Yemen rebels announce plan to halt attacks on Saudi Arabia

The move comes after attacks on oil infrastructure last week cut Saudi oil output in half

Yemeni Shiite Huthi rebel fighters are pictured in the port city of Hodeidah on December 29, 2018, as the beginning of their pull back from the Red Sea port was announced.   Yemeni rebels have begun to withdraw from the lifeline port of Hodeida, under an agreement reached in Sweden earlier this month, a UN official said today.  / AFP / ABDO HYDER
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Yemen’s Houthi rebels announced on Friday that they planned to halt all attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a peace initiative to end their country’s devastating conflict.

Mehdi Al Mashat, head of the Houthis’ supreme political council, announced “the halt of all attacks against the territory of Saudi Arabia” in a speech marking the 2014 rebel seizure of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

He said he hoped “the gesture would be answered by a stronger gesture” from the Saudis, the rebels’ Al Masirah television channel reported.

The announcement comes after a wave of drone strikes last weekend on Saudi oil installations knocked out half of the kingdom’s production and sent shock waves through energy markets.

Although the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, Riyadh’s ally Washington has placed the blame on Iran, which backs the Yemeni insurgents.

President Donald Trump and the US Treasury Department on Friday laid out the latest in a series of economic sanctions against the Islamic republic.

Mr Al Mashat said the Houthi peace initiative was aimed at “bringing about peace through serious negotiations to achieve a comprehensive national reconciliation which does not exclude anyone”.

A major goal was to “preserve the blood of Yemenis and achieve a general amnesty”, he added.

The plan calls for rebels to “stop all attacks on Saudi territory by drones, ballistic missiles and other means”, he said.

“Pursuing war is not in anyone’s interest.”

He also called for the reopening of Sanaa’s international airport and open access to Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah, a crucial entry point for imports and humanitarian aid.

The Houthis have been fighting against a Saudi-led coalition that intervened in 2015 to support the country’s internationally recognised government.

The rebels have repeatedly targeted critical Saudi infrastructure in recent months in cross-border attacks.

Saudi Arabia has so far not directly accused any party of carrying out Saturday’s attacks, but said authorities have launched an investigation to determine the culprits.