ceasefire, open Sanaa airport and allow oil tankers to enter the port of Hodeidah.
His statement marked the first time Saudi Arabia has publicly acknowledged the blockade of fuel vessels in Hodeidah, which the UN calls “unacceptable” for humanitarian reasons. The blockade has starved Houthis of oil tax revenues – but it has also critically hampered the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver aid, including food, as famine lingers in the country.
Saudi Arabia said the initiative is awaiting acceptance from both the Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized Yemeni government, which has Saudi support.
“We hope the Houthis will accept this initiative this time, to avoid the bloodshed of Yemen,” said Prince Faisal.
Houthi Deputy Foreign Minister Hussin Al-ezzi told CNN that the blockade had to be lifted first, before they could agree to enter into peace talks.
“If they [Saudi Arabia] “lift the blockade and open the airport, then there will be a supportive atmosphere for entering into negotiations and reaching credible conclusions.”
The last attempt to establish a ceasefire
The Iran-linked Houthi group controls northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa and the strategic port city of Hodeidah, and has been at war with a Saudi-led military alliance since 2015.
The initiative announced Monday is the latest in several attempts to establish a ceasefire between Yemen’s warring parties. The UN has been part of stalled negotiations for years between opposing parties. Recently, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken received no response after offering the Houthis peace talks.
According to State Department spokesman Ned Price, Blinken spoke with the Saudi Foreign Minister on Monday about Yemen, discussing the need for all parties to support peace efforts, commit to a ceasefire and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.
President Joe Biden announced earlier this year that the U.S. would end its support for Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen, in a move hailed by lawmakers as “historic.” However, the United States has not withdrawn its support for the Saudi blockade.
Angela Dewan, Barbara Arvanitidis, Nicole Gaouette and Yousef Mawry contributed to this report.
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