U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement over cease-fire deal drew an immediate backlash from the internationally-recognized Yemeni government, which dismissed the deal as “unilateral.”
The Iran-backed Houthis had agreed to a “cessation of hostilities beginning on Nov. 17, provided the other party implements the same commitment,” said Kerry. He was speaking in Abu Dhabi a day after meeting Houthi negotiators in Oman for talks aimed at finding a durable political settlement for the war in Yemen.
“There is a humanitarian disaster in Yemen – (not) just serious security and economic and political and humanitarian challenges,” the top American diplomat said after leaving Oman, an Arab country that has been a traditional Mideast go-between where he held talks with a Houthi delegation “All the parties we talk to agree that there’s no military solution,” Kerry said. “So if that’s the fact, you’ve got to get into: What is the political solution?”
President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi’s government promptly rejected the cease-fire initiative. Hadi’s government is supported by a Saudi-led coalition that has been waging an air campaign in Yemen to dislodge the Houthis after they seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.
Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhalfi said the deal has nothing to do with his government. “The government doesn’t know and is not concerned with what Kerry announced; this shows a desire to foil peace efforts by trying to reach a deal with Houthis away from the government,” al-Mekhalfi wrote on his Twitter account.
Yemen’s 20-month-old war has left more than 7,000 people dead and nearly 37,000 wounded, the World Health Organization announced in its latest toll update. As of Oct. 25, “more than 7,070 people have been killed and over 36,818 injured, according to health facility-based data,” the WHO said in a statement late Sunday. Another 21 million people are in need of urgent health services, said the U.N. health agency.
In addition to the fighting, international organizations have warned in recent weeks of a spread of disease and growing rates of malnutrition in the country, which was already the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest even before the war erupted.
A Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition has been conducting an extensive air campaign against the Houthis since March 2015 that has pushed the rebels out of southern Yemen. The U.N. says the conflict has left more than 19,000 people dead and displaced at least 3 million. Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of Muslim countries, backed by the U.S., the U.K. and France, in the war in neighboring Yemen. The campaign, which is a campaign to restore the government ousted by the Iran-allied militia, is part of a larger assertive effort to prevent weapons from reaching Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies, who have overrun much of Yemen.