The US-backed Saudi-led coalition said Thursday that it is halting airstrikes against Yemen’s Houthis as a gesture for peace talks.
According to Al Jazeera, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told Saudi state TV that the de-escalation is aimed at “preparing the political ground for a peace process in Yemen.” At the same time, Saudi airstrikes were reported in the Yemeni city of Sanaa, but al-Maliki denied the coalition launched recent attacks.
He said, “No military operation has been carried out in the vicinity of Sanaa or any other Yemeni cities in the past period.”
Also on Thursday, Reuters reported that the Houthis began renovating Sanaa airport, a sign that the Saudi blockade that’s been imposed since 2015 could be eased soon. The news comes after Oman has stepped up mediation efforts to find a peaceful settlement in the war.
A Houthi source told Middle East Eye that Yemenis are happy Oman is mediating the peace talks. “We trust Oman. The country knows Yemenis’ suffering very well because many have been forces to flee to Oman by road or bring goods through it instead of Yemeni ports and airports,” the source said.
The source said the two main demands of the Houthis are opening Sanaa airport and the opening of Yemeni seaports. Lifting the blockade has always been a key condition for the Houthis to accept any ceasefire or pursue peace talks. The embargo is still being enforced despite UN warnings that 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of five will starve to death if conditions don’t change.
The Biden administration has made a weak effort to find a diplomatic solution to the war. So far, President Biden has refused to pressure Riyadh into lifting the blockade. And despite his vows to end support for “offensive” operations in Yemen, the US is still servicing Saudi warplanes.