On Monday, Saudi Arabia proposed a new plan aiming to put an end to the years-long devastating war in Yemen. The announcement was made by the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. The Saudi initiative includes establishing a nationwide ceasefire, depositing taxes and customs revenues for ships carrying oil derivatives to the port of Hodeidah in the joint account of the Central Bank of Yemen in the city, reopening Sanaa Airport, and allowing shipments carrying fuel and food to dock to Hodeidah Port. At the end of the day, the plan also foresees the restarting of political dialogue between warring parties in Yemen to bring a peaceful solution to the war. According to the Saudi Minister’s statement, the implementation of the initiative will be under the auspices of the United Nations. Speaking regarding the schedule of the deal, the Saudi Minister stated that it will enter into force “as soon as the Houthis agree to it”.
The Saudi offer was welcomed by the internationally recognized government located in its temporary seat in the southern city of Aden. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement giving support to the Saudi plan. The plan has also been appreciated by many Arab countries. After the Saudi Minister’s announcement, many messages in support of the initiative came from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, as well as Egypt, Jordan, and Sudan. The common point of these messages was calling the parties to support this initiative and bringing peace to Yemen.
Additionally, the Saudi plan also has been welcomed by many states and international organizations. Speaking upon a question related to the issue at a daily press briefing, the United States Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter stated that the US was pleased in seeing Saudi Arabia’s and Yemen’s internationally recognized government’s commitment to a ceasefire and negotiations. She also said that negotiations between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition regarding lifting the blockade of ports and airports were ongoing. Spokeswoman Porter also described the latest move as “a step in the right direction”. The United Nations also looked with favor on the Saudi initiative, despite the objection of UN spokesperson Farhan Haq who stated that “it’s still early days”. Spokesperson Haq also stressed the similarities between the Saudi initiative and the UN initiative led by Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and stated that Griffiths will be a close follower of the developments in the context of the Saudi plan. Another positive response regarding Riyadh’s announcement came from Britain. In his tweet posted on Monday, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab stated that: “I welcome today’s announcement by Saudi Arabia on Yemen. A nationwide ceasefire and action to ease humanitarian access restrictions are essential. The Houthis must now match the steps toward peace and bring an end to the suffering of the Yemeni people.”
While the reactions towards the Saudi initiative have been in this direction, the spotlight has mainly been directed at the Houthi group. Speaking to the Houthi-run media institution, Almasirah, the Houthi spokesperson Mohammad Abdulsalam accused Saudi Arabia of making the humanitarian issue a matter of negotiation to obtain political gain. Regarding the Saudi initiative, Abdulsalam said that the proposals that the Saudi government offered have been already discussed for a year and are nothing new. Furthermore, demands such as lifting the blockade over the airport and seaport are a humanitarian issue and should not be used to make pressure, he added. Abdulsalam reiterated that in case of lifting the blockade and stopping the aggression, the Houthi group would be ready to negotiate. As a matter of fact, on Tuesday, the Iran-backed group’s military spokesperson Yahya Sarea announced that the Houthi group carried out a drone attack on Abha International Airport located in southern Saudi Arabia. Announcing the airstrike via Twitter, the spokesperson stated that “the operations will continue as long as the aggression and siege continue”.
The Saudi offer came amid the military escalation between the Houthi group and the Saudi-led coalition. In past weeks, the Houthi group had frequently targeted several infrastructures, including oil facilities and airports. At the same time, the group had intensified their assaults towards Marib city, which is the last stronghold of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. In response, the coalition forces launched airstrikes targeting Houthi military sites in Sanaa last Sunday. Upon the acceleration of the conflict, the US Secretary of State Department held a phone call with his Saudi counterpart. According to the statement issued after the meeting, the two top diplomats discussed the ways which would end the Yemeni conflict. Since Biden has taken office, it is seen that the US has been intensifying its diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Yemen. In this sense, the Biden administration had stopped its supports for the Saudi operations in Yemen and reversed the decision that designated the Houthis as a terrorist group, which was signed during the Trump-era.