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September 22, 2019

S Arabia cautious over Huthi offer to halt attacks


September 22, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia gave a cautious response on Saturday to an unexpected offer from Yemen’s Huthi rebels to halt all attacks on the kingdom as part of an initiative to end their country’s devastating war.

The Huthi announcement on Friday came on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the start of the conflict and after a wave of drone strikes on Saudi oil installations a week ago knocked out half of the kingdom’s production.

The Iran-backed Huthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Riyadh’s ally Washington has condemned them as an "act of war", placing the blame on Tehran and announcing new sanctions against the Islamic republic.

Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir took a sceptical position to the announcement from Mehdi al-Mashat, head of the Huthis’ supreme political council, of a "halt of all attacks against the territory of Saudi Arabia".

"We judge other parties by their deeds, actions and not by their words, so we will see (whether) they actually do this or not," said the Saudi minister. "And regarding what prompted them to do this... we have to do more intensive studies," he said at a press conference in Riyadh.

At a ceremony in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Saturday marking the anniversary of the 2014 rebel seizure of the city, the Huthis again urged Saudi Arabia to take up the offer. Mohammed Ali al-Huthi, head of the rebels’ Higher Revolutionary Committee and an influential political figure, warned against rejecting the proposal.

"If they refuse the initiative we will do them more harm," he said, adding that "any escalation will be countered by further escalation".

Mashat had said that he hoped "the gesture would be answered by a stronger gesture" from the Saudis, according to the rebels’ Al-Masirah television channel.

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