NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, on Tuesday welcomed the “overwhelmingly positive” international reaction to the Kingdom’s plan to end the war in Yemen and said the “ball is in the Houthis’ court.”
“We have had statements of support from numerous countries and from their missions here in New York,” Al-Mouallimi said during an interview with Arab News.
“We’ve had a statement of support from the (UN) secretary-general (Antonio Guterres) personally, and we have been receiving more and more indications of support from all concerned parties.
“So it has been overwhelmingly positive and we are looking forward to being able to translate that momentum into action on the ground, and into steps that the Houthis will be willing to take in response to the international call for peace.”
Foreign minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan announced the Saudi peace initiative on Monday. It calls for a UN-supervised nationwide ceasefire, the reopening of Sanaa airport to civilian air traffic, and the resumption of negotiations to reach a political resolution to the long-running conflict.
Al-Mouallimi said his country expects the international community to send a clear message to the Houthi rebels that they must avoid “procrastination and looking for excuses.”
He added: “The only party that will be hurt as a result of any delay in the peace process is going to be the Yemeni people. And if (the Houthis) care for the Yemeni people, then they should come forward and negotiate in good faith with their Yemeni partners in the national government and … try to reach an equitable solution that includes all components of the Yemeni people.
“The ball is in the Houthis’ court. They need to come out clearly and accept the Saudi initiative. They need to come clean and not give priority to the interests of outside parties, but rather to the interest of the Yemeni people. That’s where the ball lies and that’s where we are waiting to see if we have a partner for peace or not.”
Al-Mouallimi declined to speculate about possible options should the Houthis fail to respond in good faith, stating that such a discussion at this time would not be consistent with the spirit of the peace plan.
“What we are trying to do is to achieve a positive response to this initiative to get support, widespread support, for it internationally and hopefully to emphasize the positive aspects and move forward,” he said.
“We don’t want to use statements that may be conceived or perceived as threats or ultimatums because we think that the Houthis should come willingly and should come positively to the negotiating table.”
Earlier on Tuesday Guterres thanked the Kingdom for its support of UN peace efforts and urged all sides to take this opportunity to pursue peace by working with his special envoy, Martin Griffiths, on ways to proceed “in good faith and without preconditions.”
The UN chief also reiterated that “all actors and stakeholders must do their utmost to facilitate an immediate agreement that brings Yemen back to a path toward peace.”
Praise and support for the Saudi initiative, along with calls on the Houthis to agree a ceasefire and take part in negotiations to end the conflict, has poured in from around the world, including the EU, the UK, the US and Gulf Cooperation Council nations.