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Yemeni Rebel Leader’s Offer to De-escalate Conflict is Rejected by Saudi Arabia

Written by NY Staff

A rebel leader in Yemen is offering to stop attacks on Saudi Arabia and an amnesty for Yemeni fighters opposing the group if Riyadh will end its airstrikes and lift its comprehensive blockade on the country.

The proposal comes at a time of increased fighting after peace talks collapsed last month. Salah al-Sammad, heads a new council appointed by the rebels and their allies to run the country.

He called on Saudi Arabia to “stop naval, air and land aggression, cease air raids and lift the blockade of our country, in exchange for an end to combat operations on the border and to (rebel) missile launches into Saudi territory.”

In exchange, he said, “(we will) stop combat operations on the border.”

The Houthis, hailing from Yemen’s Zaydi Shi’ite sect, seized the capital Sanaa and pushed the government out of its last stronghold in Aden in March 2015.

The advances by the Iran-allied Shiites prompted an aggressive counterattack by a Sunni-led coalition. Led by Saudi Arabia, the coalition has launched thousands of air strikes on the rebels and their allies in the Yemeni army. Despite the punishing bombardment the Saudi-led coalition has failed to oust the Houthi rebels from the capital.

Sammad’s organization is not recognized by the international community, but he also urged the UN and “peace-loving states” to exert pressure on the Saudi regime to accept the offer.

He also offered an amnesty for “combatants who have sided with the aggression,” a reference to fighters who back President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Houthis allied with Saleh

The Houthis are allied with soldiers loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In late 2014 the Houthis seized Yemen’s capital Sanaa – forcing Hadi to flee – before moving into other parts of the country.

For months, the Houthis have responded to the Saudi-led blockade with a dozen or so ballistic missile attacks on the kingdom. The attacks, however, have largely been repelled by anti-missile interceptors.

Fighting has also continued unabated within Yemen, as pro-Houthi and pro-government militiamen, soldiers and tribal gunmen clash. The tangle of armed groups so complex, that any peace deal would be hard-pressed to contain them.

More than 10,000 people – including nearly 4,000 civilians – have been killed since the war began. At least three million people have been displaced, according to the United Nations.

The latest round of UN-led peace talks between the government and the Houthis ended acrimoniously in August. A ceasefire that had been in place since April, collapsed.

Hadi, unleashed a fierce address to the UN in New York on Friday, accusing of Iran of subverting peace efforts through its support for the rebels.

“We shall extract Yemen from the claws of Iran,” Hadi told the General Assembly. “We shall raise the Yemeni flag over every foot of our precious soil.”

bik/rg (Reuters, AFP)

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