Saudi Arabia unilaterally unveiled a new ceasefire proposal Monday as part of efforts to end a yearslong conflict in Yemen that has exacerbated what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The proposal called on Yemen’s internationally-backed government, which is supported by Riyadh, and Iran-backed Houthi rebels to halt all fighting and resume political talks.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have launched punishing military assaults in Yemen’s multi-sided civil war beginning around 2015. In early February, the Biden administration announced it was ending its support for the Saudi-led war, including some arms sales.
Monday’s proposal, announced by the kingdom’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan, was short on detail and neither Yemen’s government nor the Houthis offered immediate reaction. Another unilaterally declared Saudi cease-fire collapsed last year.
The conflict has left more than 200,000 Yemenis dead and put millions more on the brink of starvation. It has marred America’s reputation, with U.S.-made weapons used in Saudi-led strikes against civilians. And it has inflamed tensions across the Middle East.
“It is up to the Houthis now,” Prince Faisal said in a news conference in Riyadh. “The Houthis must decide whether to put their interests first or Iran”s interests first.”
In a separate briefing with reporters ahead of the announcement, a senior Saudi official said there was hope the offer would enable a major airport to reopen in Yemen’s capital Sana’a.
Saudi Arabia said the plan would be presented both to the Houthis and Yemen’s government later Monday.
Both would need to accept the plan for it to move forward, with any timeline likely to be set by the United Nations’ Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths.
The move comes as Riyadh has sought to rehabilitate its reputation in Washington following the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. U.S. lawmakers and intelligence agencies concluded the country’s de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the journalist’s killing.
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