Saudi Arabia has offered a comprehensive UN-sponsored ceasefire to Yemen’s Houthi rebels aimed at ending a devastating six-year conflict.
But the Iranian-backed Houthis, who have recently stepped up attacks on Saudi installations, including oil installations, have rejected Riyadh’s move, according to an AFP report in the Dawn newspaper.
The six-year-old conflict has recently escalated and the Houthi rebels have come too close to capturing the last stronghold in the northern region under the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.
The Saudi government said in a statement that the move included a “comprehensive ceasefire under the auspices of the United Nations”.
The statement added that Riyadh also proposed reopening the airport in the rebel-held capital Sanaa and resuming political talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis.
“We want the guns to be completely silenced and as soon as the Houthi rebels agree to this agreement, it will begin to be implemented,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told reporters in Riyadh.
The Houthis rejected Riyadh’s move, saying it was “nothing new” and reiterated their demand that the first Saudi-led blockade of Yemen is lifted.
According to Houthi rebel Al-Masirah television, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam said that Saudi Arabia should declare an end to the aggression and lift the blockade completely.
In April last year, Saudi-led military coalition fighting insurgents launched a temporary ceasefire in war-torn Yemen to stem the spread of the coronavirus, but the Houthis rejected the move as a political ploy.
In the wake of this latest proposal, a new proposal has been put forward by US President Joe Biden’s administration to resume the long-stalled peace talks.
The United States has recently withdrawn from Saudi Arabia’s offensive in Yemen but has also condemned the growing number of drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels.
A drone strike in the second major attack on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities this month set fire to an oil refinery in Riyadh on Friday, with Iranian-backed rebels claiming responsibility.
The Houthis are also rapidly advancing towards Marib, the last northern stronghold of the Yemeni government, putting pressure on Saudi-backed Yemeni forces.
Last week, the Saudi-led coalition said it had launched airstrikes on rebels in the oil-rich region’s capital, Marb, in response to the Houthi rebels’ rapid advance, to help local forces.
If the city goes to the Yemeni government, it will be a huge blow to the government, but it will also be a catastrophic threat to civilians, as at least one million homeless people live in temporary shelters while many Are encamped in deserted camps in the surrounding desert.
Riyadh led a military coalition in support of Yemen’s internationally recognized government in 2015 but has so far failed to oust Houthi rebels and demoralize them.
The coalition had set up a naval and air blockade to prevent Iran from supplying weapons to the rebels, but Tehran has denied the allegations.
Declaring Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United Nations warned last month that fighting in Marib would have devastating effects on civilians.
Thousands of people have been killed and displaced in Yemen’s long war, most of them civilians, and the economy and health system have been devastated.