The Saudi-backed Yemeni government said on Friday it supported a ceasefire proposed by the United Nations that would also ease sea and air restrictions imposed on areas controlled by the Houthi movement to help alleviate a dire humanitarian crisis, Reuters reports.
UN Special Envoy, Hans Grundberg, has been engaging with warring parties in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis for seven years, to reach a nationwide truce for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on Saturday.
A Saudi official said on Thursday that Riyadh had responded positively to the UN proposal. It was not immediately clear if the Iran-aligned Houthis had agreed to the truce, which would be the first coordinated cessation of hostilities since 2016.
The internationally recognised government’s Foreign Minister said that, in response to “regional and international initiatives calling for a truce”, he had been directed to facilitate arrangements for the release of prisoners, opening Sana’a airport and allowing fuel vessels to dock at Hodeidah port.
“In implementation of that directive, we immediately announce the release of the first two fuel ships through Hodeidah port,” Ahmed Bin Mubarak said on Twitter, saying the directives had been issued by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The Houthis ousted Hadi’s government from the capital, Sana’a, in late 2014. The Saudi-led coalition intervened months later in a conflict largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The war has killed tens of thousands and left 80 per cent of the population reliant on aid. The coalition, which controls Yemen’s seas and air space, had imposed a blockade on Houthi-held areas, severely hampering the flow of essential goods including fuel.
The warring parties are also discussing a prisoner swap under which hundreds from both sides would be freed, including 16 Saudis, three Sudanese and Hadi’s brother.
The last major prisoner swap, involving around 1,000 detainees, took place in 2020, as part of confidence-building steps agreed at the last peace talks held in December 2018.