ALEXANDRIA: Yemen’s government on Tuesday blamed the Iran-backed Houthis for disrupting peace efforts to end the war and renewed calls to the international community to mount more pressure on the rebels to stop their bloody military operations across the country.
The government’s accusation against the Houthis comes as fighting raged between Yemen troops and the rebels on key battlefields in Marib and Al-Bayda.
Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, Yemen’s Shoura Council head, in Riyadh, told Marion Lalisse, deputy head of mission of the EU delegation to Yemen, that the Houthis have never taken peace ideas seriously. In addition, Daghar said that the Yemeni government had accepted the Saudi peace initiative and is willing to comply with all efforts to end the war.
“The shortest way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace is to oblige the Houthis to respect the basic references of a solution that achieves the interest of the people and respects their will,” he said, according to Yemen’s official news agency SABA.
Peace efforts to end the war have reached a deadlock after the Houthis refused to put an end to hostilities that displaced thousands of people and aggravated the humanitarian crisis.
Shuttling between Sanaa, Muscat, Riyadh, and Tehran, the former UN Yemen envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, the US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, and Omani mediators failed to convince the Houthis to accept a peace plan. The UN-brokered plan demanded warring factions to achieve an immediate ceasefire, the reopening of the Sanaa airport, easing restrictions on Hodeidah ports, and later engaging in direct talks.
The Houthis said they would stop their deadly offensive on Marib only after the Arab coalition halts airstrikes against their forces and lifts its “blockade” on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah seaport.
In March, Saudi Arabia proposed a peace initiative that included the same elements as in the current UN peace initiative.
In the same sense, Swedish special envoy for Yemen, Peter Semneby, visited Iran on Tuesday where he discussed peace initiatives to end the war in Yemen.
Fars news agency, in Iran, reported that the envoy met with the Iranian foreign minister's assistant for special political affairs, Ali Asqar Khaji, and discussed alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, peace efforts to end the war, and addressing the risk of the floating FSO Safer tanker.
Safer has been moored in the Red Sea, north of Hodeidah, since it fell into Houthi hands in 2015. Carrying more than 1 million barrels of oil, the vessel’s situation is deteriorating as a possible spill would be an ecological disaster much worse than that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989.
In February, Griffiths visited Iran for the first time as part of his diplomatic efforts to mobilize support for the UN-brokered peace initiative.
Experts believe that international mediators have sought to demand Iran use its leverage on the Yemeni rebels to pressure them to stop fighting.
Meanwhile, on the ground, dozens of Houthis were killed on Tuesday and Monday in the central province of Marib as government troops pushed back several Houthis assaults in key contested areas.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that army troops and tribesmen drove back a Houthi attack in Al-Kasara, west of Marib, as warplanes from the Arab coalition carried out several attacks in Marib province, targeting Houthi military reinforcements and locations.
In Jabal Murad, south of Marib, three airstrikes destroyed a command room and heavy weapons for the Houthis, local media said.
The latest escalation in fighting in Yemen began in February when the Houthis renewed a major offensive to seize control of Marib city, the Yemeni government’s last stronghold in the northern part of the country.