Some diplomatic experts see the Saudi proposal as an attempt to at least seem more reasonable to end the protracted conflict and portray the Houthi side as the obstacle to a solution.
Gerald M. Feierstein, senior vice president at the Middle East Institute in Washington and a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, said that until recently, the Houthis had essentially demanded what the Saudis had proposed.
“The Houthis will not answer yes,” he said. Feierstein said.
The rebel group’s stance, he said, “leaves the Houthis alone, isolated – and they have obviously benefited from this in recent years because all the attention in the conflict has been focused on the Saudis, with very little attention paid to what the Houthis do. ”
Saudi Arabia launched an intense bombing campaign six years ago this week aimed at sending the Houthis, who had forced the Saudi-backed government to flee and still control much of Yemen. The Houthis are backed by Iran, which sees Saudi Arabia as its local adversary, and they have responded regularly to Saudi airstrikes by sending missiles across the border into Saudi territory.
Saudi-led bombings and Houthi attacks devastated Yemen’s fragile economy and led to widespread civilian casualties. According to some estimates, nearly a quarter of a million Yemenis have died in the conflict, and millions of people are suffering from acute starvation or starvation. About 80 percent of the country’s approximately 30 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The Saudi announcement comes weeks after President Biden, with the previous administration of Donald J. Trump, broke up, ending US logistics and intelligence support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen.
United Nations humanitarian officials have called for easier access to vulnerable Yemenis isolated by the war, warning that famine is already beginning to take hold. After a visit to Yemen in early March, David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, the UN’s anti-hunger agency, said ‘the famine is getting worse.’
Six years of war, Mr. Beasley said, “completely destroyed the people in every way.”