Saudi Arabia urges Houthis to back political solution in Yemen

King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed the agreement. (SPA)
Updated 15 December 2018

Saudi Arabia urges Houthis to back political solution in Yemen

  • Griffiths called for deployment of UN monitors to observe the implementation of a cease-fire in Hodeida and the withdrawal of Houthi militia
  • Saudi Arabia says it is committed to reaching a political solution that guarantees the security and stability of Yemen

JEDDAH: King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia on Friday urged Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen to “embark on the path” toward a political solution to the country’s conflict.

The two leaders welcomed Thursday’s agreement reached at UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden for a cease-fire and troop withdrawals by both sides from the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

“The Kingdom remains engaged in the search for a political solution in Yemen that guarantees the security and stability of the country,” the king and the crown prince said.

Prince Mohammed had exerted “great personal efforts” to ensure the success of the talks in Sweden, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said.

A “robust and competent monitoring regime” was required in Hodeidah to oversee compliance with the cease-fire, UN envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Friday.

Such a regime “is not just essential, it is also urgently needed and both parties have told us they would very much welcome it and indeed depend on it,” Griffiths said. UN officials were already planning its deployment, which will require a Security Council resolution,.

Retired Dutch Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert will  lead the monitoring component of the agreement, which took effect on Thursday when the deal was published. 

He will arrive in a few days. “Being present in the field soon is an essential part of the confidence that needs to go with the implementation of this agreement,” Griffiths said.

The council was already discussing a British-drafted resolution to enshrine five requests made by UN aid chief Mark Lowcock, including a truce around facilities needed for aid and commercial imports, and diplomats said it would now be reworked to endorse the agreement reached in Sweden.

“We hope to be able to work expeditiously with colleagues to bring about a Security Council resolution that will give the firmest possible support to what has been achieved so far,” British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told the council.

America’s UN envoy Nikki Haley warned that the Security Council would be watching. “We must be ready to act if one or more of the parties fails to follow through,” she said. 

In Hodeidah on Friday, Yemenis were optimistic that the agreement in Sweden could bring a permanent end to the fighting.

“We are happy there will be a halt to the war. We have no jobs and are living on aid. We need help,” said Akram Ateeq, 31, who used to support his mother, wife and child by selling fish near Hodeidah harbor but has been unable to work for six months because of battles on the outskirts of the city. 

Iman Azzi, a teacher in her fifties, said: “We are happy about the cease-fire but are worried that the fighters will not abide by it. The war has destroyed us. We want to live.”

Syria’s Kurds criticise Damascus ‘threats’

Syrian Defense Minister Ali Ayoub, above, said the government is determined to return the Kurdish-led areas. (AFP)
Updated 15 min 36 sec ago

Syria’s Kurds criticise Damascus ‘threats’

  • Syrian defence minister made the remarks during a press conference on Monday
  • SDF said the remarks expose the government’s divisive plans

OMAR OIL FIELD, Syria: Syria’s Kurds have criticized the “threatening language” of the Damascus regime after it pledged to retake northeastern areas they control by reconciliation or by force.

The minority have largely stayed out of Syria’s war, instead carving out a de-facto autonomous region across a large swathe of northern and northeastern Syria.

That region is held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces who have been battling the Daesh group with backing from a US-led coalition.

Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub on Monday said his government would recapture all areas held by the SDF “in one of two ways: a reconciliation agreement or... by force.”

In a statement late Monday, the semi-autonomous administration slammed his comments.

“The Syrian defense minister’s statement regarding the SDF... reflects the continuation of the racist and sterile policy that has led Syria to this disastrous situation,” it said in a statement.

“The use of threatening language against the SDF who have liberated and protected the north and east of Syria from terrorists only serves those forces working to divide Syria,” it said.

US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December of a pullout of all US forces from Syria shocked the Kurds and sent them grappling to mend fences with Damascus.

Dialogue between both sides has been ongoing, but has failed to bear fruit.

Damascus rejects Kurdish self-rule and wants a return of government institutions to oil-rich SDF-held areas.

The Kurds want protection from a long-threatened Turkish offensive, but seek some form of decentralization from Damascus.

“The autonomous administration... stands by its position of the need for a solution and dialogue within the Syrian framework for all pending issues,” the Kurdish authorities said.

“But we want all sides to know that we, while choosing the political solution, we will spare no effort in the legitimate defense of our rights if necessary,” he said.

Eight years into a war that has killed more than 370,000 people, the Damascus regime controls almost two-thirds of the country after a series of victories against rebels and jihadists.

But the SDF-held region, a northwestern jihadist bastion and border areas held by Turkey’s Syrian proxies remain beyond its control.