Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 May 2019

Top Houthi rebel calls for halt to attacks in Yemen

Yemen government confirms participation as momentum buildsfor peace talks

UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths talks to the undersecretary of Houthi-led government's foreign ministry, Faisal Amin Abu-Rass. Reuters 
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths talks to the undersecretary of Houthi-led government's foreign ministry, Faisal Amin Abu-Rass. Reuters 

A high-ranking Houthi official on Monday called for the rebels to stop missile and drone attacks, a move welcomed by the UN and followed hours later by the Yemeni government's confirmation that it would take part in peace talks.

Mohammed Ali Al Houthi, head of the Iran-backed rebel group's Higher Revolutionary Committee, said the decision was based on discussions with the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to show good faith and support peace efforts.

Mr Griffiths welcomed the announcement and called on all parties to show restraint "to create a conducive environment for convening the consultations".

The Yemeni government said it had confirmed to Mr Griffiths that it would take part in the peace negotiations.

"The government has informed the UN envoy to Yemen ... that it will send a government delegation to the talks with the aim of reaching a political solution," Yemen's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saba news agency.

Mr Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to rebel-held Sanaa in the coming week to finalise arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.

Mohammed Ali Al Houthi called for his group to announce "readiness to suspend and halt all military operations" and stop firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, which leads an Arab military coalition supporting the Yemeni government.

"We announce an initiative to call all official Yemeni parties to ask to end launching rockets and drones against aggression countries ... in order to deprive them for any reason to continue their aggression and siege, along a readiness to freeze and stop all military operations on all fronts in order to reach peace," he said in a statement posted on Twitter


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The rebels have fired hundreds of ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia since the coalition intervened in the conflict at the request of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi in March 2015 as the rebels pushed south from the capital Sanaa, which they seized in September the previous year.

Although the rebels have been pushed out of most southern areas they still hold the vital Red Sea port of Hodeidah which the handles bulk of Yemen's food imports and humanitarian aid shipments.

A government offensive to retake the port was suspended earlier this year to allow Mr Griffiths to arrange peace talks in Geneva in September. Those talks collapsed after the rebels refused to attend at the last minute.

Fighting flared up in Hodeidah again at the start of the November but had largely subsided over the past week amid growing international pressure for renewed peace efforts.

Britain on Monday presented a resolution on Yemen to the UN Security Council that calls for an immediate truce in Hodeidah, according to a draft seen by Agence France-Presse.

The text, circulated to the 14 other council members, sets a two-week deadline for the warring sides to remove all barriers to humanitarian aid.

The resolution would significantly ratchet up the pressure on the pro-government and the rebels to seek a negotiated settlement.

The United Nations considers Yemen the world's biggest humanitarian crisis and has warned that without a stop to the fighting, the country will face one of the worst famines in decades.

The draft text calls "on the parties to introduce a cessation of hostilities in Hodeidah governorate, to end all attacks on densely populated civilian areas across Yemen and to cease all missile and UAV attacks against regional countries and maritime areas."

The text calls on warring sides to "facilitate the unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian food, water, fuel, medicine and other essential imports across the country, including by removing within two weeks of the adoption of this resolution, any bureaucratic impediments that could restrict such flows", AFP reported.

The truce would go into effect on the day of the adoption of the resolution.

Under the proposed measures, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres would report to the council within two weeks on the cessation of hostilities.

The council was ready to "consider further measures" to support a political solution the war, the draft said.

It also calls for a large injection of foreign currency into the economy through the central back to support the collapsing currency and for salaries of civil servants, teachers and health workers to be paid within one month.

It supports a series of confidence-building measures aimed at paving the way to peace talks including the release of prisoners, the reopening of the airport in the rebel-held capital Sanaa to commercial flights and strengthening the central bank.

Updated: November 19, 2018 10:22 PM