Yemen Houthi rebel leader proposes border truce with Saudi Arabia

#YemenWar

Latest round of UN-led talks between government, Houthis ended acrimoniously on 6 August without breakthrough

Rebel Shia Houthi fighters in Yemen (AFP/file photo)
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Monday 26 September 2016 14:20 UTC
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A leader of Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels on Sunday proposed a truce on the country's border with Saudi Arabia in an exchange for a halt in Saudi-led strikes on his forces.

The proposal, coinciding with a surge in fighting after peace talks were suspended last month, was made by Salah al-Sammad, head of a new council appointed by the rebels and their allies to run the country.

Sammad called on Saudi Arabia to "stop naval, air and land aggression, cease air raids and lift the blockade of our country, in exchange for an end to combat operations on the border and to [rebel] missile launches into Saudi territory," he said, in a speech published on the sabanews website.

Sammad, whose body is not recognised by the international community, also urged the UN and "peace-loving states" to exert pressure on the Saudi government to accept the offer, which came days after a Houthi senior military officer was killed in clashes on the border, according to Reuters.

Major-General Hassan Almalsi, head of Houthi special forces, was killed on 22 September while attempting to infiltrate a squad of fighters into the kingdom's southern province of Najran, a source in the Saudi-led coalition told Reuters.

Sammad also suggested amnesty for "combatants who have sided with the aggression," a reference to fighters who back President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The Houthis are allied with Iran and with soldiers loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In late 2014, they seized Yemen's capital Sanaa, before moving into other parts of the country.

Saudi Arabia in March 2015 formed an Arab coalition to begin air strikes and ground support for forces loyal to Hadi, who had fled Houthi advances to Riyadh.

More than 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition launched its intervention, most of them civilians, and at least three million people have been displaced, according to the United Nations.

The latest round of UN-led talks between the government and the Houthis ended acrimoniously on 6 August without a breakthrough, and a ceasefire that had been in place since April collapsed.

Hadi, in a fierce address to the UN in New York on Friday, accused Iran of blocking peace moves through its support for the rebels.

"We shall extract Yemen from the claws of Iran. We shall raise the Yemeni flag over every foot of our precious soil," Hadi told the General Assembly.