Yemen’s President calls for cease-fire and Shiite rebel withdrawal


Yemen's President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi .
Yemen’s President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi .
Yemen’s president is proposing a 15-day cease-fire that would coincide with the withdrawal of Shiite rebel militias from all government institutions and military installations and all cities and provinces — even the province they call home.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s proposal, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, was given to the U.N. envoy for Yemen in Saudi Arabia’s capital on Thursday, and Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was heading to Oman on Friday to meet with Houthi representatives to discuss it, according to a U.N. diplomat.

Yemen’s government has expressed support for a cease-fire in the past, but this might be its first formal proposal for one.

The proposal, dated Thursday, calls for the Houthi rebels and allied troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to immediately implement a U.N. Security Council resolution which demands an end to violence and a swift return to U.N.-led peace talks.

Hadi’s proposal comes after pro-government troops, backed by a Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes, regained strategic ground from the rebels, including the southern port of Aden. They now push north toward the capital, Sanaa.

Yemen’s government has repeatedly demanded that the Houthis withdraw. With government forces retaking territory and the Houthis on the defensive, it remains to be seen if the two sides will be more amenable to talking. An attempt at U.N.-brokered talks in Geneva in June failed.

More than 4,000 people have been killed in the Arab world’s poorest country since March, when the U.S.-backed coalition began launching airstrikes against the rebels who have seized control of the capital Sanaa and other cities. Hadi, who was forced to flee, is now in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Past attempts at a humanitarian pause in the fighting have failed, and coalition restrictions on air and sea ports have made aid delivery a challenge. U.N. officials warned this week that the conflict has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Hadi’s proposal would commit both sides to a 15-day cease-fire that could be extended “in conjunction with the withdrawal of the Houthi-Saleh militias from military and civil institutions of the state, all cities and provinces including Sanaa and Saadah.”

Both sides also would agree to allow U.N. military observers to monitor implementation of the withdrawal, the return of heavy and medium weapons to the government and the demobilization of child soldiers.

“If the truce is breached by the Houthi-Saleh militias, it will be dealt with firmly,” the proposal says.

It also calls for activation of U.N. sanctions, which include an arms embargo on Houthi leaders, Saleh and his son.

The proposed agreement also would order Houthi militias not to interfere in the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid.