The guns should be silent for a while. The Saudi-led coalition, which supports the Yemeni government against Houthi rebels, announced a ceasefire from Wednesday, March 30, during the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in early April in the Muslim world.
This ceasefire planned from 6 a.m. local time (5 a.m. in Paris) “coincides with the start of consultations among Yemenis, aimed at creating conditions conducive to their success and a favorable environment during the holy month of Ramadan to make peace”said the command of the coalition, in a press release published Tuesday evening by the Saudi Press Agency.
Riyadh is hosting talks on Wednesday under the aegis of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which brings together six countries. These discussions will take place without the participation of the Houthis, who have refused to go to the territory “enemy”.
“I am very grateful for the unanimous support expressed for the efforts of the United Nations for an immediate de-escalation and a political settlement of the conflict”had tweeted, before the announcement of the ceasefire, the envoy of the United Nations (UN) for Yemen, Hans Grundberg.
Exchange of prisoners
The Houthi rebels, after carrying out sixteen attacks against Saudi Arabia on Friday, announced a three-day unilateral truce on Saturday. The insurgents, backed by Iran, have offered to make the truce permanent if Riyadh lifts the “blockade” on Yemen, cease its air raids and withdraw its forces from the country, at war since 2014.
The international coalition controls Yemen’s air and sea space, and only UN flights are allowed through Sanaa airport. A situation that the Houthis describe as “blockade”.
On Tuesday, Riyadh said it expected “serious measures” from the Houthis, including an exchange of prisoners, before deciding. The insurgents announced on Sunday evening an agreement for the release of 1,400 prisoners held by the government against 823 held by the Houthis, including sixteen Saudis, three Sudanese and the brother of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
“A prisoner exchange agreement has been concluded through the United Nations”, had tweeted the representative of the Houthis, Abdelkader Al-Mourtada. The person in charge of this file for the Yemeni government, Hadi Haig, had however specified on Twitter that the agreement was “still under study”. The last prisoner exchange resulted in the release of 1,056 people in October 2020.
A “strong message”, according to Iran
The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) in Yemen, which handles prisoner exchanges, welcomed the progress made in the talks. “But we are also aware that negotiations of this kind during active conflict are complex and time-consuming”ICRC spokesman Basheer Omar told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Iran, for its part, considered on Tuesday that the ceasefire proposed by the Houthis before that of the coalition was a “strong message”. “In the event of a positive and serious approach [de la coalition dirigée par Riyad]the ceasefire project can be a good basis for ending the current war”Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh said in a statement.
The Saudi-led coalition has intervened in Yemen since 2015 in support of the internationally recognized government, after the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, the year before. The rebels have taken control of most of the north of the country, the poorest in the Arabian Peninsula, neighboring the wealthy Saudi monarchy.
With nearly 380,000 dead, millions displaced and a large part of the population affected by famine, the war has caused one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in the world in Yemen, according to the UN.