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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Saudi’s call for Yemen cease-fire

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

SAUDI DREAMS of conquest ended last week with calls for a cease-fire and talks with the Houthi government in northern Yemen that they’ve failed to crush in over five years of fighting. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power behind the throne, says that peace, prosperity and the usual financial rewards are there for the taking. All the Houthis have to do is agree to a truce and return to the negotiating table. Whether they will is another matter.

The Saudi call follows secret talks with Iran, the Houthis’ key ally in the region, and pressure from the Americans and the big oil corporations who want a halt to the endless attacks on Saudi oil installations that sent crude oil prices soaring in March.

The Houthis are launching almost daily drone and rocket attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia, far from the contact line. Air bases, army camps, airports and oil installations are being hit on a regular basis. The Houthis have tightened their siege of Marib, an oil town in central Yemen held by the Saudis and their local tribal allies, and last week an explosive-laden boat was intercepted off the Red Sea port of Yanbu, which is the end point of the Saudi’s crucial East–West pipeline.

In 2015 the Saudis intervened to prop up a corrupt regime that had been overthrown by the ‘Supporters of God’, a religious and social movement commonly called the Houthis after its founder, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a former Yemeni MP who launched a revolt and was killed in a gun-fight in 2004.

Saudi Arabia and some other feudal Arab states, with the support of the Americans and the rest of the imperialist pack, sent troops, arms and cash to prop up what they call the “internationally recognised” Yemeni government that is based in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. But the Houthis, who retained the support of 80 per cent of the old Yemeni army, hold the north of the country, whilst the Saudis and their tribal allies control most of the sparsely populated south.

Although the Houthis say there’ll be no talks until the Saudi blockade is lifted, there’s been a more nuanced response from their friends in Tehran. In talks with the Houthis in Oman the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said the Islamic Republic would support a cease-fire in return for talks. The Iranian minister called for an end to the fighting and the lifting of the Saudi-enforced blockade, whilst stressing that a political solution was “the only solution to the crisis of Yemen”.

Meanwhile, People’s China has tabled its own five-point initiative on achieving peace and stability in the Middle East. It calls for a political settlement in Yemen, with the countries and people of the region playing a central role. China calls on all Middle Eastern countries to strengthen dialogue and improve the regional security environment to create favourable conditions for the restoration of peace in Yemen.

To solve the Yemen issue priority must be also given to humanitarian needs, the Chinese say. The international community must increase humanitarian assistance to Yemen and international donors must honour their commitments as soon as possible.

All parties to the conflict must ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access to allow humanitarian supplies to arrive in the hands of those in need as soon as possible. They should also ensure unimpeded access to food, oil and other imported commodities.