Saudi Arabia 'committed to halting military operations in Yemen'

Consultations in Riyadh resume for the third day in attempt to unite war-torn country

A street scene in the old city of Sanaa, Yemen, March 22, 2022. EPA
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Saudi Arabia said it is committed to stopping military operations in Yemen as peace talks resumed for a third day on Friday.

Consultations on finding a path to peace kicked off in Riyadh this week between Yemen’s different political and social parties.

The UN envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, has called for a truce over Ramadan, which is likely to start this weekend.

Mr Grundberg said he was engaging with warring parties in Yemen about the ceasefire.

The Saudi-led coalition, fighting the Houthi rebels on behalf of the government, announced on Tuesday it would begin a ceasefire at 6am on Wednesday to enable political talks to take place in the kingdom.

The Iran-backed Houthis are boycotting the discussions.

“We are committed to stopping military operations in Yemen in response to the request of the GCC secretary general,” a coalition statement shared by the kingdom’s state news agency read.

“The coalition air forces did not carry out any combat operations in Yemen,” it said.

“We are taking all steps to make the cessation of military operations a success and comprehensive peacemaking."

Mr Grundberg met Houthi chief negotiator, Mohammad Abdul Salam, in Muscat on Thursday.

A statement by the UN envoy said he held the meeting “as part of his efforts to reach a truce, ease the fuel crisis and facilitate freedom of movement”.

Mr Grundberg is continuing his discussions with all sides.

The UN envoy also met the Saudi-backed government's prime minister, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, in Riyadh to discuss the truce and "humanitarian measures to ease the freedom of movement of individuals and essential commodities to, from and within Yemen", his office said on Twitter.

The development came on Friday as a third day of talks in Riyadh tried to revive Mr Grundberg's efforts to resume UN-led peace talks aimed at ending the war. The summit is expected to continue until April 7.

"Talks are held behind closed doors today on military and political issues as well as the humanitarian factors," Majid Al Fadhil, Yemen's deputy human rights minister, told The National.

"We will reach the right goals at the end of these consultations, it's a historic time for Yemen, the last chance to get out of this long war," he said.

Discussion on the political, economic, military and humanitarian aspects of Yemen will provide a platform for the people to understand the difficulties on the ground and to overcome them, he said.

The attempt by the GCC is seen as a potentially significant breakthrough in Yemen’s seven-year civil war, which has claimed thousands of lives and left millions of people on the brink of starvation.

In September 2014, the Houthis swept into the capital, Sanaa, from their north-western stronghold in the Arab world’s poorest country.

War began in the spring of 2015 when they pushed the government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi into exile.

A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 at the request of Mr Hadi’s government.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in the violence, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project said. That toll includes fighters and 14,500 civilians, latest figures show.

Updated: April 01, 2022, 2:13 PM