Yemen air raids halted to boost peace efforts: Saudi-led forces


A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition says the purpose of de-escalation is to “prepare the political foundation for the peace process in Yemen”.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen has said it has stopped carrying out attacks to pave the way for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The move comes amid growing diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire agreement after a devastating war that lasted more than six years.

It also followed reports that the coalition had attacked a Houthi armored division near the rebel-held capital Sanaa on Thursday. AFP news agency reporters in the city heard loud explosions and saw smoke rising into the sky. The Houthis did not immediately comment on the explosion.

Coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told Saudi state television that “no military operations have been conducted around Sanaa or any other Yemeni cities in the past period”.

He said the de-escalation was aimed at “setting the political base for the peace process in Yemen”.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervened to support the Yemeni government in 2015 after the Houthis captured Sanaa last year, forcing the government to flee.

The war in Yemen has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with thousands killed, millions displaced and two-thirds of its 30 million population dependent on aid.

Marib Offensive

Al-Maliki’s remarks came amid a month-long Houthi offensive to seize the city of Marib and its surrounding oil fields – the last significant pocket of government-held territory in northern Yemen.

The loss of Marib to the Houthis would be a major blow to the government of Yemen and could lead to a humanitarian disaster.

Diplomatic efforts have intensified this week. UN envoy Martin Griffiths held talks with the country’s foreign minister in Iran on a two-day visit, his second visit this year, his office tweeted on Thursday.

According to rebel sources, earlier this month, Omani officials visited Sanaa to try to persuade the rebels to accept the ceasefire.

Oman’s Foreign Minister Badr Albusaidi arrived in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Wednesday for talks.

In another sign of progress in peace efforts, Houthi officials have begun repairing roads near Sanaa airport, local sources told AFP, indicating the facility could be reopened soon.

The Saudi-led coalition has controlled Yemen’s airspace since 2015. The Houthis have repeatedly called for the reopening of Sanaa airport before any ceasefire.

Industry sources told Reuters news agency that construction had begun on parts of the airport, which has been targeted dozens of times by coalition air strikes. The military alliance says the facility is used to smuggle weapons, which the Houthis have denied.

Airport director Khalid al-Shayef said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that he met with Yemeni Airlines to discuss maintenance and equipment at the airport, and also with Yemen Oil Company on fuel supplies for the aircraft .

Attempts to secure peace in Yemen came after Saudi Arabia and regional rival Iran resumed talks in April, their first high-level meeting since Riyadh broke diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2016.

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