Saudi Arabia and coalition partners have been fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels since 2015Image: Hani Mohammed/AP Photo/picture alliance
Yemen: Saudi-led coalition to halt military offensive
March 30, 2022
The Saudi-led coalition said it wants to facilitate political talks and peacemaking efforts during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The Houthi rebels have rejected the cease-fire offer.
The Saudi-led coalition said that it would halt its ongoing military offensive in Yemen from Wednesday amid efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.
The Houthis have, however, rejected the cease-fire proposal as "meaningless'' without the coalition fully reopening the country's ports.
The move by the coalition followed a call by the United Nations for a truce during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin on April 2.
"The coalition hereby announces the cessation of military operations in Yemen beginning at 06:00 a.m. (0300 GMT) Wednesday, March 30 2022," it said in a statement which was carried by the Saudi Press Agency.
Turki al-Maliki, a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition, said in the statement that the coalition would "take all steps and measures to make the cease-fire successful ... and create a positive environment during the holy month of Ramadan to make peace and end the crisis."
Houthis urge coalition to lift 'blockade'
But the Iran-backed Houthi rebels dismissed the offer over the continuing closure of Sanaa's airport and the curbs on the country's ports by the coalition.
"If the blockade is not lifted, the declaration of the coalition of aggression to stop its military operations will be meaningless because the suffering of Yemenis as a result of the blockade is more severe than the war itself,'' Houthi official Mohammed al-Bukaiti said in a tweet.
Houthi 'government': War won't stop until Saudis quit Yemen
With the international community struggling to end the seven-year-old conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and pushed millions towards starvation, the truce would have been the most crucial step in peace efforts in over three years.
The announcement had also raised immediate questions as the Houthi rebels are skipping a summit about the war in Saudi Arabia, organized by the Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), because it’s taking place on their enemy's territory.
The GCC, whose members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, began the talks Tuesday in Riyadh. The summit is expected to continue through April 7.
Bloody conflict and a humanitarian catastrophe
It is not immediately known how long the unilateral cease-fire would hold and how the coalition would respond if the Houthis did not agree to it.
In the past too, other unilateral cease-fire efforts by the coalition have crumpled.
Yemen's war began in September 2014, when the Houthis swept into the capital, Sanaa, from their northwestern stronghold in the Arab world's poorest country. The Houthis then pushed into exile the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, elected in 2012 as the sole candidate after the long rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh.
A Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, entered the war in March 2015 to try and restore Hadi's government to power. But the war stretched into long bloody years, pushing Yemen to the brink of famine.