Yemen’s Houthi rebels have announced a halt on strikes against Saudi Arabia, adding that they expect reciprocal steps from Riyadh. The ceasefire offer comes days after a major attack on Saudi oil refineries claimed by the Houthis.
The televised announcement was made on Friday by Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthi political council in Sana’a. It comes as the Saudi-led coalition launched a massive operation against “legitimate military targets” north of the port of Hodeidah, in southwestern Yemen.
READ MORE: Saudi-led coalition strikes Yemen’s Hodeidah in wake of refinery attacks claimed by Houthis
“I call on all parties from different sides of the war to engage seriously in genuine negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive national reconciliation that does not exclude anyone,” said Mashat. If the Saudis ignore the ceasefire offer and continue bombing, the group reserves its “right to respond,” he warned.
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This is not the first instance of Houthis making a ceasefire gesture to try and stop the Saudi bombing campaign – but this time they appear to have some added leverage. The offer comes just a week after a strike on oil processing facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais halved Saudi Arabian production and spiked global oil prices by nearly 20 percent.
The Houthis claimed responsibility for the strike, which demonstrated failure of Saudi Arabia’s US-made air defenses, but Riyadh and Washington chose to blame Iran for the attack instead.
READ MORE: Riyadh gave NO PROOF Tehran launched oil-plant attack – but still ‘expects US to do its dirty work for them’
No proof of Tehran’s involvement in the launch of drones and missiles has so far been provided, with Saudi Arabia only identifying the source of the attack as somewhere in the “north.” Iran has denied any involvement in the attack.
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Mahdi al-Mashat, President of the Houthi Supreme Political Council (the political wing of the Ansar Allah movement) has requested Russia for help in resolving the military conflict in Yemen. In a letter sent to President Vladimir Putin, Mahdi al-Mashat emphasised the “aggression against Yemen” and “the military escalation perpetrated by the Saudi-led coalition of Arabian states.” The main focus of the letter was on the US influence in the region, and especially in the Red Sea, and the straits leading to it. According to Ansar Allah’s Supreme Political Council, it is the USA that is responsible for the growth of the conflict. The goal of western countries is to “spread chaos in Yemen and throughout the region.” The situation in Yemen has worsened in the area around the strategically important port of Al Hudaydah, on the Red Sea. In June the Saudi-led coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, began Operation Golden Victory, the goal of which is the expulsion of Houthis from the city. The military operation was launched in spite of warnings by the UN. Mahdi al-Mashat has called the operation a “plot against Yemen.”
It is not unusual for politicians from Ansar Allah to send letters of this type. The group quite often appeals to various international bodies, especially the UN, as well as to important and influential countries. And the attack on Al Hudaydah, supported by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and which threatened to cause a humanitarian catastrophe, was abandoned largely thanks to protests by the international community. And this is not the first time Ansar Allah has tried to initiate contacts with Russia. Representatives of the movement have been to Moscow for bilateral talks on several occasions. Some sources report that they proposed giving Russian companies access to Yemen’s oil and gas reserves in exchange for the political recognition of their government bodies as the only legitimate authority in Yemen. But the reason for the Houthis’ most recent letter is fairly clear: strategically they are in an impossible situation, as their opponents, the Saudi-led coalition, despite various reversals and difficulties, is displaying the remorseless tenacity of a bulldozer and continually cutting off the rebels’ supply lines. Two main factors are enabling Ansar Allah to survive: substantial support from Iran, and internal tribal allegiances. Neither of these are particularly reliable, and when the Saudi-led coalition is able to finally resolve the question of the blockade of northern Yemen then the unlikely alliance between the Yemeni tribal divisions and Ansar Allah will dissolve.
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