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Yemen: Senior Houthi rebel leader calls for end of military operations ahead of peace talks

A high-ranking Yemeni rebel official urged his leadership Monday to freeze military operations and stop firing missiles into Saudi Arabia as the United Nations prepares for peace talks.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi insurgents’ Higher Revolutionary Committee and an influential political figure, tweeted that he also wants his group to announce “readiness to suspend and halt all military operations.”

He called on “all [Houthi] official Yemeni sides to issue directives to end launching missiles and drones against aggression countries … in order to deprive them from any reason to continue their aggression and siege.”

He also said the rebels should be ready “to freeze and stop all military operations on all fronts” to achieve “a just and honorable peace.”

Houthi rebels have controlled the capital Sanaa since capturing it in late 2014.

They have since fired hundreds of ballistic missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia, which since 2015 has led a regional military coalition aiming to restore to power the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Although Mohammed Ali al-Houthi is head of the rebels’ Higher Revolutionary Committee, he is not their ultimate decision-maker – that power lies with supreme leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi’s comments came after U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths said he would visit Sanaa this week to finalize arrangements for peace talks in Sweden.

Griffiths – whose efforts at kick-starting peace talks collapsed in September – said both the Saudi-backed government and the Houthi rebels have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution.

He said both sides have given “firm assurances” that they would attend the talks, although no date has yet been set.

Multiple attempts to hold negotiations between the government alliance and Houthis have failed, most recently in September, when the rebels refused to fly to Geneva for planned U.N.-hosted negotiations.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said his call for an end to missile and drone attacks was aimed at “supporting the efforts of the [U.N.] envoy and proving our good intentions,” adding that it follows “our contact with the U.N. envoy and his request to stop launching missiles and drones.”

The Houthis’ foreign minister, Hisham Sharaf Abdallah, met U.N. officials on Sunday evening, according to the rebels’ Saba news agency.

It quoted him as saying that the U.N. and the international community should “adopt the political path to stop the bloodshed and protect Yemenis’ properties from destruction.”

Fighting in Yemen intensified at the beginning of this month as the coalition renewed an offensive aimed at seizing Hodeidah, a Red Sea city whose port serves as entry point for nearly all of the country’s imports and humanitarian aid.

The World Health Organisation says nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi intervention in March 2015, but rights groups believe the toll may be five times as high.

The war in Yemen has left the country on the edge of mass starvation and sparked what the U.N. has labeled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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With reporting from AFP


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