London: Saudi Arabia is prepared to agree to a ceasefire in Yemen if the Iran-allied Al Houthis agree, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said on Monday, adding that he was sceptical about efforts for peace after previous ceasefire attempts had failed.
The United States and Britain, which have both supported the Saudi-led campaign, called on Sunday for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire between Al Houthis and the Saudi-backed, internationally recognised government.
“We would like to see a ceasefire yesterday,” Al Jubeir told reporters in London. “Everybody wants a ceasefire in Yemen, nobody more so than the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the coalition members.” He accused the Al Houthis of reneging on previous deals.
“So yes, we come at this with a lot of cynicism. But we are prepared, the Yemeni government is prepared, to agree to a cessation of hostilities if the Al Houthis agree to it. The coalition countries will respect the desire of the Yemeni government,” Al Jubeir said.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, together with US Secretary of State John Kerry, met Al Jubeir and officials from the UAE on Sunday and said the conflict in Yemen was causing increasing international concern.
Since March 2015 Saudi Arabia and several Gulf Arab allies have carried out air strikes in support of the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi against Al Houthi fighters, who are backed by troops loyal to ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Gulf states have also deployed troops in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and Hadi’s government accuse Iran of supplying weapons to the Al Houthis to help spread Tehran’s influence at the expense of Riyadh, its main regional rival.
Iran denies the charge.
The Al Houthis still control Sana’a and large areas of northern and western Yemen, but Al Jubeir said it was a matter of time before they were defeated.
“The momentum is going against them in Yemen. They’re losing more territory, more people are mobilised against them. They are not paying their bills, businesses are not extending credit to them,” Al Jubeir said.
Al Jubeir said the Kingdom was being very careful to abide by humanitarian law in the Yemen conflict. He said that those responsible for a funeral bombing earlier this month would be punished and victims would be compensated.
Asked about an offensive on Daesh militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul, Al Jubeir said Daesh would lose the war but he added that he was worried that Shiite militias would enter Mosul and “engage in bloodbaths”.
“This would have tremendously negative consequences and would further inflame the sectarian tensions in Iraq. That would be the greatest danger we see.”