Yemen’s Huthi rebels unexpectedly announced late Friday that they planned to halt all attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a peace initiative to end their country’s devastating conflict, five years after they captured the capital Sanaa.
The announcement comes after a wave of drone strikes last weekend on Saudi oil installations knocked out half of the kingdom’s production and sent shock waves through energy markets.
The Iran-backed Huthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Riyadh’s ally Washington has condemned them as an “act of war”, placing the blame on Tehran and announcing new sanctions against the Islamic republic.
Mehdi al-Mashat, head of the Huthis’ supreme political council, announced in a speech marking the 2014 rebel seizure of Sanaa “the halt of all attacks against the territory of Saudi Arabia”.
He added that he hoped “the gesture would be answered by a stronger gesture” from the Saudis, according to the rebels’ Al-Masirah television channel.
“Pursuing war is not in anyone’s interest.”
Yemen’s conflict has since killed tens of thousands of people -- most of them civilians -- and driven millions more to the brink of famine in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The plan calls for rebels to “stop all attacks on Saudi territory by drones, ballistic missiles and other means”, he said.
He also called for the reopening of Sanaa’s international airport and open access to Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeida, a crucial entry point for imports and humanitarian aid.
The announcement was a sharp reversal from previous statements from the Huthis, who early on Friday had accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of endangering the fragile truce around Hodeida with strikes on four rebel targets north of the port.