Saudis Offer Five-Day Pause to Fighting in Yemen

AP Photo
Washington, DC

Saudi Arabia has proposed a five-day humanitarian cease-fire in Yemen as long as the Houthis also refrain from the fighting.

The Saudis offered the truce to the Iran-backed Houthis after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, citing a dire humanitarian crisis, called for a pause in Yemen’s war when he arrived in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Wednesday.

“The pause will affect all of Yemen for a period of five days,” reportedly said Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, according to various media outlets. “The actual date will be announced shortly, God willing, as well as the requirements. This is all based on the Houthis complying with the ceasefire.”

Kerry welcomed Saudi Arabia’s cease-fire proposal.

“We particularly welcome a new Saudi initiative to try to bring about a peaceful resolution through the announcement of their intent to establish a full, five-day, renewable cease-fire and humanitarian pause,” Kerry reportedly said, briefing reporters alongside Jubeir on Thursday.

“This ceasefire is conditioned on the Houthis agreeing to live by these same commitments,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s offer to suspend hostilities comes days after the Houthis fired mortars and rockets into the kingdom, prompting more airstrikes in Yemen, and as the Shiite rebels advanced further into the strategic port city of Aden, considered pivotal to Yemen’s war.

Moreover, the cease-fire proposal comes a day after the government of Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi reportedly urged the United Nations (U.N.) to authorize the deployment of foreign forces to fight against the Houthis.

“We urge the international community to quickly intervene by land forces to save Yemen, especially Aden and Taiz,” said a letter from Yemen’s permanent representative to the U.N., Khaled Alyemany, BBC reports.

Although Saudi Arabia had initially indicated late Wednesday that all options were on the table, including the use of ground troops to stop the Houthis from firing into its territory, Kerry, during the news conference, said neither the U.S. nor the Saudis were considering sending ground forces into Yemen.

The Houthis also sent a letter to the U.N., calling for international action to bring an end to what they described as “Saudi aggression and crimes against the Yemeni people,” reports Hindustan Times.

A Saudi-led coalition, with logistical support from the U.S., has been carrying out an air campaign against Houthi rebels and their allies, military units loyal to Yemen’s former President  Ali Abdullah Saleh, with the aim of restoring the government of President Hadi.

Both the Saudi-led airstrikes and the fighting on the ground have reportedly contributed to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Armed groups loyal to Hadi, reportedly backed by the Saudis, are fighting the Houthis and their allies on the ground.

Saudi Arabia “fears the Houthis, who are allied to its foe Iran, will dominate the kingdom’s southern neighbor, and that the advance of their Shi’ite Muslim fighters into Sunni areas will provoke sectarian fighting that al Qaeda can exploit,” notes Hindustan Times.

“Iran has denied Saudi and Yemeni government charges it arms and trains the Houthis,” it adds.

According to the U.N., more than 640 civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousand more have been displaced since the Saudi-led airstrikes began in March 26.