UPDATE – Yemen’s Houthis propose ceasefire initiative

ADDS NEW TWEET FROM HOUTHI OFFICIAL

By Mohamed al-Samei and Murad al-Arifi

SANAA (AA) – A leader of Yemen’s Houthi rebel group on Tuesday unveiled an initiative aimed at halting all military activity in the war-weary country.

In a post on Twitter, Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, head of the group’s so-called Supreme Revolutionary Commission, reiterated calls for a “political solution” to the almost four-year-old conflict.

“Our initiative would include instructions from Yemeni official parties [in reference to Houthi institutions] to halt all military and naval operations for a specified, renewable period,” he said.

Al-Houthi voiced hope that a Saudi-led military coalition — cobbled together in 2015 to fight the rebel group — would reciprocate “if they really want peace for the Yemeni people”.

Early Wednesday, al-Houthi tweeted again, saying they have halted naval operations for two weeks.

"The unilateral ceasefire that has started tonight at 00.00 (2100GMT) will continue until Aug. 15 at 00.00 (2100GMT). However, if there is a positive response from coalition forces, this period can be extended," he said.

The Yemeni government, which is currently headquartered in the coastal city of Aden and which is closely supported by the Saudi-led coalition, has yet to issue a formal response to the proposal.

The government, however, has previously said it would not negotiate with the rebel group until the latter surrendered the strategic Red Sea port of Al-Hudaydah.

While the Houthis have rejected the notion of a unilateral withdrawal from Al-Hudaydah, they have nevertheless voiced their readiness to accept a supervisory role by the UN over the seaport.

Earlier this month, UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths proposed a plan by which the Houthis would pull out of Al-Hudaydah, after which Yemeni police and UN observers would fill the vacuum.

In June, Yemeni government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition launched a wide-ranging operation aimed at retaking Al-Hudaydah and its strategic seaport from the rebels.

But the United Arab Emirates, a leading member of the coalition, later announced a pause in the operation in hopes of persuading the Houthis to voluntarily leave the coastal province.

Impoverished Yemen has remained wracked by violence since 2014, when the Shia Houthis overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, forcing the country’s pro-Saudi government to take up residence in Aden.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

The violence has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe the situation as “one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times”.

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