Middle East

Saudi Arabia says it would reopen port, airport in Yemen peace offer

DUBAI (REUTERS, AFP) – Saudi Arabia presented a new peace initiative on Monday (March 22) to end the war in Yemen, which would include a nationwide ceasefire under UN supervision and the reopening of air and sea links, the kingdom’s foreign minister said.

The initiative includes the reopening of Sanaa airport, and would allow fuel and food imports through Hodeidah port, both of which are controlled by Riyadh’s enemies, the Iran-aligned Houthi movement. Political negotiations between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthis would be restarted, said Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

“The initiative will take effect as soon as the Houthis agree to it,” Prince Faisal said, calling on the group and the government to accept the offer.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government welcomed the Saudi initiative to end the six-year-old conflict, a statement from its foreign ministry said.

But the Houthis on Monday dismissed the ceasefire offer as “nothing new” and insisted an air and sea blockade be lifted first. 

“Saudi Arabia must declare an end to the aggression and lift the blockade completely, but putting forward ideas that have been discussed for over a year is nothing new,” said Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam, according to the rebel’s Al-Masirah television

The Saudi-led coalition has said the port and airport must be restricted to prevent weapons from reaching the Houthis who control the capital and most populous areas.

The announcement did not specify which routes would be permitted for aircraft flying to Sanaa, or whether food or fuel imports through Hodeidah port would be subject to additional pre-authorisations.

The United Nations has already set up a mechanism in Djibouti to inspect ships before they dock at Hodeidah port, but Saudi-led coalition warships hold up most vessels despite UN clearance.

Prince Faisal said tax revenues from the port would go to a joint bank account in Hodeidah’s branch of Yemen’s central bank, according an agreement signed in 2018 in Stockholm by both sides.

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