Saudi Arabia proposes ‘temporary’ suspension of coalition air strikes
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia is considering temporary halts in coalition air strikes against rebels in Yemen to allow for aid deliveries, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Monday.
The kingdom will consult members of the coalition on "finding specific areas inside Yemen... where all air operations will be paused at specific times to allow for the delivery of aid," Jubeir said in a statement.
The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab countries launched air strikes in Yemen in late March against Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies after they seized control of large parts of the country including the capital Sanaa.
President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen as the rebels advanced on his southern refuge of Aden, and anti-government forces have refused to concede territory or down arms despite international pressure.
The United Nations has repeatedly warned that impoverished Yemen faces a major humanitarian crisis and calls have been growing for efforts to increase aid deliveries.
Jubeir said Saudi Arabia "plans to establish a centre on its territory to be in charge of coordinating all humanitarian aid efforts" with the UN, donors and other relevant agencies.
He warned the rebels against "taking advantage" of any pause in the bombing.
Saudi Arabia "will deal with any violations in connection with the suspension of air strikes or movements that hinder humanitarian efforts," he said.
Meanwhile, official media said on Monday that Yemenis staying illegally in Saudi Arabia will be given a reprieve, in line with a Saudi-led coalition's pledge to "Restore Hope" in its southern neighbour.
Illegals in the kingdom prior to April 9 will be eligible for renewable visit visas valid for an initial six months, the Saudi Press Agency said, citing a joint statement from the ministries of interior and labour.
It said eligible Yemenis will be allowed to work.
The measure is "an extension of objectives of the Renewal of Hope operation", the statement said, without specifying how many illegal Yemenis might qualify for the measure.
On April 21, a Saudi-led coalition said it was ending almost a month of air strikes against Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen.
It said it was moving to a new phase, dubbed "Restore Hope", to resume Yemen's political process, deliver aid and fight "terrorism" in the country.
Despite that announcement, air strikes have continued, there are no peace talks, and international concern has grown over the conflict between pro- and anti-government loyalists in Yemen.