Saudi Arabia has announced a plan to offer its rivals in Yemen’s long-running war a nationwide ceasefire under the auspices of the United Nations, the kingdom’s foreign minister said.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, the kingdom’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, said the ceasefire proposed to the Houthi rebels is envisioned “for the entire conflict”, including allowing for the main airport in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sanaa, to reopen.
It would take effect “as soon as the Houthis agree to it”, he said in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh.
“It is up to the Houthis now,” Prince Faisal added, stressing his country would continue to “protect” its borders, citizens and infrastructure and face the Houthi “aggression with the necessary response”.
“The Houthis must decide whether to put their interests first or Iran’s interests first.”
The proposal would also allow for fuel and food imports through the western port of Hodeidah – Yemen’s main port of entry – and restarting political negotiations between the Saudi Arabia-backed government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthis.
The offer was welcomed by Hadi’s government in a statement from the foreign ministry based in the southern port of Aden.
But the Houthis said the initiative provided “nothing new”, as it still fell short of their demand for a complete lifting of the blockade on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah port.
“Saudi Arabia must declare an end to the aggression and lift the blockade completely, but putting forward ideas that have been discussed for over a year is nothing new,” said spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam, according to the rebels’ Al-Masirah television.
“We expected that Saudi Arabia would announce an end to the blockade of ports and airports and an initiative to allow in 14 ships that are held by the coalition,” Abdulsalam said in separate comments to Reuters news agency.
“Opening the airports and seaports is a humanitarian right and should not be used as a pressure tool.”
Saudi Arabia has long accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with military aid. Iran denies the allegation, saying it only supports the rebels diplomatically and politically.