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Saudi Arabia proposes ceasefire in Yemen, but Houthis seek end to blockade first

The port, a lifeline for millions living in a country that is teetering on the edge of starvation, has been a point of tension for years. Easing the humanitarian crisis is one driving force behind Biden’s efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to the war. Since he has taken office, Biden took steps to remove the Houthis’ terrorist designation, and announced an end to U.S. support for offensive operations conducted by the Saudi-led coalition.

In comments carried by a Houthi-aligned outlet on Monday, the group’s spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salam responded to the Saudi initiative by saying the removal of the blockade on Yemen must end first. “Removing a blockade does not necessitate an initiative, and bartering with the humanitarian issue is a crime against the entire [Yemeni] people,” he said.

Abdel Salam added that 14 ships carrying fuel have not been allowed to reach Hodeidah port. He rejected what he described as Saudi posturing, adding that the Saudi proposal repeated the same points under negotiation for more than a year.

“[Holding] dialogue between Yemenis will come after Saudi Arabia announces the cessation of aggression and breaking the blockade,” Abdel Salam said.

Since mid-February, shortly after the U.S. announcement on the terrorist designation, the Houthis ramped up their attacks on the kingdom, prompting angry responses from the U.S.-backed coalition, which said the Houthi rebels had been emboldened by the reversal.

Earlier this month, the Houthis confirmed to Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik that the rebel group held indirect talks with U.S. officials through Omani intermediaries.

The Iran-aligned rebels ousted the Saudi-backed government and took over Sanaa and other cities in 2014, prompting an intervention by Saudi Arabia in 2015.

On Monday, the Saudi foreign minister called on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to accept the proposal, while emphasizing its need continue to protect its borders and rejected Iranian interference in Yemen.

Ali Al-Mujahed in Sanaa contributed to this report.

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