Saudi Arabia's peace plan for Yemen portrays serious intention to end the war

Some elements of the kingdom's new plan were already agreed in Stockholm

Spokesman of the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen Colonel Turki al-Maliki speaks during a press conference in the capital Riyadh on March 22, 2021. Saudi Arabia offered Yemen's Huthi rebels a "comprehensive" ceasefire, among a series of proposals aimed at ending a catastrophic six-year conflict. The proposals include "a comprehensive ceasefire across the country under the supervision of the United Nations", a government statement said. / AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE
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Saudi Arabia’s peace plan aimed at ending the Yemen war portrays how serious the kingdom is in supporting the country’s UN-led political process, according to experts and officials.

On Monday the kingdom proposed a nationwide ceasefire, the reopening of Sanaa airport to selected destinations, the resumption of talks between Yemen's warring sides, allowing additional fuel and commodities to enter Hodeidah port and supporting efforts of reconstruction and aid to the country.

It was welcomed by the international community, who urged all sides to work towards ending the six-year conflict. But the rebels appeared to reject the proposal almost immediately, saying it would not countenance talks until Saudi Arabia brings its military campaign to a complete halt.

Peter Salisbury, senior Yemen analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the Saudi proposal is essentially a new take on an idea that was presented a year ago.

“The announcement more than anything signals clear Saudi support for a version of an initiative that has been under discussion for more than a year, first under the UN, more recently with the US playing an assertive role,” Mr Salisbury said.

“This isn’t a new initiative, it’s a new spin on a year old one,” he said, adding that peace negotiations are likely to be on the table.

The proposal put forward by the kingdom is aimed at pressuring the Houthis.

“We're in a period where the parties are using all tools at their disposal to improve their bargaining position,” he said.

Saudi Arabia said the initiative is pending acceptance by both the Houthi rebels and Yemen's internationally recognised government.

A Yemeni government official said the proposal complements the international community’s efforts aimed at ending the war.

"The Government of Yemen knows that ending the suffering of Yemenis ending the coup and conflict sparked by the Houthis," the official told The National.

“Efforts to achieving peace will be based on three references which are implementing UN resolution 2216, restoring the state and rejecting Iran’s destructive influence,” he said.

Stockholm agreement

The initiative was first announced in December 2018 in Stockholm after the government and the Iran-backed rebels signed the deal which was brokered by the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths.

Some of the elements of Saudi Arabia’s new plan were already agreed in Stockholm.

They include agreements on a prisoner swap, a ceasefire and troop withdrawal from the Red Port city of Hodeidah, and the formation of a committee to negotiate the future of Taez city.

But major delays caused by the Houthis arguing over the detail of the agreement have prevented major aspects being implemented.

Reports suggested that breaches of the agreement by the Houthis had pushed the government to re-examine its position.

Peace talks have been based on UN Security Council resolution 2216 which calls for the Houthis to withdraw from areas they seized since 2014 and hand heavy weapons back to the government.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

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