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Houthi ceasefire proposal is bid to foil Riyadh talks, say Yemeni experts

The Houthis last year rejected a Saudi peace initiative to stop the war, and also ignored local and international calls to halt their deadly offensive on the city of Marib. (AFP)
The Houthis last year rejected a Saudi peace initiative to stop the war, and also ignored local and international calls to halt their deadly offensive on the city of Marib. (AFP)
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28 Mar 2022 01:03:51 GMT9
28 Mar 2022 01:03:51 GMT9
  • It was designed to give the impression that Houthis are the sole representatives of the Yemeni people
Saeed Al-Batati

RIYADH: The latest ceasefire proposal by Iran-backed Houthis is an attempt to foil this week’s peace talks brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Yemeni experts said on Sunday.

The militia have failed to show they want a permanent truce in Yemen, the experts added.

Mahdi Al-Mashat, head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, on Saturday announced a unilateral halt to missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, as well as the suspension of military operations in Yemen, mainly in the central province of Marib, for three days.

As part of a proposed peace deal, the Yemeni militia leader promised to extend the short truce to a permanent ceasefire provided Saudi Arabia reciprocated by lifting restrictions on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah seaports.

However, Yemenis expressed doubts regarding the Houthi desire for peace, citing the movement’s record of breaking agreements.

“They have violated more than 70 agreements since their first war with the Yemeni government,” Hasan Ghaleb, a Yemeni journalist, told Arab News.

He said that the Houthi initiative is aimed at thwarting Saudi Arabia’s retaliatory operations following drone and missile strikes on the Kingdom.

The truce is also designed to hinder consultations between Yemeni parties in Riyadh this week, Ghaleb said.

“This is a maneuver, not an initiative. Since the GCC offered to broker talks between Yemenis, the Houthis have tried every means possible to ruin the talks. When they failed, they floated their proposal,” he said.

The war in Yemen began in late 2014 when the Houthis seized power and forced Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to the southern city of Aden. Tens of thousands of Yemenis have died in the conflict and millions more left on the brink of starvation.

Military operations by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen have blunted the Houthi gains and helped government forces liberate many provinces, including Aden.

The militia last year rejected a Saudi peace initiative to stop the war, and also ignored local and international calls to halt their deadly offensive on the city of Marib.

Ali Al-Dahab, researcher and military analyst, said that the Houthis designed their proposal to give the impression that they are the sole representatives of the Yemeni people in a bid to demand direct talks with Saudi Arabia.

“The Houthi peace initiative is, in fact, a false description that the war is between Saudi Arabia and their state,” Al-Dahab said on Twitter, predicting that Saudi Arabia would not accept the Houthi initiative.

“Any initiative that does not include a reference to the legitimate government as a counterparty to the putschist Houthi group should be rejected,” Al-Dahab said.

Other Yemeni politicians, such as Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi, Yemen’s former deputy prime minister and an adviser to the country’s president, believe that the Houthis treat the Yemenis as followers with no right to be part of talks to end the conflict.

“After seven years of war, the Houthis do not care about the consequences of the catastrophe they caused to Yemen and the Yemenis. They think about how to legitimize their crime,” Al-Mekhlafi said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting between Yemeni government forces and Houthi rebels broke out on Sunday on key battlefields in Marib and Jouf provinces.

Local media reports said that army troops shot down two explosives-rigged drones fired by the Houthis in the northern province of Marib. Fighting also raged around a strategic military base, Um Rish, south of Marib, and between government troops and Houthis in the province’s Hareb district.

The Houthi peace proposal came as UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg said on Sunday that he is holding direct talks with all warring factions in an effort to achieve a humanitarian truce during Ramadan.

“The UN special envoy is engaging with all sides and continues his efforts toward a truce during Ramadan. He reiterates his call for de-escalation and welcomes all steps by the parties in that direction,” Grundberg’s office said in a statement.

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